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Duck-Billed-Platypus – An Odd Character

The platypus was first written about in 1797. One account described it as a small furry animal with webbed feet and a beaver-like tail. The head had a flat duck-like beak. The legs were clothed for efficient swimming. The long sharp claws on the feet help it dig a hole. So the platypus lives both in water and on land.

The scientific elite were suspicious that the account was a wild story as sailors of the time told about mermaids. When a pickled pair of duck-infected platypus specimens were dissected by a noted anatomist, the scientific world was stunned to learn they were a genuine animal. Scientists found it hard to believe that there was an animal that could lay eggs and also nurse its young. In 1884 a British zoologist found two platypus eggs. The eggs had soft shells like those of a lizard. The platypod is a very old species. It is considered to be a bridging species between reptiles and mammals.

The name platypus comes from the Greek for flat-footed. We learned even more about this animal. Its cheeks contain specialized pouches used to store sand and gravel. These minerals are used to grind worms and small water-shelled organisms. The platypus has the ability to close its eye and ear openings when swimming underwater.

The mother platypus is pumping milk from her belly. Tabby kittens lick milk off their fur. The male platypus has venomous spurs located on its hind ankles. This is used for defense. Platypus are conscientious groomers. They protect their fur with their back claws after emerging from the water. Their rear ends have a special ball and socket joint that allows them to reach all over their body to groom their fur. The size of the platypus is about twenty inches in length. They weigh between two and three kilograms. They are big eaters for their size. They mainly feed at dusk and in the early hours of the morning. Platypus swim with their eyes closed and sense their prey, guided with their sensitive bill

Platypus have been bred in captivity. Ten years is the longest a pair of platypuses has been kept alive in captivity. They were introduced at the Bronx Zoo in New York. The couple were named Cecil and Penelope and they lived on a feast of twenty-five thousand worms a month. Their diet was spicy with crayfish, frogs and egg cream. Platypus were the most expensive species to care for at the zoo as they ate a higher dollar amount than elephants. Zookeepers hoped they would produce a few cubs and were closely monitored. At one point the keepers thought that Penelope might be expecting cubs as she was isolated in her burrow. Before the cold winter months set in, she was dug up. She found herself alone with no children. He later escaped from the zoo, never to be seen again. Cecil lasted another two years before dying.

The lifespan of a platypus is seventeen years. They have few natural enemies, but these include black rats and carnivorous cod.

The platypus is now protected under Australian law, ensuring their continued survival into the future.

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