Platypus Definition | Characteristics & Facts



Platypus Definition

The platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is a unique and fascinating mammal native to eastern Australia, including Tasmania. It is known for its unusual combination of features, making it one of the most distinctive creatures in the animal kingdom.

Platypus General Characteristics & Facts

General Characteristics of the Platypus:


The platypus has a distinctive appearance with a duck-like bill, beaver-like tail, and webbed feet. It has a sleek body covered in dense fur, which helps it stay warm in the cold waters.


Adult platypuses are relatively small, measuring about 12 to 17 inches (30 to 43 centimeters) in length, with males being slightly larger than females.

Semiaquatic Lifestyle

Platypuses are well-adapted to a semiaquatic lifestyle. They spend much of their time in water, hunting for food, and have waterproof fur that keeps them dry while swimming.

Nocturnal and Solitary

Platypuses are primarily nocturnal, meaning they are most active during the night. They are solitary animals, and each individual typically has its own territory.

Unique Reproduction

Platypuses are one of only five species of monotremes, which are egg-laying mammals. Females lay leathery eggs, which they incubate by curling around them to keep them warm.


Platypuses have a unique sense known as electroreception. They can detect electric fields generated by the movement of their prey in the water, helping them locate food even with their eyes closed.


Diet includes aquatic invertebrates, such as insects, crustaceans, and small fish. They use their sensitive bills to detect prey underwater.

Conservation Status

The platypus is listed as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List. They face various threats, including habitat loss, pollution, and accidental drowning in fishing nets.

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Physical Characteristics of Platypus

Physical Characteristics of the Platypus:

  1. Bill: The platypus has a distinctive, duck-like bill that is soft and rubbery. The bill is equipped with thousands of sensory receptors, which allow the platypus to detect electrical signals from its prey underwater.
  2. Body: The platypus has a sleek and streamlined body, covered in dense, waterproof fur that helps keep it dry while swimming. The fur is dark brown to black on the upper side and lighter in color on the underside.
  3. Webbed Feet: The platypus has webbed feet with strong claws, which make it an excellent swimmer. The webbing between its toes allows it to move efficiently through the water.
  4. Tail: The platypus has a flat, beaver-like tail, covered in scales, which helps with swimming and acts as a storage area for fat reserves.
  5. Size: Adult platypuses are relatively small, measuring about 12 to 17 inches (30 to 43 centimeters) in length, with males being slightly larger than females.
  6. Nostrils and Ears: The nostrils and ears of the platypus are covered with a layer of skin and are closed while the animal is underwater. They can stay submerged for several minutes while hunting for prey.
  7. Paddle-Like Forelimbs: The platypus has paddle-like forelimbs with webbing, which it uses to navigate and propel itself through the water.
  8. Venomous Spurs (Males): Male platypuses have venomous spurs on their hind legs. The venom is not lethal to humans, but it can cause severe pain and swelling.
  9. Warm-Blooded: Like all mammals, the platypus is warm-blooded, meaning it can regulate its body temperature independently of the environment.
  10. Electrosensitivity: The platypus has the unique ability to detect electrical fields generated by the movements of its prey in the water. This electroreception helps it locate food, even in murky waters.

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Scientific Classification of Platypus

Kingdom: Animalia (Animals)

Phylum: Chordata (Chordates)

Class: Mammalia (Mammals)

Subclass: Prototheria (Egg-laying mammals)

Order: Monotremata (Monotremes)

Family: Ornithorhynchidae (Platypuses)

Genus: Ornithorhynchus

Species: Ornithorhynchus animating

Key locations of Platypus


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Platypus FAQs

What does Platypus eat?j

Aquatic Invertebrates: The main part of the platypus’s diet consists of aquatic invertebrates, such as insects, larvae, crustaceans, and small shrimp.

Is the platypus a mammal that lays eggs?

Yes, the platypus is a unique mammal known as a monotreme, which is a group of egg-laying mammals. Along with the echidna, the platypus is one of only two monotreme species in the world. Unlike other mammals that give birth to live young, female platypuses lay leathery eggs, which they incubate by curling around them to keep them warm until they hatch.

Does the platypus have venomous spurs?

Yes, male platypuses have venomous spurs on their hind legs. These spurs are capable of delivering venom during territorial disputes with other males or during mating competitions with females.

Can the platypus detect electrical signals underwater?

Yes, the platypus has a remarkable adaptation known as electroreception. It possesses specialized receptors in its bill that can detect electrical signals produced by the movements of its prey underwater. This unique ability allows the platypus to locate and catch small aquatic invertebrates, such as insects and crustaceans, even in dark or murky water where visual cues might be limited.

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