Platypus Facts For Kids – Duck Billed Platypus

Duckbill Platypus is a semi-aquatic, egg laying mammal that is found only in Australia. It has a bill and webbed feet like a duck, a tail like a beaver and body like an otter. They are also venomous.

Duckbill Platypus is very unique animal that lays eggs and is classified as mammal. Due to this uniqueness, it is very interesting animal to learn. We have listed down complete Platypus Facts for Kids that will help you in learning all about Platypus. You are going to learn about its scientific name & classification, evolution, appearance, physical features, physical abilities, diet, habitat, lifespan, reproduction, babies, behavior, adaptations, food chain, ecological role, endangerment, population, predators and many other interesting facts about Platypus.

Platypus Facts For Kids

What Is A Platypus

  • A platypus is an egg-laying mammal native to eastern Australia.
  • It is also sometimes known as the duckbill platypus because of its duck-like bill.
  • Platypus is a semi-aquatic animal with unusual features. It has a duck like bill, an otter like feet, and beaver like tail.
  • It is the only living representative of the genus Ornithorhynchus and family  Ornithorhynchidae.
  • Platypus is one of the five animal species along with four species of echidna (spiny anteaters) that lay eggs instead of giving birth to live offspring.
  • Platypus is also one of the few venomous mammal species.
  • Its conservation status on the IUCN Red List is Least Concern.

platypus facts

Scientific Name Of Platypus

  • The scientific name of platypus is Ornithorhynchus anatinus.

Scientific Classification Of Platypus

  • The following is the scientific classification or taxonomy of platypus:
Kingdom  Animalia 
Phylum  Chordata 
Subphylum  Vertebrata 
Class  Mammalia 
Order  Monotremata 
Family  Ornithorhynchidae
Genus  Ornithorhynchus
Species Ornithorhynchus anatinus 

Platypus Evolution 

  • The modern monotremes (egg-laying mammals, platypus and echidnas) are believed to have survived from an early branching of the mammalian tree, while a later branching is believed to have led to placental and marsupial (pouched) groups of mammals.
  • It is believed that monotremes split from other mammal groups (placentals and marsupials) about 166 million years ago.
  • Fossil dating and molecular clock suggest that platypus and echidnas split from each other about 19 to 48 million years ago.
  • The oldest excavated fossil of the modern platypus is about 100,000 years old and belongs to the Quaternary period.

What Does A Platypus Look Like 

Appearance 

  • Platypus have a very unusual appearance.
  • Their bills resemble that of the ducks, their feet are like that of the otters, while their broad tails are like that of the beavers.
  • The gait of platypus is like that of reptilians. Their legs are located on the sides of their body rather than underneath. 
  • They have a streamlined body, broad tail, and wide feet.
  • Their body and tail have a covering of dense waterproof fur. Their fur resembles that of the moles.
  • They have webbed feet. Webbing on the front feet is more significant than the hind feet. The webbed part of their feet fold back when they walk on land.
  • The beak of platypus is actually an elongated snout, in which the lower jaw has a covering of soft skin.
  • On the dorsal surface of the snout, platypus has nostrils. The ears and eyes are located in a groove on either side of their heads, which they close during swimming.
  • Their jaws have a different built from that of the other mammals. The muscles at their jaw-opening are also different. 
  • Young platypus have milk teeth on each of their jaws. However, it replaces heavily keratinised pads (grinding plates) as they become adults.
  • Both male and female individuals have spurs on the back of their ankles. However, only the spurs of male individuals can deliver venom.

 

platypus appereance facts

Color

  • The fur color of platypus ranges from brown to dark-brown on the upper body side and brown to silver-grey on the ventral side of the body.
  • Their fur is biofluorescent and glows in a bluish-green color when exposed to black light.

Physical Features Of Platypus

Length 

  • The average head and body length of a platypus is 15 inches (38 cm). While their tail is 5 inches (12.7 cm) long.
  • Males usually have larger body size than females. 
  • The average total body length of a male platypus is about 20 inches (50 cm) while that of females is about 17 inches (43 cm).

Weight 

  • The average body weight of platypus is 3 lbs (1.36 kg).
  • However, it greatly varies and ranges from 1.54 to 5.92 lbs (0.7 to 2.4 kg).

