How Unusual Is the Platypus?

The platypus is one of the most unique creatures alive today. All mammals can be divided into three types, including placentals (most modern mammals), marsupials (many mammals from Australia, like kangaroos and koalas) and monotremes.

There are only two living species currently classified as monotremes, which are mammals which lay eggs. One of these is the platypus.

Not only does the platypus lay eggs, it is aquatic, furred, has a duck-like bill, and can produce venom. When mapping the platypus genome, scientists found that it has a mixture of reptilian, bird-like and mammal traits and probably split from the general mammal evolutionary path about 165 million years ago.

More about the platypus:

  • In 1796 a zoologist with the British Museum was so convinced their new platypus specimen was a hoax he took to the pelt with a knife to try and find stitching.
  • Platypuses don't have teeth, although they do have special grinding pads in their mouths to mash up food. They will swallow gravel to help with digestion as many birds do.
  • The beaver-like tail of the platypus is not used to swim, but rather as a storage space for fat. The platypus swims using its webbed feet.

Discussion Comments


So, what is the other mammal that lays eggs?

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