The platypus is recognized as one of the most amazing animals on Earth. It combines features of birds, reptiles and mammals. It was the platypus that was chosen as the animal symbolizing Australia. With its image in this country, even money is minted.
When this animal was discovered, scientists, researchers and zoologists were very puzzled. They could not immediately determine what kind of animal was in front of them. A nose that is incredibly similar to a duck's beak, a beaver's tail, spurs on the legs, like a rooster, and many other features baffled scientists.
Origin of the species and description
The animal belongs to waterfowl mammals. Together with the echidnas, it is in the detachment of one-passers. To date, only these animals are representatives of the platypus family. Scientists note a number of characteristic features that unite them with reptiles.
For the first time, the skin of an animal was discovered in Australia in 1797. At that time, researchers could not find an explanation of who actually owns this skin. Scientists even thought at first that it was some kind of joke, or perhaps it was created by Chinese stuffed craftsmen. At that time, skilled craftsmen of this genre managed to fasten body parts of completely different animals.
As a result, amazing non-existent animals appeared. After the existence of this amazing animal was proven, researcher George Shaw described it as a flat-footed duck. However, a little later, another scientist, Friedrich Blumenbach, described him as a paradoxical bearer of a bird's beak. After much debate and striving to come to a consensus, they gave the animal the name “duck-like bird's beak.”
With the advent of the platypus, all ideas about evolution were completely shattered. Scientists and researchers for almost three decades could not determine which class of animals to attribute it to. In 1825 they identified it as a mammal. And only after almost 60 years it was found out that platypuses tend to lay eggs.
It has been scientifically proven that these animals are among the most ancient on Earth. The oldest representative of this genus, found in Australia, is more than 100 million years old. It was a small animal. It was nocturnal and could not lay eggs.
Appearance and Features
The platypus has a dense, elongated body, short limbs. The body is covered with a rather dense woolen cut of a dark, almost black color. In the abdomen, the coat has a lighter, reddish tint. The head of the animal is small in comparison with the body, round in shape. On the head is a large, flat beak, reminiscent of a duck in shape. Eyeballs, nasal and ear passages are located in special recesses.
When diving, these holes in the recesses close tightly, preventing water from entering. However, in the water, the platypus is completely deprived of the ability to see and hear. The main guide in this situation is the nose. A large number of nerve endings are concentrated in it, which help not only to perfectly navigate in the water space, but also to capture the slightest movements, as well as electrical signals.
The size of the platypus:
- body length – 35-45 cm. Representatives of the platypus family have clearly expressed sexual dimorphism. Females are one and a half – 2 times smaller than males;
- tail length 15-20 cm;
- body weight 1.5-2 kg.
The limbs are short, located on both sides, on the lateral surface of the body. That is why animals, when moving on land, walk, waddling from side to side. The limbs have an amazing structure. They have five fingers, which are connected by membranes. Thanks to this structure, animals swim and dive perfectly. In addition, the membranes can fold over, revealing long, sharp claws that aid in digging.
The webs on the hind limbs are less pronounced, so they use their forelimbs to swim quickly. The hind legs are used as a corrector for the direction of movement. The tail performs the function of balance. It is flat, long, covered with wool. Due to the density of hair on the tail, you can determine the age of the animal. The more wool on it, the younger the platypus. It is noteworthy that fat reserves accumulate mainly in the tail, and not on the body.
This animal is characterized by a number of features:
- The body temperature of a mammal does not exceed 32 degrees. It has the ability to regulate its body temperature, thanks to which it perfectly adapts to various environmental conditions.
- Male platypuses are poisonous.
- The beak of animals is soft.
- Platypuses are distinguished by the slowest course of all metabolic processes in the body among all mammals existing today.
- Females tend to lay eggs like birds that later hatch.
- Platypuses can stay under water for five minutes or more.
Where does the platypus live?
Until the 1920s, animals lived exclusively in Australia. To date, animal populations are concentrated from the Tasmanian possessions through the Australian Alps, up to the outskirts of Queensland. The bulk of the representatives of the platypus family is concentrated in Australia and Tasmania.
The mammal leads a hidden lifestyle. They tend to inhabit the coastal territory of reservoirs. It is characteristic that they choose only fresh water bodies for living. Platypuses prefer a certain temperature regime of water – from 24 to 30 degrees. Animals build burrows to live. They are not long, straight moves. The length of one hole does not exceed ten meters.
Each of them has two entrances and a furnished room. One entrance is accessible from land, the second – from the reservoir. Those wishing to see the platypus with their own eyes can visit the zoo, or the national reserve in Melbourne, Australia.
