Cochise College Student Papers in Geology
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Roger Weller, geology instructor
The Duckbill Platypus
The Duckbill Platypus
The Duckbill Platypus certainly is amongst the world’s most unique and unusual animals and for good reason too. The Duckbill Platypus’ are mammals because the females produce milk and nurse their young; however they are different as the Duckbill platypus, strangely lays eggs. This makes the Duckbill Platypus one of only three Monotremata that walk this earth. Originating from the word monotreme, which means a “single whole or opening”, Monotremata are mammals that lay eggs. The Duckbill platypus is a mammal that lays eggs.
Figure 1. Three types of monotrema
The duckbill platypus’ abnormalities are evident in its appearance alone. Their bodies are streamlined and flat with a thick covering of hair all over except on the feet and the bill. The back of a Duckbill Platypus is a dark brown and their stomachs are a light yellow. They have a thick beaver like tail containing fatty tissue which is used to store energy. Their legs are short. The front feet of the duckbill platypus are fully webbed and the back feet are only partially webbed, but all feet have large nails for digging. On the male Duckbill Platypus there are hollow spurs on the ankles that contain venom. They use this Venom as protection. An obvious feature of the duckbill platypus is but of course its bill. The bill is long, skin covered, leathery, and shaped like the bill of a duck. It’s soft and sensitive to the touch with many nerves. The bill has nostrils for breathing which can be closed when the duckbill platypus is under water. The eyes are located directly behind the bill and ear slits directly behind the eyes. Duckbill platypus’ can weigh between one and a half pounds to five and a half pounds and can be twenty six inches long up to thirty nine inches long.
Figure 2 A. Typical size of a Duckbill Platypus
Figure 2B. Coloring of a Duckbill Platypus
Functions of Features
Duckbill Platypuses flat tails not only store fat for energy but in combination with their webbed feet help the Duckbill Platypus to swim. The hind feet are less powerful then the forefeet and are used for steering. Their thick fur helps keep them warm and dry as it provides the platypus with water resistance. The bill of the Duckbill Platypus has electro receptors which are used to help find prey. The Venom the males have located in the hollow spurs on their ankles can be injected in to a predator. The venom is strong enough to cause an immense amount of pain in a human and powerful enough to kill a dog.
Although Duckbill platypuses are carnivores, they have
no teeth. In substitute they use grinding pads in their mouths to grind up
food. Duckbill platypuses eat early in the morning and again in the evening.
They eat frogs, shrimp, larvae, fish, and tadpoles. The Duckbill platypus finds
its food by diving to the bottom of the river and wiggling its bill into the
sand and mud. Instead of using their ears and eyes to capture prey they use
pits in their bills that detect electrical charges coming from possible prey.
The food is then stored in cheek pouches behind the bill until it surfaces and
then is moved forward into the bill. It is then grinded with the grinding pads.
Figure 3 A. Picture of Duckbill Platypus swimming
The Duckbill Platypus reaches sexual maturity at two
years of age. They mate in the months of September and October. September and
October are spring months in the southern hemisphere where the Duckbill
Platypus is found. At this time, the female platypus prepares a breeding burrow
which could vary anywhere in between fifteen all the way up to sixty feet. In
the burrow she then prepares a nesting chamber and lines it with leaves and
grass. Two weeks after mating, the female will return to this burrow and plug
the opening with earth. Next she retires to her nest and usually lays two,
although sometimes one or three eggs.
The eggs are round and about two centimeters in diameter. They are white with tough wrinkly shells. The
mother duckbill Platypus curls around the eggs and keeps them incubated for
about ten days until they hatch.
A newborn duckbill platypus is basically helpless. They
are about two and a half centimeters in length, blind, and naked. A baby
Platypus nurses from pores that ooze milk on the mother’s underside of the
body. The babies live and stay with the mother while being raised. The father
duckbill platypus does not help raise the young. They develop rather slowly and
aren’t ready to leave the nest until seventeen weeks of age.
Duckbill Platypuses live along streams and rive beds
mostly in Eastern Australia and
Figure 4 A. Platypus is a fake environment.
The Duckbill platypus was hunted for is fur
and persecuted for many years by fishermen. Their species came very close to
extinction. Now the Duckbill Platypus is protected by law in the National Parks
Wildlife Act of 1974, and the population had begun to grow back to a healthy
size, however today people are still destroying their habitats. Under regular
circumstances a Duckbill Platypus can live up to fifteen years of age.
Figure 5 A. Illustration of a Duckbill Platypus
Figure 5B. Lady and Duckbill Platypus Costume