Duck-Billed Platypus Fact Sheet

Common Name:

Duck-Billed Platypus

Scientific Name:

Ornithorhynchus anatinus

Wild Status:

Near Threatened

Habitat:

Rivers

Country:

Australia

Shelter:

Burrows

Life Span:

20 years

Size:

20 inches

Cool Facts:

  • Popular in its native Australia as a mascot and representative of the country.
  • One of two known extant species of monotreme
  • A rare egg-laying mammal.
  • Has a mouth similar to a duck's bill and a tail similar to a beaver's tail.
  • Hunting of platypuses for fur is now illegal in Australia.
  • One of the few venomous mammals.
  • Can sense electric activity in muscle movements underwater, helping it catch prey.
  • One of the few aquatic animals that swims with its eyes closed.
  • Similar to, but distinct from echidnas.

Details:

The platypus is one of the more unusual mammals alive today. Initially thought to be a hoax, the platypus fits the definition of a mammal - milk producing animals with three middle ear bones. However, rather than give live birth, mothers produce eggs much like a bird or reptile would. Its mouth is shaped like the bill of a duck, its fur and body resemble an otter, and its tail is wide like a beaver. It's easy to see why many believed the original specimens were made of different animals. Two of its most unique features make it stranger still but offer survival tools rarely seen in mammals: venom and electrolocation. Male platypuses have spurs on their legs which can envenom other animals, rarely killing larger ones such as humans but causing intense pain. Electrolocation is the ability to sense electric fields created by muscle contractions, allowing it to find food underwater. Australia has embraced the platypus as a symbol of its wildlife and culture. Platypuses are mascots in sports events, schools, merchandise, and are even printed on money.

Taxonomic Breakdown:

Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Mammalia Order: Monotremata Family: Ornithorhynchidae Genus: Ornithorhynchus Blumenbach, 1800 Species: O. anatinus

Conservation & Helping:

This species is considered near threatened. Its natural habitat in Eastern Australia remains, although human activity and construction have displaced a number of platypuses. Legal protection and successful captive breeding programs have lessened the impact, although accidental death from fishing nets remains a top threat.

For Teachers and Educators

Duck-Billed-Platypus-Fact-Sheet.pdf

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