Life Cycle of a Platypus: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Rachel Torrens
The platypus is an incredibly unique animal found in Australia. In this lesson, learn the physical features that make the platypus one-of-a-kind. Also, we'll explore how and when a platypus reproduces.

A Platypus' Physical Features

I'd like you to meet a friend of mine. Her name is Polly. She's shy and likes to hide in the waterways of Eastern Australia. Depending on which part of Polly is poking out of the river, you may think she is a beaver or a duck or an otter! That's because Polly, who is a platypus, has unique physical features.

Polly has the fur and body shape of an otter, the large, flat leathery tail of a beaver, and the broad flat bill of a duck. Polly also has webbed feet, but the webbing can retract to reveal claws. So while she's faster and more agile in the water, she's also able to navigate on solid ground.

Platypuses have waterproof fur.
Diving platypus

A Specific Type of Mammal

Now, get ready for awesome! Polly is a mammal, but a very special kind of mammal. If you remember, a mammal is a warm-blooded, hair-covered animal with a backbone. Typically, mammals give birth to live babies, and are able to make milk to feed the babies. But Polly is one of the two types of mammals known as a monotreme. A monotreme is a mammal that lays eggs.

Polly is four years old, and therefore, ready to mate with a male platypus named Paul. Paul, being male, is not able to lay eggs, but he has a cool spike on his ankle that is filled with venom. Paul would only use his spike to defend himself.

Anyway, back to Polly. After mating, Polly gets to work on making a cozy nest. First, she selects a burrow that's close to the water's edge. As she builds the nest inside the burrow, Polly includes wet sticks and leaves so that her eggs do not get too dry.

Female platypus on the left. Male platypus, with venomous ankle spike, on the right.

About 21 days after mating, Polly lays two eggs. She incubates the eggs, or keeps the eggs warm, by holding them against her body with her large tail. She needs to incubate the eggs for approximately ten days.

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