Physical Abilities 

Speed 

  • The swimming speed of a platypus is around 1 meter per second.
  • When foraging, they swim at a lower speed which may be around 0.4 meter per second.
  • As platypus is not well-adapted to walk on the land, so it can not move fast on the land.

Jump 

  • A platypus can not jump.

Swim 

  • Platypus is an excellent swimmer and is well-adapted for swimming.
  • Its streamlined body, webbed feet, and waterproof fur allow it to swim efficiently.

Climb 

  • The webbed feet of platypus are well-adapted for swimming not for grasping objects.
  • So they can not climb.

What Do Platypus Eat

Diet

  • In  Wild
    • Platypus are carnivores in nature and primarily eat bottom-dwelling aquatic invertebrates found in streams and lakes. 
    • They mainly eat annelid worms, insects, insect larvae, and crustaceans (especially freshwater yabbies or crayfish and freshwater shrimps).
    • They dig crayfish out of the stream or riverbed with their snout or capture it during swimming.
    • They also feed on small fish and fish eggs.
    • They also sometimes eat frogs and bivalve mollusks at the water surface.
    • They store their prey in cheek pouches and carry it to the surface where they then eat it.
    • As platypus do not have teeth, they use thick horny plats to grind food. 
    • They also must take small pieces of gravel and mud with their food, which help in the chewing.
    • They then swallow the soft parts of their food and spit out the hard parts, for example the chitinous exoskeleton of the crayfish and insects.
  • In Captivity 
    • In captivity, platypus eat freshwater shrimps, a variety of insects, insect larvae, frogs, and bivalve mollusks.

platypus diet

List Of Food Items 

  • The following are the major food items a platypus eat:
  • Annelid worms 
  • Insects 
  • Insect larvae 
  • Freshwater shrimps 
  • Freshwater yabbies (crayfish)
  • Small fish 
  • Fish eggs 
  • Frogs 
  • Bivalve mollusks 

How Much A Platypus Eat Per Day 

  • A platypus needs to eat food equal to about 20% of their body weight per day.

What Do Baby Platypus Eat 

  • Baby platypus eat mother milk for about four months of their life.

Where Do Platypus Live – Platypus Habitat Facts

Natural Habitat

  • Platypuses are semi-aquatic in nature and they inhabit streams, small rivers, and lagoons.
  • They prefer to live in regions with steep banks that have roots, logs, reeds, and overhanging vegetations.
  • The rivers and streams they live in usually have a depth less than 5 meters.
  • They may also inhabit shallow lakes and artificial water sources, such as weir pools, ponds, water storage lakes and farm dams. 
  • They sometimes go into brackish regions of estuaries, but mostly remain in freshwater regions.
  • There are some records that they inhabit aquatic habitats at altitudes above 1,000 meters.
  • As platypuses are nocturnal, they spend their daytime in simple burrows, which they dig along the banks of the streams and rivers. The simple burrows of non-breeding female and male platypuses are different from the nesting burrows of the pregnant females.
  • They also use rock ledges, roots, and debris as their home, where they rest during the day.
  • The home range of adult male platypuses is larger than females. Male individuals may travel more than 10 kilometers (6 miles) in a single night trip. While females usually stay closer to home and usually travel less than 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles).

platypus habitat

Biome

  • As platypuses are semi-aquatic in nature, their aquatic biomes include rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds. While their terrestrial biomes are mountains.

Range 

  • Geographic range of the platypus is confined to the damp regions of eastern Australia and Tasmania.
  • Their habitat range starts from the cold highlands of Tasmania and the Australian Alps and covers the tropical rainforests of coastal Queensland and extends as far north as the base of the Cape York Peninsula.

Countries List 

  • Platypus is native to only Australia and is not found naturally in any other country.

Platypus Lifespan – Platypus Life Expectancy

In The Wild 

  • The lifespan or life expectancy of platypus in the wild is 7 to 14 years.

In Captivity 

  • The lifespan of platypus in captivity is longer than their wild lifespan.
  • They live for up to 21 years in captivity.

Platypus Life Cycle 

  • The life cycle of a platypus starts when it hatches the egg.
  • It relies on the mother for food and protection until it becomes four months old.
  • The lowest age at which females attain sexual maturity is 2 years, while this age for males is 1.5 years. Some individuals breed until they are 9 years old.
  • Upon sexual maturity, a platypus starts producing its own offspring.
  •  A platypus lives for about 7 to 14 years in the wild, and for about 21 years in captivity.

