Duck Billed Platypus

By Julia Becker


Platypi are excellent swimmers

My animal is the duck billed platypus. The scientific name is Ornithorhynchus Anatinusacropus. It's named "duck billed" because it has a beak like a duck. "Platypus" comes from two Greek words. "Platys" means broad and flat. "Pous" means feet. And it does have broad, flat feet!

The platypus is a mammal, but a very weird mammal. Like all mammals, the platypus has a backbone. It's a mammal because it has fur and it gives milk to it's babies. It doesn't give birth to live young like most mammals. It lays eggs like a bird or a reptile. A mammal that does this is called a monotreme. The platypus is one of only two monotremes in the world. It can live in and out of water like an amphibian, but it's still a mammal.

The platypus can't see very well. So, you might think that most platypi would go hungry most of the time. Well, if you think that, you're wrong. They have electro-sensitive bills. That means that they can sense electricity waves coming from their prey's muscle movements. Then they can find crayfish, snails, shrimp, earthworms, mealworms, mayflies, dragonflies, mussels, trout eggs, tadpoles, small frogs, and fish, some of their favorite dishes. They sometimes keep some of their food in pouches in their mouths.

Venomous Spur

The platypus has a couple of ways to protect itself. If it's on land and an animal wants to attack it, it will jump into the water to escape. It also has a poisonous spur on it's back toe that connects to a venom gland. If it's in danger, it will stick the predator with that sharp back toe. It's venom is so strong that it can kill a dog.

The platypus lives in freshwater creeks, rivers, and lakes in eastern Australia. It likes slow-moving rivers and likes the water level to be at least 3 to 6 feet deep. There are two different kinds of nests that the duck billed platypus makes. Either the male or female can make one kind of nest. Only the female can make the other kind. She will first make a tunnel about 1 or 2 feet deep right above the water. Then she will make a nesting chamber inside the tunnel. This is where she will lay her eggs. In the winter, she will use some dirt to cover up the opening to keep her and her babies warm.

The platypus has fur for a body covering. It has fur everywhere on itís body except on itís bill and feet. The fur is water-proof so that the skin under the fur wonít get wet. It also helps the platypus live through very cold weather. The fur is colored from dark brown to a dirty yellow.

The platypus is definitely a predator. As I said before, the platypus eats many different kinds of underwater animals. It is also prey. Foxes, birds of prey, and crocodiles sometimes will eat platypi. Humans used to hunt them for their fur-covered skin, but they are now protected because they almost became extinct.

The platypus uses camouflage. As I said before, itís fur is colored from a dark brown to a dirty yellow. Those colors help to camouflage the platypus to hide from predators. The colors help the platypus because a dirty yellow is the color of the sand on the shore and at the bottom of lakes and streams. And brown platypi can hide in brownish water and dried leaves.

Baby platypi have a partly grown-in set of teeth that they donít use very much because they lick milk from their motherís tummy. But when platypi get older, they lose their teeth! The teeth are replaced by horny plates. They use them to eat instead of teeth. The teeth are flat when platypi are small and when they grow up, the horny plates are flat on the edges. The flat edges of the horny plates are good for grinding up hard pieces of their food.

Baby Platypus

During the cooler months in Australia, the platypus semi-hibernates. That means it doesnít go into hibernation all winter. It only hibernates for very short periods of time. The longest recorded hibernation was 6 Ĺ days. Hibernation is one of the ways a platypus adapts to itís environment.

There are many differences between baby and adult platypi. A baby platypus has teeth and an adult platypus has horny plates. A grown platypus has a lot of fur and a baby has practically no fur. The babies are smaller than the adults. But after a while, the babies start to grow fur. When the babies are about a year old, they lose their teeth and grow horny plates. While all this is happening, the duck billed platypi are growing. By the time theyíre two years old, they are fully mature.

The platypus makes a different kind of noise, or call. People say the call sounds like a growling puppy or an angry hen. Young platypi use the call to find playmates. Adult platypi use it to contact neighbors.

 

I got all of this information from Websterís Dictionary and from these web sites:

http://www3.mcps.k12.md.us/schools/cresthavenes/platypus.html,

http://tqjunior.advanced.org/5394/platypus_es.html, and

http://www.nature.ca/notebooks/english/platypus.htm.

The search engines I used to find these web pages were www.alltheweb.com and www.yahoo.com.