Curious Platypus Saga: An Animal That Lays Eggs But Is Not A Bird

Oluniyi Akande
Oct 24, 2023 By Oluniyi Akande
Originally Published on Nov 09, 2021
The males are seen fighting aggressively during the mating
Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.6 Min

The platypus is not just one of the rarest mammals in the world, but it is also one of the most unique mammals.

They have a lot of distinct features that set them apart from other mammals. For starters, they lay eggs.

Mammals give birth to live young animals. But the platypus, just like snakes, lizards, turtles and other oviparous reptiles, lays eggs. This egg-laying feature makes it one of the weirdest animals. Apart from an echidna, a platypus is the only mammal that lays eggs. It is a very intelligent animal and is also one of the very few mammals that can produce venom. That being said, the platypus is a venomous creature whose venom can cause a lot of harmful effects on humans and other animals. A platypus mainly feeds on prawns and worms available in the sea. It lives in a den or burrow. Just like Wolverine from 'X-Men', they have sharp retractable structures on the legs. These claws retract when they don't swim or when reach shore areas to facilitate movement.

We have curated a bunch of more interesting facts about the platypus. Also, check out our other articles on an animal that lays eggs but is not a bird and duck-billed platypus facts.

Is platypus a bird?

All birds and reptiles lay eggs. Since a platypus lays eggs, it is often mistaken for a bird or reptile. A platypus is not a bird or reptile. It is a mammal. They are one of three mammals in the group of monotremes. Monotremes are mammals that lay eggs. They are often mistaken for birds as monotremes are related to birds and lay eggs. The platypus is a semi-aquatic creature that is endemic to eastern Australia, including Tasmania. Each body part resembles different animals.

These amphibians have unique feathers which make them look like birds. It was formerly described as a beaver-like animal with a duckbill. The body of this mammal is flat and covered with fur. The feet also have fur. Just like with ducks, the fur of these animals is also waterproof. The egg-laying feature of this warm-blooded animal allows it to move easily. The fertilization is either internal or external.

Can a platypus kill a human?

With the current scenario, we are more dangerous to a platypus than it is to us. They are on the list of endangered species and are protected by law throughout their range.

Platypuses are venomous animals. These are some of the few mammals that are capable of producing venom. The venom gland is connected to a spike on the rear legs of mature male platypuses. This structure is called a spur and is mostly utilized to defend themselves from fellow competitors. The males are seen fighting aggressively during the mating season to impress or attract a potential mate. Venom is produced by the crural gland. The venom comprises 19 peptides and a few non-nitrogenous components. One of the unique, or as some say, weird facts about the venom is that it contains D-amino acids. This makes it unique. They are venomous creatures, but their venom is not strong enough to kill humans. The spur stab will definitively cause a lot of pain. The pain can last for weeks or sometimes even months, accompanied by swelling in the bitten spot. These animals are rare and finding one is highly unlikely. But if you come across one, keep your pets away from them. Though the venom does not have much effect on humans, it can easily harm animals like dogs. Platypus venom can still cause a range of serious effects, like temporary paralysis.

In 1991, a former army member Keith Payne, while trying to rescue a platypus, was attacked on the hand. The reports given by Mr. Payne states that the pain was unbearable, and he experienced pain even after a month.

These claws retract when they don't swim

How do platypuses eat without a stomach?

The platypus does not have teeth. Platypuses scoop up their prey like insects and larvae, along with grains of mud. The mud grains help them chew their food.

We have heard about animals with two stomachs and even four stomachs (ruminants). The platypus is even more unique because it has no stomach at all. These mammals have a pouch in their mouth that allows them to store food. The food is directly sent to the intestine. This is possible due to the direct connection between the esophagus and small intestine. The stomach is an essential part of all animal species. But this species seems to do well even in its absence. In these monotremes, practically all the genes necessary for the stomach to function are switched off. Large retrovirus-like chunks of unrelated DNA have infiltrated the genes that produce stomach acid and digestive enzymes, inactivating them. Since these genes have been conserved from the earliest ancestors of vertebrates, their complete inactivation is quite surprising. Only echidnas, also known as spiny plant-eaters, have comparable inactivation. Without strong gastric fluid, the platypus' stomach became little more than an empty sac in the middle of the digestive system and was eliminated by natural selection.

Why do platypuses not have teeth?

Experts say the the loss of teeth in these monotremes may have been a trade-off for their well-developed electro reception skills.

This species can spend up to 12 hours a day looking for food. This egg-laying mammal carries its prey in a pouch present on its cheeks. It hunts prey underwater and then tucks it into its cheeks. A platypus can eat up to 20% of its body weight in food every day.

The beak of a platypus has hundreds of cells that act as a sixth sense, enabling it to detect the electrical currents created by all living things. It is completely dependent on the electrolocation by the bill.

The platypus is one of the five monotremes. Monotremes are extremely skilled animals that lay eggs. 166 million years ago, the platypus parted ways with other mammals. A study in 2008 revealed that the DNA of a platypus, despite being weird, has a lot of similarities with birds and mammals.

Baby platypuses hatch from eggs that have a leather texture to them. The way young ones drink milk from their mothers is very unusual. Unlike other animals, this egg-laying mammal does not have a nipple. Instead, the milk secreted from the mammary glands is found in the belly. The baby just has to squeeze the mother's belly folds or suck on the skin to drink milk.

Like regular semi-aquatic mammals, this egg-laying mammal does not use its tail to move through the water by flapping them. The tail is an important part of the body of a platypus as it stores fat. Since they do not have stomachs that store food, the tail is used. When they don't get enough food, they manage by using the fat stored in the tail. Females also use their tails to keep the hatchlings and eggs close to her body to provide heat or warmth.

Did You Know...

Currently, there are three species of monotremes in the world. They are the long-beaked echidna, short-beaked echidna, and platypus. The platypus and echidna are the only egg-laying mammals. The echidna is a small animal covered with spikes. Echidnas belong to the Tachyglossidae family.

Some fish don't lay eggs. Sharks and fish like guppies and mosquito fish give birth to live offspring.

A baby platypus is called a puggle. Paddle is the name given to a group of platypuses.

Platypuses have bio fluorescence which absorbs ultraviolet rays and re-emits them. This is why platypuses glow in the dark.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for Curious platypus saga: an animal that lays eggs but is not a bird, then why not take a look at What cheese does Chipotle use? Appetizing yummy cheese facts for kids or what is the only metallic element that is liquid at room temperature?

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Written by Oluniyi Akande

Doctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

Oluniyi Akande picture

Oluniyi AkandeDoctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

With an accomplished background as a Veterinarian, SEO content writer, and public speaker, Oluniyi brings a wealth of skills and experience to his work. Holding a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Ibadan, he provides exceptional consulting services to pet owners, animal farms, and agricultural establishments. Oluniyi's impressive writing career spans over five years, during which he has produced over 5000 high-quality short- and long-form pieces of content. His versatility shines through as he tackles a diverse array of topics, including pets, real estate, sports, games, technology, landscaping, healthcare, cosmetics, personal loans, debt management, construction, and agriculture.

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