Platypus Reproduction 

  • Platypus is an egg-laying mammal and the females lay eggs instead of giving birth living offspring.
  • Males start mating interactions and usually compete for mating opportunities.
  • Platypuses show only a single breeding season.
  • Females usually mate with a single male, which occurs between June and October.  However it may vary between different populations. Males are polygynous and mate with several females.
  • Female platypuses have two ovaries, however, only the left one is functional. This characteristic is similar to many birds and some reptiles.
  • The eggs develop within the female’s womb for about 28 days, after which she lays it.
  • Females usually lay two eggs, however, the number of eggs will be one to three.
  • A female curled around her eggs to incubate them. The duration of external incubation is about 10 days. 
  • There are three phases of the platypus’s incubation period; 
    1. The embryo completely depends on the yolk sac for nourishment and has no functional organs. The developing young absorb the yolk.
    2. The developing young develop digits during the second phase.
    3. The egg tooth appears in the third phase. Egg tooth is a small, sharp, cranial bump the young uses to break through the egg surface.
  • The young use the egg tooth and hatches.
  • Females have mammary glands but do not have nipples or teats. So the milk produces and releases through pores in the skin. Females have grooves or patches in the abdomen where the milk accumulates and the babies slurp it up.

Platypus Egg Facts

  • The egg of platypus has a more round shape than a chicken’s egg.
  • It is small and has a diameter of about 1.7 cm (0.7 inches).
  • The egg is leathery and has a soft shell similar to that of the reptiles eggs.
  • Egg tooth appears in the platypus’s egg during the last phase of incubation. 

Baby Platypus Facts 

  • A baby platypus is known as a puggle. However, it is not a legitimate term for baby platypus and is a term used for baby echidna.
  • Baby platypus hatches after the incubation of about 10 days.
  • Newly hatched has the size of a lima bean. 
  • It is blind, hairless, and vulnerable.
  • Mother feeds the baby with her own milk.
  • Baby stay in the burrow. During the first month, mother leaves the burrow only for short intervals to forage. When leaving, the mother closes the burrow with soil plugs to protect the baby.
  • When the baby reaches the age of five weeks, the mother starts to leave the burrow for more time.
  • Baby is weaned at the age of 3 to 4 months. At this time, the baby emerges from the burrow and has fur on its body and can swim on its own.
  • Male youngs reach sexual maturity at the age of at least 1.5 years while females at the age of 2 years. 

platypus baby facts

Behavior Of Platypus

  • Platypuses are nocturnal in nature and remain active during the night and dusk while resting in burrows during the day. They enter their burrows in the early morning and emerge in late afternoon or in dusk to forage.
  • Their burrows are simple and small that can only admit their body and usually serve to squeeze excessive moisture from their fur. Beside burrows, they also make their home in debris, roots, and rock ledges where they spend their day.
  • Pregnant females dig nesting burrows that are deeper and more elaborate. It is called nursery burrows and has multiple chambers and entrances. Female carries vegetation, leaves, and twigs between her hind feet and tail into the burrow and accumulates it in the nesting chamber. After laying eggs, the breeding female blocks her elaborate burrow with plugs at intervals probably to protect the eggs from predators and the raising level of water as well as to regulate temperature and humidity in the burrow. When a mother female leaves to forage, she closes the opening of the burrow with a soft covering of soil and debris.
  • Platypus sleep for an average time of about 14 hours per day. Their high calorie diet of crustaceans enables them to sleep for such a long time. It is also found that about 60% of their daily sleep is brain active REM. 
  • Platypus are solitary in nature, especially male individuals. If their territories overlap, they try to avoid each other and change the timing of their forage.
  • They make growls if disturbed. A variety of sounds have been noted in captive individuals. If alarmed during swimming, they will make big splashes probably to warn other platypus.
  • They usually make repeated short dives of 30 to 60 seconds. However, they can reside underwater for up to 2 minutes. The timing and depth of the dive depend on the air in their lungs. Between dives, they come to the surface for 10 to 20 seconds to recover air in their lungs. Usually, they dive for a depth of less than 5 meters (16 feet), however, they occasionally dive deeper to about 8 meters (26 feet).

