The platypus, (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) sometimes referred to as the Duck-Billed Platypus, is a semi aquatic egg-laying mammal endemic to eastern Australia and Tasmania.
Together with the four species of echidna, it is one of the five extant species of monotremes, the only mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young. When the first platypus specimen arrived in Britain in 1798, it was thought to be a hoax as the platypus looks like it is a mixture of a mammal and a bird.
The platypus has a small, streamlined body that is covered in short and dense waterproof fur that varies in color from dark brown on their back with a light brown or silver underside and a plum colored middle.
They have short limbs with partially webbed hind feet and a broad, flat tail (which resembles the tail of a beaver) that are used as rudders when underwater.
Their front feet are fully webbed and help to propel the platypus through the water and can be turned back when on land, exposing their large nails to aid them when walking or burrowing into the river banks.
Males are larger in size than females and possess a poison spur on the ankle of each hind foot that is used to drive away rival males during the breeding season.
Their home ranges vary depending on the specific river system and can vary in size from less than a mile to more than seven miles and overlap those ranges of other individuals despite their solitary nature.
The platypus is thought to be so successful as an animal species as they are able to survive in such a niche environment in the world’s driest continent.
Keywords to learn
Endemic: Of an animal or plant native and restricted to a certain place.
Niche: A suitable or comfortable position in life.
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Key Platypus Data
Lifespan:9 – 12 years.
Scientific Name:Ornithorhynchus anatinus.
Mass:0.7kg – 2.4kg (1.5 pounds – 5.3 pounds).
Length:39cm – 60cm (15.4 inches – 23.6 inches).
Region found:Eastern Australia and Tasmania.
Population Status:Near threatened.
Current population trend:Decreasing.
Sexual maturity:2 years.
The platypus is a strange looking animal that produces a small amount of venom that can kill other animals and can cause a nasty sting to humans. So, they are quite dangerous in the chain.
Now that you know more about the platypus by learning the key data above, be sure also to check out the fun facts. When you are finished learning the facts, try answering the questions in the Q&A corner on the bottom right side of the page.
Download questions about the platypus here: Platypus (answers are on this page)
Teachers. For more in depth work sheets on the platypus. Click on Kidskonnect Worksheets
Platypus Fun Facts for Kids
- # 1. The platypus is a solitary animal that despite occupying overlapping home ranges, only come together during the breeding season or when a mother is looking after her young.
- # 2. Breeding takes place between late winter and early spring (July – October) in the water, with males using their poison spurs to deliver a painful dose of poison to their rivals. As part of their courtship ritual, females carry bundles of wet leaves to their incubation chamber at the end of their burrow and plug the tunnel with soil.
- # 3. The platypus does not have a stomach.
- # 4. Although platypuses are born out of leathery eggs, the babies nurse from their mother. Female platypuses, however, don’t have nipples. Instead, their milk is released out of mammary gland ducts on their abdomen.
- # 5. Platypuses don’t have teeth inside their bill, which makes it difficult to chew some of their favorite foods—but they have worked out a pretty ingenious solution. Along with worms, insects, shellfish, and whatever else these bottom-feeders scoop up to make a meal out of, the platypus also picks up gravel from the riverbed. The platypus packs the whole lot into pouches in his cheek to carry it up to the surface where he munches away, using the bits of gravel as makeshift teeth to break up some of the tougher food.
- # 1. Where is the platypus endemic to?
- # 2. What do male platypuses have on their ankles of their hind legs?
- # 3. What is the average lifespan of a platypus?
- # 4. When is the only time that platypuses come together?
- # 5. What do most animals have that digests food that the platypus does not?