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Discovery Magazine 4/1/2002

The Animal that Wasn't Supposed to Exist!

by  Bert Thompson, Ph.D.

If someone told you about an animal that lays eggs like a turtle, feeds its young milk like a mammal, has a bill like a duck, a tail like a beaver, hair like a bear, webbed feet like an otter, claws like reptile, poison like a snake, and spurs like a rooster, your first thought might be that no such animal exists—right?

That’s what scientists thought until they came across just such an animal, which is known today as the “duck-billed platypus.” The platypus is one of the most unusual of all animals. It has hair on its body and is warm-blooded, like mammals. But it also has features that usually are found among birds or reptiles (like a bill and claws, and the fact that it lays eggs). The platypus is amphibious (it lives both on land and in water), and makes its home mostly in eastern Australia and Tasmania. Adult platypuses do not have teeth. As they use their snout to find food (crayfish, shrimp, worms, etc), they pick up small pieces of sand and gravel that help grind the food. Sometimes the platypus doesn’t eat the food immediately, but stores it in pouches within its cheeks to eat later.

God designed the platypus with a long, sleek body and webbed front feet to propel it through water (it “rows” with its front legs). Plus, its waterproof fur keeps it from getting “waterlogged.” The platypus has claws on its back feet that contain venom glands (like the fangs in a snake). The poison secreted by the claws can kill or injure its enemies.

Female platypuses collect grass and leaves under their tail and carry them to their tunnel to make a nest where they lay two marble-sized eggs that will hatch in about two weeks. A full-grown male platypus can be 2 feet long, and although it weighs less than four pounds, is extremely powerful.

What an amazing animal this is! And what an amazing God Who designed it!

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