Platypus Adaptations

The following are the major physical or structural and physiological adaptations of the platypus:

Physical Or Structural Adaptations

  • Dense and waterproof fur
    • Platypus have dense and waterproof fur, which have texture like that of a mole’s fur.
    • Their fur also traps a layer of insulating air, which keeps the animal warm.
  • Streamlined body
    • Platypus have a streamlined body that is well-adapted for swimming in water.
    • Streamlined shape of the body reduces the friction drag and allows the animal to swim fast.
  • Broad Tail
    • Platypus have broad and flat shaped tails, which they use for swimming.
    • They also use their tail as a fat reservoir and store extra fats in their tails.
  • Webbed feet 
    • Platypus have webbed feet, which is also an important adaptation for swimming.
    • They use their feet like oars to propel water during swimming.
    • When walking on land, the webbed part of their feet folded back.

platypus facts for kids

Physiological Adaptations 

  • Lower Average Body Temperature 
    • The average body temperature of platypus is about 32 ℃ (90 ℉), which is very less than the average body temperature of placental mammals 37 ℃ (99 ℉).
    • Due to low average body temperature, they need less energy to maintain normal body temperature and allow them to easily tolerate temperature changes in the environment.
    • This is an important adaptation to harsh environmental conditions of their habitat.
  • Electro-receptors In The Bill 
    • Platypus have electroreceptors located in rostro caudal rows in the soft skin of their bills.
    • Their electroreceptors are the most sensitive of all the monotremes.
    • Through electroreceptors, they detect the electric field that is generated by the muscular contraction of the prey.
    • When they dive in water, they close their eyes, ears, and nostrils. So they completely depend on their electro-receptors to locate prey. 
  • Mechano-receptors In The Bill
    • Platypus also have mechano-receptors that are distributed uniformly across their bills.
    • Mechano-receptors allow them to detect touch.
  • Venom In Males 
    • The back ankle spurs of male individuals can deliver venom.
    • Venom is more plentiful during the breeding season and it is believed that they use it to protect their mates and resources from opponent males.

Food Chain Of Platypus

  • In the food chain of platypus, sun is the overall source of energy.
  • Producers in this food chain are phytoplankton, which are microscopic marine algae.
  • Primary consumers are shrimps, crayfish, and other small aquatic animal species that consume phytoplankton.
  • Secondary consumers are platypus that consume crustaceans (shrimps, crayfish, etc) and other small aquatic animals.
  • Tertiary consumers are the predators of platypus, which include dogs, foxes, cats, crocodiles, Tasmanian devils, owls, eagles, and hawks, etc.

Ecological Role Of Platypus

  • Platypus plays an important role in the ecosystem.
  • As it is carnivore, it keeps the population of crustaceans, worms, and other bottom-dwelling invertebrates in control.
  • Platypus is also an important food source for other carnivore animals like foxes, dogs, Tasmanian devils, and cats, etc.

Population Of Platypus

  • The current population of platypus is estimated as 30,000 to 300,000 individuals.

Platypus Endangerment

  • Platypus is not endangered, however, there are some factors that are causing threat to their survival.

Reasons

  • Heavy predation by predators is one of the major threats to the platypus survival.
  • Drought or changing of waterways forces platypus to move on land. Traveling on the land makes them extremely vulnerable to predation. 
  • Fishing lines, mesh netting, and discarded waste in their habitat is another threat to their survival. Platypus are air-breathing creatures and drown quickly if they get entangled in these things. Even common things, such as hair ties, plastic rings and rubber bands can be lethal for a swimming platypus if entangled in its neck or legs.
  • Tasmanian platypus are also affected by a fungal disease, known as mucormycosis. In this disease, skin lesions develop in the various body parts of the affected platypus. The affected platypus then develops a secondary infection, due to which it loses its ability to forage efficiently and to maintain its body temperature and so leads to death.
  • Other reasons include habitat disruption due to dams, irrigation, pollution, as well as land clearing and climate change.

Conservation Status 

  • The conservation status of platypus on the IUCN Red List is Least Concern.

