Platypus • Scientific Name: Ornithorhynchus anatinus • Semi-aquatic mammal that lays eggs • One of the few venomous mammals • Weight from 1.5 to 5.3lb, • Length 17in - 20in
Appearance • Dense brown fur traps air for warmth • Uses tail for storage of fat reserves • Has webbed feet and a large, rubbery snout; similar to a duck • The snout of the Platypus is a sensory organ with the mouth on the underside.
When the Platypus was first discovered by Europeans in 1798, a pelt and sketch were sent back to the United Kingdom The British scientists were at first convinced that the attributes must have been a hoax It was thought that somebody had sewn a duck's beak onto the body of a beaver-like animal.
Electrolocation • Monotremes • mammals known to have a sense of electroreception: • Platypus locate prey in part by detecting electric fields generated by muscular contractions. The Platypus' electroreception is the most sensitive of any monotreme. • Closes its eyes, ears and nose each time it dives and digs in the bottom of streams with its bill. • The Platypus will react to an "artificial shrimp" if a small electrical current is passed through it
Reproduction • Lays one to three small, leathery eggs (similar to those of reptiles) • About 11mm in diameter and slightly rounder than bird eggs • The eggs develop in utero for about 28 days with only about 10 days of external incubation (in contrast to a chicken egg, which spends about 1 day in tract and 21 days externally)
Conservation • The species was extensively hunted for its fur until the early years of the 20th century and, although protected throughout Australia in 1905, up until about 1950 it was still at risk of drowning in the nets of inland fisheries • The introduction of red foxes as a predator for rabbits may have had some impact on its numbers