The Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is a semi-aquatic mammal endemic to eastern Australia, including Tasmania. Together with the four species of echidna, it is one of the five extantspecies of monotremes, the only mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young. It is the sole living representative of its family (Ornithorhynchidae) and genus (Ornithorhynchus), though anumber of related species have been found in the fossil record.
The bizarre appearance of this egg-laying, venomous, duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed mammal baffled European naturalists whenthey first encountered it, with some considering it an elaborate fraud. It is one of the few venomous mammals; the male Platypus has a spur on the hind foot that delivers a venom capable of causingsevere pain to humans. The unique features of the Platypus make it an important subject in the study of evolutionary biology and a recognisable and iconic symbol of Australia; it has appeared as amascot at national events and is featured on the reverse of the Australian 20 cent coin. The Platypus is the animal emblem of the state of New South Wales.
Until the early 20th century it was hunted forits fur, but it is now protected throughout its range. Although captive breeding programmes have had only limited success and the Platypus is vulnerable to the effects of pollution, it is not under anyimmediate threat.
The body and the broad, flat tail of the Platypus are covered with dense brown fur that traps a layer of insulating air to keep the animal warm, Weight variesconsiderably from 0.7 to 2.4 kg (1.5 to 5.3 lb), with males being larger than females: males average 50 cm (20 in) in total length while females average 43 cm (17 in)[ There is substantial variation inaverage size from one region to another,
When the Platypus was first encountered by European naturalists, they were divided over whether the female laid eggs. This was not confirmed until...