Life’s Oddities: The Platypus

Before I begin I will introduce my new site, in this blog I will talk about life’s strange and weird creatures that I find just as, if not more interesting to learn about than domesticated animals.

The Platypus

The Platypus has been described as the bits left over in God’s animal parts bin that he just “stuck” together , displaying features from a beaver (tail), a duck (bill and feet) and a small mammal (fur), however the Platypus displays other features apart from the ones we are taught in first school.

The platypus is one of only 3 mammals to lay eggs and belongs to a family called Monotremes, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monotreme , the other two being the long and short nosed Echinda (an anteater), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Echidna  . This egg then develops and a small foetus-like undeveloped Platypus emerges, following a similar reproductive theme to that of Marsupials.

The young Platypus is different to an adult however in the sense that it has an egg tooth to break through the eggs leathery surface that drops off after a week or so, something that is more commonly seen in birds. Once the egg hatches the young develops in a pouch in the parent’s underside (like some Marsupials).

Once inside the parents pouch, the mother produces the mammalian specialty, milk, for which to feed its young. This milk is not delivered via the conventional means of a teat like in most mammals but instead, milk oozes from pores in its skin where it is channelled via hairs and folds in its skin into pits where the young can lap up the milk.

The Male platypus also has two venomous barbs at the bottom of its hind legs that some say are used in some way to display dominance during the mating season. The venomous barbs are present in both male and female platypus, but the barb falls off in females during development into sexual maturity. The poison is deadly to small animals such as dogs and cats but causes only severe pain to humans, and Oedema rapidly forms around the wound that can spread to a larger area if untreated. The poison is comprised mainly of DLP’s (Defensin-like proteins) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defensin  three of which specific to the Platypus.

I find the platypus fascinating, as you can tell it displays traits and behaviours from many species and many different types of animals making it an excellent animal to study.

There is more information on the Platypus here if you wish to learn more, such as the way in which the Platypus find its food to how it keeps warm in the cold waters, for you AS-Biology students out there, you will know that being a smaller mammal this increases their surface area to volume ratio resulting in a more rapid heat loss compared to larger mammals making it a complication for prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, especially in water as it conducts heat away from the body 1.2 joules faster than in air (25 times faster).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platypus#Venom

Elliott

I will have more information on what next week’s animal will be closer the time

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