Platypus – A Hybrid Hoax?

Found burrowing the riverbanks of eastern Australia and Tasmania, these strange-looking mammals emerge at dusk to feed. Sweeping its duck-like bill from side to side while using sensitive nerves inside to detect faint electrical fields generated by small aquatic animals; the platypus patrols the waterways for prey like larvae, worms and shrimp.

Lacking teeth, the platypus scoops up its food and bits of gravel inside cheek pouches then returns to the surface using the collected gravel to help grind its food.

In 1799 European naturalist first presented a pelt of these unique creatures to the public. With a bill and webbed feet similar to a duck, a sleek coat like an otter and a flat beaver-like tail some people believed that various animal parts had simply been sown together as a hoax.

Platypuses are one of only two mammals that lay eggs, the other being the echidna. Once the eggs hatch, the babies – known as puggles – are about the size of a lima bean and are completely helpless. Like the echidna, female platypuses feed their young by secreting milk through their skin.

Male platypuses are one of the few mammals that are venomous. A spur located on the hind legs are connected to venom-secreting glands. This venom is strong enough to kill dogs and produce a very painful sting to humans.

With its many peculiarities, the platypus remains an icon of the many strange, unique and wonderful creatures of the animal kingdom.

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