What does the platypus eat?
Platypuses are excellent swimmers and divers. To do this, they need a lot of energy. The daily amount of food should be at least 30% of the animal's body weight in order to cover energy costs.
What is included in the diet of the platypus:
- small fish;
- insect larvae;
While in the water, platypuses collect food in the buccal space. Having got out, they crush the extracted food with the help of horny jaws. Platypuses tend to instantly capture the victim and send it to the cheek area.
Aquatic vegetation can serve as a food source only if there are difficulties with other food sources. But this is extremely rare. Platypuses are considered excellent hunters. They are able to turn over stones with their noses, and also feel confident in muddy water filled with silt.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
Animals have a third of their lives carry out in the water. These animals tend to hibernate. It can last 6-14 days. Most often, this phenomenon occurs before the onset of the mating season. Thus, the animals gain strength and rest.
The platypus is most active at night. At night, he hunts and gets his own food. These representatives of the platypus family prefer a separate lifestyle. It is unusual for them to unite in groups or create families. By nature, platypuses are endowed with excessive caution.
Platypuses inhabit mainly coastal zones of water bodies. Due to the unique ability to regulate body temperature and perfectly adapt to environmental conditions, they settle near not only warm rivers and lakes, but also near cold high-mountain streams.
For permanent residence, adults create tunnels, burrows. They dig them with strong paws and large claws. Nora has a special structure. It has two entrances, a small tunnel and a spacious, cozy inner chamber. Animals build a hole in such a way that the entrance corridor is narrow. While moving through it into the inner chamber, all the liquid on the body of the platypus is squeezed out.
Social structure and reproduction
The mating season begins with platypuses in August and lasts until the end of October, mid-November. Females attract members of the opposite sex by wagging their tails. During this period, males come to the territory of the females. For some time they smoothly follow each other in a kind of dance. Then the male begins to pull the female by the tail. This is a kind of courtship that lasts a very short period of time.
After entering into marriage and fertilization, females build a dwelling for themselves, in which they subsequently give birth to offspring. Such a hole differs from the standard dwelling of animals. It is somewhat longer, and at the very end of the female nest. The female lines the bottom with foliage, to collect which she uses her tail, with which she rakes her into a pile. After the construction and arrangement is completed, the female clogs all the corridors with earth. This is a way to protect against flooding and attack by dangerous predators.
After that, she lays one to three eggs. Outwardly, they look like reptile eggs. They have a grayish tint, leathery shell. After laying eggs, the expectant mother constantly flies them with her warmth until the moment when the cubs are born. The offspring hatch ten days after the female laid her eggs. Cubs are born tiny, blind and hairless. Their size does not exceed 3 cm. Babies tend to be born through an egg tooth, designed to break through the shell. Then it falls out as unnecessary.
After the birth, the mother puts the babies on her stomach and feeds them with her milk. The females do not have nipples. In the abdomen, they have pores through which milk is secreted. The cubs just lick it off. The female is with her babies almost all the time. It comes out of the hole only to get food for itself.
After 10 weeks from the moment of birth, the body of the babies is covered with hair, their eyes open. The first hunt and the experience of independent food production appears at 3.5-4 months. After a year, young individuals lead an independent lifestyle. Average life expectancy under natural conditions is not precisely defined. Zoologists suggest that it is 10-15 years old.
Natural enemies of platypuses
In their natural habitat, platypuses have few enemies in the animal world, these are:
- sea leopard.
A man and his activities are considered the worst enemy of a mammal. At the very beginning of the 20th century, poachers and hunters ruthlessly exterminated the animals in order to get their fur. At that time, it was especially valued among manufacturers of fur products. The animal was on the verge of extinction. To make a fur coat alone, it was necessary to destroy more than five dozen animals.
Population and species status
Because of poachers and hunters who exterminated platypuses in large numbers in pursuit of wool, at the beginning of the 20th century, the platypus family was almost completely destroyed. In this regard, the hunting of these animals was completely prohibited.
Today, the animal is not threatened with complete extinction, but its habitat has been significantly reduced. This is due to the pollution of water bodies, the development of large areas by man. The rabbits introduced by the colonists also reduce the habitats. They dig holes in the habitats of the beast and force them to look for other habitats.
To preserve the species of the population, the animal is listed in the Red Book. The Australians have organized special reserves, on the territory of which nothing threatens the platypuses. Favorable living conditions have been created for animals within such zones. The most famous reserve is Hillsville in Victoria.