The platypus is a mammalian animal, of the subclass of prototypes, of the monotremata order. They are the only existing oviparous mammals , adapted to aquatic life. From the Greek: ornis , ornithos = bird + rhynkhos = beak.
They are exotic animals and considered somewhat strange by some. When discovered, scientists found it difficult to classify them due to their atypical characteristics. A mix of mammal with bird, which lays eggs , and males have a poisonous spur on their hind legs.
Judging by their strange appearance, the platypus have a very peculiar behavior, so much so that scientists and researchers have been intrigued since the first time it was described, in the year 1799. The origin of the animal is pointed out as being from the Australian continent , more precisely from Tasmania.
1- Unique genes
The platypus shares genes with other mammals, as well as reptiles and birds, revealing a unique combination of genes. It also shows similarity with tetrapods (such as amphibians ) and eutheric animals (viviparous).
2- Living fossil
Starting with its physical characteristics, it is considered a living fossil, just like crocodiles. Since the Era understood before the extinction of the dinosaurs, little or almost nothing has been changed in the species . The oldest fossil found from a platypus dates from approximately 100 million years ago.
3- Single living species
Currently, the species Ornithorhynchus anatinus is the only species alive, being found in eastern Australia, from Cooktown, in the north, to Tasmania, in the south.
4- Blind and deaf underwater
The platypus can stay up to two minutes underwater, without breathing. When you dive, your eyes, ears and nostrils are protected by skin membranes that leave you blind and deaf underwater. To guide themselves, they use the sensitive nerve endings contained in the beak.
5- Poison against rivals
When they are in the mating period, males produce a kind of poison that contains around 80 toxins , being used as a defense weapon against the invasion of other males.
6- Born with teeth and blind
The chicks are born blind and hairless, and from within the eggs they already have teeth, which facilitates the breaking of the shell at the time of birth.
7- Risk of extinction
The species was hunted extensively for its fur until the turn of this century.
All about platypuses
To begin with, it is good to have a little idea about the physical characteristics of this animal. He is a mammal, but unlike others in the same group, he lays eggs.
The platypus has a duck-like beak , with a rounded tip. His paws have membranes, which facilitates swimming, since he is a semi-aquatic animal .
The platypus’ tail is large, wide and flat, very similar to that of a beaver. His entire body is covered with very fine hair , but which allows the body temperature to remain constant, regardless of the environment.
Males are slightly larger than females, reaching about 60 centimeters , weighing about 2.5 kilos. And it can live for 10 to 20 years .
Their food is based on invertebrates , such as: mollusks, worms, insects , fish and tadpoles.
They are animals present in Australia and Tasmania. The platypus lives on the banks of lakes and rivers , where it digs burrows that open up in the water. It retains certain reptilian characteristics , mainly an imperfect homeothermia (ability to maintain body temperature).
The platypus has a predominantly nocturnal behavior in its foraging activities (search for food), being an opportunistic carnivore of benthic invertebrates, such as mollusks.
They are homeothermic animals, maintaining their body temperature (32 ºC), even while looking for prey for hours underwater.
The platypus is sensitive to small electric fields. It uses its electro sensitivity to locate the food source at the bottom of the freshwater river systems in which they live, because the platypus is nocturnal and closes its eyes, ears and nostrils when underwater.
Platypus mating and breeding
Despite not having all the reproductive process known through details, what is known is that the platypus reproduction occurs between the sixth and seventh year of life. Between the months of July and August, the only breeding season, their reproductive organs increase in size, which allows for mating.
Despite its aquatic habits, the platypus builds its nest on land , close to river environments. During feeding, they have to suck the milk through the enlarged pores between the mother’s pectoral hair, as she has no breasts.
The chicks emerge in the water, for the first time, after 3 to 4 months of creation by the females, in lactation in the dens.
Importance of the species
The platypus is an Australian icon. It is an integral part of the biodiversity of many freshwater ecosystems in East Australia and is protected by legislation in all states where it occurs.
Its conservation is of considerable importance, not only because of its characteristics, status and niche, but also because it is the only living representative of a significant lineage of platypus-like animals, with a fossil history of millions of years.
However, due to specific habitat requirements , it had to adapt to live and reproduce in considerably degraded environments. Its distribution has reduced significantly in some regions, but the difficulty of measurement prevents a prediction of its future conservation status.
Australia’s platypus populations are typically small and isolated and, as a result, inbreeding and reduced genetic diversity increase their risk of extinction . The levels of genetic diversity in platypuses are dangerously low, which reflects their small population size and prolonged isolation. Thus, the future of this mammal is highly compromised.