The platypus is one of the most interesting creatures ever to come out of Mother Nature's workshop. It's a huge slap in the face to the very foundations and theories of biological design and it's bizarre, almost 'Far Side-esque' design makes it one of the cuter and more amusing stops at any local zoo. This twisted creation of nature and genetics was given its own day of honor, along with the groundhog, the pig and the turkey (although, technically, that's Thanksgiving).
Last Saturday, the Internet turned the world into Happy Platypus Day to celebrate this strange but beloved creature of the animal kingdom. These videos about this bizarre but beloved animal can help even the most ignorant platypus lover pay homage to this duck-billed wonder.
MTV Cribs - Platypus Nest Edition
The platypus' unique tail was once believed to have been a way to warn predators in the water, it's primary habitat. The truth is that it serves a much more useful purpose; it can help them build a nest and care for their young. According to the Australia Platypus Conservancy, the mother uses the tail to collect leaves to build the nest and cradles its young against its stomach with its tail until they are born. This team of researchers takes a unique look inside a young platypus' nest in the video below.
Sweat - It Does a Body Good
The platypus might have traits that place it in several other species, but it's still classified as a mammal. That means it's able to provide milk to its young, but even that method could classify it in a species that sounds like it doesn't belong on this planet. The mother secrets its milk to its young through modified sweat glands, shortly after their hatching.
How The Platypus Stuffs Its Face
The platypus might appear small, but it requires a massive amount of food to survive. According to the Australian Platypus Conservancy, it has to eat 15 to 30% of its weight, primarily of invertebrates like shrimps, worms and insects. It's also able to store food in special pouches located in its cheeks.
When Platypi Fall in Love
If you thought these creatures were cute based on their looks alone, their mating rituals will have you gushing so hard that you might have to visit a hospital. Like many animals, mating usually occurs once a year in the spring. The male approaches the female to show his interest and the two have a rather unique way of "holding hands" or "tails," that is.
Of course, just because nature made these creatures appear cute and cuddly, that doesn't mean they can't be fierce. In fact, nature has also given them a hidden spur on their hind leg that is not only sharp but also poisonous. It uses this spur to fight for territory or females.
The Story of the Platypus
The Aboriginal tribes of Australia have a long history of deep storytelling, often using the unique animals that lived in their own backyard. The stories take place in a fictional world called "Dreamtime," a plane of existence that Aboriginal tribes believe took place before time began, in which spiritual beings or "totemic" animals lived and provided morality tales for generations to pass on to their children. The platypus, of course, was a star in one of these classic stories.
This harrowing moment of a platypus trapped in a sewage pipe might sound like a common occurrence for the Australian people, but it's actually very rare. In fact, Sydney alone hasn't recorded a platypus sighting in the last four years. There is even a concern that water clean-up efforts could be bringing them back to more urban areas.
Mapping a Platypus' DNA is Difficult
It's taken a long time to map the DNA of a platypus because of its complex physical and genetic makeup but the University School of Medicine in St. Louis managed to crack its genome in 2008. Of course, just getting the DNA from the animal was difficult on its own. Not only do the animals put up quite a fight, but they can only be grabbed and held by their long tails because of the poisonous spur. While it may not be strong enough to kill a human, they can cause severe pain and swelling.
This is Not the Platypus You're Looking For
All this time we've been referring to the platypus, but it's doesn't just refer to the duck-billed variety. In fact, the name "platypus" was the nickname of a much smaller animal. The British panel show 'Qi' explains the true identity of the platypus to a mentally exhausted panel of comedians in the clip below.
P-P-P-P-P-P-P-P-Please Make This P-P-P-P-P-P-P-P-Platypus Song Stop
The platypus may seem like a quiet creature, but it actually has a rather distinctive and loud call, particularly at night when it's most active. The call of this plush "platypus," however, will echo in your brain and won't go away no matter how hard you try. Don't say we didn't warn you.