What is a Platypus? - Classification, Locomotion & Facts

Instructor: Wendy McDougal

Wendy has taught high school Biology and has a master's degree in education.

The platypus is a semiaquatic animal native to Australia. With a variety of unique features, it might be considered one of the most unusual animals in the world. What makes the platypus so different? Read on to learn more.

A True Anomaly

The animal kingdom is vastly diverse, containing an enormous number of unique creatures. Sometimes, however, we come across one that is so unusual that it can be hard to comprehend. One such animal seems to be composed of several different animals. It is the platypus, and it is certainly one of a kind. Join us as we take a closer look at this uncommon creature.

Facts about the Platypus

The platypus is a relatively small, semiaquatic mammal native to Australia. On average, a platypus measures 15 to 24 inches long. At first glance, its body might remind you of an otter as it is covered in sleek, dark fur. Its large, flat tail looks like it was borrowed from a beaver. But it is the platypus's head that makes people stare and shake their own heads in disbelief.

The platypus appears to be a mythical creature.

The platypus comes equipped with a bill like a duck's. It looks like someone removed the bill from a duck and glued it to the face of the platypus. To make it more interesting, the platypus also has webbed feet like a duck. This animal seems to be a mix-up of several animals. In fact, the appearance of the platypus is so baffling that upon its first discovery, scientists didn't believe that it was real.

Unique Adaptations

Is there a purpose to these unique traits, or are they simply there to puzzle us humans? In reality, these are quite effective adaptations for this unusual animal. For example, a platypus spends much of its time in the water. Its paddle-like feet make it an outstanding swimmer and diver. Its prominent tail helps it steer.

Webbed feet and duck bill serve as useful adaptations.

Why the duck bill? This isn't just for looks; it is a secret hunting weapon. You see, the platypus is a toothless hunter that searches for food underwater. But it does this with its eyes, ears, and nose closed tight to keep out water.

The platypus's bill is a highly sensitive sensory organ that detects the electrical fields of living things. Like a person using a metal detector, the platypus sweeps its bill back and forth until it receives an electrical signal. It then pounces and digs with its sharp claws for the unsuspecting insect, worm, or larvae. The platypus also scoops up gravel, which takes the place of teeth, to chew its prey.

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