The sun peeks through the leaves on the river’s edge. A worm wriggles along the murky bottom. It rests under a pile of pebbles. As the light fades, the worm is hidden from sight.
Near the riverbank, a web-footed hunter comes out of its den. It paddles its powerful front feet. It zips through the water, hunting food.
This platypus dives underwater.
With eyes closed, this platypus dives underwater. It finds a tasty worm to eat
Waving its snout, it picks up on the movements of the worm. It opens its mouth, scooping up pebbles and the worm. At the water’s surface, it grinds them into mush. The hunter swallows the wormy mush, dribbling stones.
This predator is a platypus. It is one of the rarest animals on the planet. Platypuses have special body features. The features set them apart from other mammals. 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 pulls in the webbing on her feet. She waddles to her den. In her burrow, she digs a new chamber with her claws.
Snout first, she enters the chamber. She kicks soil to seal herself inside. She lays one egg. Then, another. She holds them between her body and tail to keep them warm.
After two weeks, the eggs tear. A bean-size, pink platypus hatches from each egg. They are hairless, blind, and helpless. Still, they inch toward their mother’s belly, waiting to be fed.
The babies suck the milk from openings between folds of the mother’s belly skin. 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 a 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 unusual, no one could believe it was real.
Platypus eggs are the size of marbles.