Platypus: who he is and how he lives

Platypus: who he is and how he lives

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Ornithorhynchus anatinus

Common name

: platypus


  • Body length: 30 - 45 cm with a 10-15 cm long tail
  • Weight: 1 - 1.5 kg
  • Lifespan:12 years
  • Sexual maturity:2 years


L'Ornithorhynchus anatinus, commonly known as platypus, is a semi-aquatic mammal that lives exclusively in the humid regions of the east coast of Australia and Tasmania.

He is the only surviving representative of a family, theOrnithorhynchidae, which dates back to the Cretaceous period (extends from 135 million to 65 million years ago, approximately) while the other more recent members of the family became extinct in the Oligocene and Miocene.

They are animals that live along rivers, in lagoons, where there is a rich vegetation that plunges into the water. They live in areas less than five meters deep and at altitudes between sea level and 1000 m.

The video below shows the platypus's home territory, Australia, and about halfway through the video, you will see beautiful footage of how and where this bizarre creature lives.


The peculiarity of the platypus is that together with the echidnas (Zaglossus bruijni the long-beaked echidna e Tachyglossus aculeatus the short-beaked echidna) belongs to the order of the Monotremata which includes animals which, despite being mammals, maintain the ancestral characteristics of laying eggs such as reptiles and birds, and use the same opening of the body to bring together the genital ducts, the digestive system and the excretory system in a single opening called the cloaca.

The platypus is a mammal that exhibits sexual dimorphism as males are generally larger than females. It is an animal that has particularities that make it unique in the world. First of all, it has a small head where a beak similar to that of the duck stands out, about 6 cm long and 5 cm wide, which is actually the elongated snout covered with a skin of leathery consistency and rich in nerve endings that make it particularly sensitive. The function of the beak instead of the normal lips is to move the muddy or pebbly bottom of the rivers to bring out insects, worms or molluscs which it feeds on. It has no teeth but has sharp horny plates that are used to grind food.

They are animals without an external ear but have very acute sight and hearing.

It has an elongated body covered with fur (including legs) of a more or less intense brown color, usually lighter in the ventral part. It has short limbs with webbed forelegs and partially webbed hind legs. Each foot consists of five toes in the front legs and sharp claws in the hind legs.

Males have more than females two poisonous glands in the hind legs that end with a sort of claw that is used both as a defense weapon capable of killing a small dog and causing severe pain to humans, and in fights between males for the possession of the female.

Females have mammary glands but no nipples. To suck the milk, the puppies press in these areas causing the milk to leak through the pores of the skin.


It is not easy to see a platypus due to the fact that they are shy animals and do not show themselves easily. They are solitary mammals that have their own specific territory within which they feed and live. Sometimes the territories of different platypuses overlap but this does not seem to cause concern as they simply ignore each other.

When it is not in the water looking for food, it is in its lair. It has been observed that there are two types of burrows: a simple type, where it normally lives and another type that is built by the female, much larger and more complex, 9 to 18 m long, winding, dug along the banks of rivers and whose entrance is sometimes underwater, and is the one used to lay eggs and raise young.

Early in the morning and late in the evening are the periods during which the platypus is very active as it leaves the den in search of food.

They are excellent swimmers and do real scuba diving (on average two minutes but they can stay up to ten minutes) and when they swim they always keep their eyes closed and rely solely and exclusively on the nerve endings of the beak to orient themselves.

The propulsion is determined only by the front legs while the tail and the hind legs are used as a rudder.


It has been observed that the platypus makes various sounds but their meaning has not yet been clarified.


It feeds on aquatic invertebrates, small fish, eggs. Food is sought at the bottom of rivers by moving mud, sand or pebbles with the beak. The preys are identified thanks to the numerous nerve endings present in the beak using in fact the electrolocation namely the localization of the prey through its body electricity. Once the prey is captured it is not swallowed immediately but placed in a sort of pocket placed behind the beak and only when the food returns to the surface is moved into the mouth, shredded and then swallowed.


Mating is seasonal and occurs only once a year (June - October) and depends exclusively on the availability of the female. The male runs after her, grabs her tail and only if she is available lets the male climb on top of her to mate.

After mating, the female, in a specially built den formed by a long and winding corridor at the end of which there is a niche covered with leaves or other plant material, lays her eggs and raises her cubs. For each brood it lays 2 but also frequently 4 eggs. The eggs first develop inside the female for about 28 days after which they are laid and brooded for about 6-10 days. To keep them warm, the female approaches them to the belly with her tail. At the end of this period, the small about 1.8 cm long are born that will remain in the den for about 3-4 months feeding only on their mother's milk, after which they will come out of the den and will continue to be nursed until they are able to get hold of. the food itself.

Males do not participate in the care of the young.

The video above shows some incredible images taken with a video camera inserted inside the den of a platypus with its young.


There are several animals that can hunt the platypus: foxes, rats, snakes, birds of prey, wild cats and large eels.


The platypus is classified in the IUNC Red list (2009.1) as a low-risk animal LEAST CONCERN (LC).

At present, the greatest danger this species runs is linked to the reduction of river courses, for example due to drought or due to the reduction of water flows due to human use. Floods can also be a cause of death for the platypus as can pollution. It has also been observed that drowning due to their accidental capture in fishing nets can be a danger for these populations, especially for those living in small areas.


The platypus is an integral part of the biodiversity of many Australian freshwater ecosystems for this reason it is important to defend and preserve it.


The scientific name of the genus Ornithorhynchus (like the Italian one platypus) is made up of two Greek words:ornis "Bird" e rynchos «Snout» due to the beak, while the name of the species anatinus comes from the Latinanas «Duck» in that the beak resembles that of a duck.

The platypus is also often called platypus from Latin platypus due to the fact that the webbed legs give the impression that the feet are flat.

Video: Perry the Platypus Theme - The Crimson Chords