The sun peeks through the leaves on the edge of a river in Australia. A worm wriggles along the murky bottom. It rests under a pile of pebbles. The worm is hidden from predators.
Near the riverbank, a web-footed hunter comes out of its den. It dives into the water, hunting for food.
This platypus dives underwater.
This platypus dives underwater with its eyes closed. It finds a worm to eat.
Waving its duckbill-shaped snout, it picks up a pulse of energy from the worm. It opens its mouth, scooping up the pebbles and the worm. Zipping up to the surface, it grinds the whole thing into mush. Stones dribble out of its mouth. Then the hunter swallows the soft, wormy mush.
This incredible predator is a platypus. It is one of the most unique animals on the planet. Platypuses have features that set them apart from the average mammal. It starts from birth.
It’s early morning on the river. A platypus uses her webbed front feet to paddle to the bank. She pulls herself out of the water.
On land, she retracts the webbing in her feet and waddles into her den. She begins to dig soil loose with her claws. Today, she is building a new chamber off the main burrow.
Snout first, she enters the chamber. She kicks the soil with her back feet to seal herself off. She lays one egg. Then, another. She holds the small eggs between her body and tail to keep them warm.
After about two weeks, the eggs hatch. Out of each egg emerges a bean-size, pink platypus. They are hairless, blind, and helpless as they take a journey of inches to their mother’s belly. There, they latch onto her fur and wait to be fed.
Like all mammals, platypuses nurse their young. Unlike other mammals, milk leaks from openings between the folds of her belly skin. Babies suck the milk up through her fur. When they can swim and eat by themselves, they are ready for life on their own.
Platypuses nurse their young in burrows.
The first platypus was sent to England in 1799. Most scientists thought it was fake. They thought someone had sewn together bits of animals to play a joke. How could a mammal have a beak, webbed feet, and lay eggs? How could a bird have fur and nurse babies? Because the platypus was so different, no one could believe it was real
Platypus eggs are the size of marbles.