Platypus Venom Facts

  • The spurs on the back ankles of the male platypus can deliver venom.
  • The venom is produced by the venom glands located over their thighs and connected through a duct to the spur.
  • Their venom is largely composed of defensin-like proteins (DLPs). Three of these proteins are unique to the platypus.
  • The immune system of platypus produces these DLPs. The function of these proteins is to destroy pathogenic bacteria and viruses, however, in platypus they also formed into venom.
  • The platypus venom is powerful enough to kill small animals if pierces in their skin. 
  • The venom is not lethal to humans, however, the pain it causes is so intense that the victim may be debilitated.
  • During the breeding season, the venoms are more plentiful and it is believed that they use it for defense.

Platypus Predators 

  • The major land predators of platypus are: 
    • Dingoes 
    • Cats 
    • Foxes 
    • Tasmanian devils 
    • Monitor lizards 
    • Water rats 
    • Snakes 
    • Crocodiles 
  • Their major aerial predators are:
    • Eagles 
    • Owls 
    • Hawks 
  • Humans are also the major predators of platypus.

Fun Facts About Platypus For Kids – Interesting Facts About Platypus

  • Platypus is one of the five (the other four are echidnas) living egg-laying mammal species found on the earth. They are known as monotremes.
  • The origin of the word ‘platypus’ is a Greek word, which means ‘flat foot’.
  • There is no correct and universally agreed plural ending of the word platypus. However, the -es ending (platypuses) is generally used and is preferred over platypi.
  • Platypus is one of the world’s few venomous mammal species.
  • A platypus venom is potent enough to kill a dog if pierced in the skin. While it is not fatal to humans but it can cause severe pain and even incapacitation. 
  • Unlike other mammals, platypus have extra bones in their shoulder girdle.
  • Beside at least one dolphin species (the Guiana dolphin), monotremes (platypus and echidnas) are the only mammals that have a sense of electroreceptors. 
  • At hatch, a platypus infant has the size of a lima bean.
  • Females feed the infants with their own milk. However, they do not have teats and the milk exudes in the special skin groove in their abdomen from where the infants slurp it up.
  • Female platypus has two ovaries, however, only the left one is functional. This characteristic is similar to some reptiles and many birds.

FAQs

What Do You Call A Baby Platypus?

  • A baby platypus does not have a special name.
  • It is sometimes called a puggle, which is a term used for the baby of echidna, which is its closest relative and fellow egg-laying mammal.

Can A Platypus See Underwater?

  • No, a platypus can not see underwater.
  • Their eyes and ear are located in small groves, which they close while swimming underwater.

Can A Platypus Kill A Human?

  • The venom of a platypus can not kill a human.
  • However, it causes severe pain and can incapacitate the victim.

Where Do Platypus Live?

  • Platypus are native to Australia.
  • They live in rivers, lakes, and streams in eastern Australia and Tasmania.

What Is A Group Of Platypus Called? 

  • A group of platypus is called paddle.

What Do You Call Two Platypus?

  • In English language, there is no correct and universally agreed plural form of the word platypus.
  • Scientists usually use ‘platypuses’ or simply just ‘platypus’ to call two or more platypus. 

What Eats A Platypus?

  • Dogs, foxes, cats, crocodiles, Tasmanian devils, water rats, snakes, eagles, hawks, and owls eat a platypus.

Is A Platypus Friendly?

  • No, a platypus is not friendly.
  • It can harm you because it has spurs and can deliver venom.

Can You Have A Platypus As A Pet?

  • No, a platypus is an extremely difficult animal to be kept as a pet.

Brief Facts About Duck Bill Platypus

  • Platypus is one of the five living species of egg-laying mammals known as monotremes.
  • Platypus is well-known for its unusual appearance. It has a duck like bill, a beaver like tail, an otter like feet, and a mole like fur.
  • It is indigenous to eastern Australia and Tasmania.
  • Platypus is a semi-aquatic animal and found in lakes, streams, rivers, and ponds. 
  • It is a nocturnal animal and spends its daytime resting in burrows they dig along the banks of streams, rivers, and lakes. It may also make its home in rock ledges, debris, and roots.
  • Platypus are egg-laying mammals and a breeding female lays one to three (usually two) eggs. 
  • The newly hatched infants are small and vulnerable. Mother feeds them with her own milk exude in skin patches (as the females do not have nipples) from where the babies slurp it up.
  • Male platypus are venomous. Their venom is toxic enough to kill small animals, such as dogs.

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