Duck-billed platypuses are small, shy animals. They have a flattened head and body to help them glide through the water. Their fur, dark brown on top and tan on their bellies, is thick and repels water to keep them warm and dry even after hours of swimming.
- Common Name:
- Scientific Name:
- Ornithorhynchus anatinus
- Head and body: 15 inches; tail: 5 inches
- 3 pounds
The duck-billed platypus's head and body grow to about 15 inches (38 centimeters) and its tail grows to about 5 inches long (13 centimeters). Their most remarkable feature is their amazing snout. It looks like a duck's bill, but is actually quite soft and covered with thousands of receptors that help the platypus detect prey.
Males are also venomous. They have sharp stingers on the heels of their rear feet and can use them to deliver a strong toxic blow to any foe.
Platypuses spend most of their time alone, sleeping or eating.
These mammals are bottom feeders. They scoop up insects and larvae, shellfish, and worms in their bill along with bits of gravel and mud from the bottom. All this material is stored in cheek pouches and, at the surface, mashed for consumption. Platypuses do not have teeth, so the bits of gravel help them to "chew" their meal.
Platypuses are long-lived, surviving 20 years or more in captivity and up to 12 years in the wild. Scientists think these fascinating creatures are the earliest relatives of modern mammals. Recent studies show that they first evolved more than 112 million years ago, well before the extinction of the dinosaurs.