Platypus Poison Claws? Explore Facts On Their Curious Venom Glands!

Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Mar 27, 2023 By Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Originally Published on Nov 17, 2021
Edited by Sarah Nyamekye
Platypus in water.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.0 Min

Platypus or the duck billed platypus is one of the very few venomous mammals.

Platypuses are egg laying mammals endemic to Australia. In other words, this mammal gives birth to its young ones by laying eggs.

These animals possess the kind of venom that can be pretty dangerous, but the good news is that it is not life-threatening to humans. Only the male platypuses have venomous spurs.

They are rather solitary animals, so communication between them has not been observed much. The males use this spur when they fight amongst themselves to rouse the fight. This is a way of communication for these animals.

Read on to know more about the venom of platypus and if you like this article, then also check out frog skeleton and kitten and puppy.

Gender Of Platypus That Has Poison Claws

Many amphibians and reptiles have venoms. Yet, you would not think that mammals would have venom, but along with solenodons and shrew, platypuses have venom, specifically the male platypus. The females have not been found with venoms as of yet. Incidentally, no special names have been allotted to the male and female of the species.

The platypus, also known as the duck billed platypus, is the single species found in their family Ornithorhynchidae and genus Ornithorhynchus. Platypuses are one of the very few mammals that lay eggs to give birth. This semi-aquatic mammal is endemic to eastern parts of Australia, including Tasmania.

This odd-looking animal has a broad body, a bill similar to a duck, a flat tail, webbed feet, and dense brown fur, which is bifluorescent. Now the venom is found only on the hindlimbs of the male platypus. There's a spur on the back of the hindlimbs of the males where the venom-secreting gland is mainly found.

The platypuses are a wonder in themselves as they have features of mammals, reptiles, and birds. Scientists are still trying to figure out how they evolved. The male platypus probably uses the venom when they are fighting amongst themselves or protecting themselves. It's been noticed that the male platypus develops more venom during the spring.

It's worth mentioning that the breeding season of the species occurs during spring as well. It's pretty easy to assume that they use it to fight amongst themselves to get the attention of the females.

However, the males don't kill each other with venom; they rather use it to stir the fighting and to control territory at times. They don't even use it for hunting prey; they preferably use it with the means to harm only when they feel threatened.

Does a platypus have enough venom to kill a human?

It has been reported that a platypus has enough venom to paralyze a small animal, but the venom is not lethal enough to kill a human. In fact, even though they develop the venom to establish dominance during mating season, they still don't use it as an offensive weapon on other males.

There have been very few records of the platypus stinging humans.

According to those few reports, it's been noticed that after the humans get stung by the animal, they develop hyperalgesia, meaning there is an abnormal amount of sensitivity to pain around the place they had been stung for about the next few days to a few weeks on average.

In 1991, a former Australian army member, Keith Payne, was stung by a platypus when he was trying to rescue a stranded platypus. The retired soldier described extreme pain that was worse than shrapnel wounds he had experienced before.

The pain doesn't go away with morphine or any other painkillers. Only local anesthesia works at that time.

Severe swelling starts to appear within a matter of time. The victim complained about having pain in the area after around four months, and even after 15 years, he reported having stiffness and discomfort in the area when he carried out any physical activity.

There is no anti-venom for platypus venom, but if humans get stung, they need to go to the doctor as soon as possible, and they will start the treatment according to the symptoms.

Platypus swimming.

Features Of Platypus Venom Glands

The venom of the male platypus resides in the crural glands. The gland is connected to two calcaneus spurs on their hindlimbs with thin-walled ducts. This spur is movable, and all platypus sting their predators with them.

Only the males of these animals possess the venom in two alveolar glands that are shaped like kidneys. These are connected to the sharp spurs they have on their hindlimbs.

These spurs usually lie flat on the hindlimbs of the male platypus. When they are fighting amongst themselves during the mating season or defending themselves, they move these spurs at a right angle and then sting.

Once the spur enters the victim's body, it has to be removed manually. On the other hand, the females have spur buds that are rudimentary, and they usually fall off by the time they reach one year old.

Scientists have experimented on this venom to understand its nature. They found around 11 kinds of peptides or protein subunits.

They also found around 83 gene signatures from 13 different toxin families. These toxins can usually be seen in poisonous snakes, spiders, lizards, and more poisonous amphibians and reptiles. That's why scientists think that platypus venom can be proof of convergent evolution.

As it has been observed that no amount of morphine or anything else works once you're stung, scientists are studying the venom to develop better painkillers. A study on the venom even states it may help to manage diabetes.

Is it legal to have a pet platypus?

It is illegal to keep a platypus as a pet. In fact, it's also illegal to export them out of Australia. The only zoo outside of Australia where you can find two platypuses is the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Two platypuses, a female platypus, named Eve and a male platypus named Birrarung live in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park zoo. It's the only zoo in the United States of America and outside Australia where platypuses are kept.

The conservation status of the platypus, according to International Union for Conservation of Nature, is listed as Near Threatened. That's why the Australian government has made it illegal to take these animals away from their wild habitat to keep as pets or to export. Additionally, it's also pretty hard to keep a platypus in captivity.

Platypus lives in water bodies of freshwater, like lakes, ponds, and more. They paddle their forelimbs in the water with the help of their webbed feet.

They move their big flat tail and hind feet to steer the water to swim around deep in water or on the surface. They can be seen out of the water resting or sleeping in their burrows which are usually in earth banks.

Some of the individuals rest in dense low vegetation or compiled stream debris. Hence, it's better not to take them away from their wild habitat.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for female platypus poison claws: explore curious venom glands facts!

then why not take a look at looking for low maintenance easiest pets? here is the easy pet guide, or 15 must-know facts on Danyang–Kunshan Grand Bridge that will amaze you?

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Written by Rajnandini Roychoudhury

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

Rajnandini Roychoudhury picture

Rajnandini RoychoudhuryBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

With a Master of Arts in English, Rajnandini has pursued her passion for the arts and has become an experienced content writer. She has worked with companies such as Writer's Zone and has had her writing skills recognized by publications such as The Telegraph. Rajnandini is also trilingual and enjoys various hobbies such as music, movies, travel, philanthropy, writing her blog, and reading classic British literature. 

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