Have you seen a platypus?
This small, amphibious mammal has a tail like a beaver, a body like an otter, walks like a reptile, has webbed feet and a beak like a bird, and it lays eggs!
Who are they?
Platypuses are small, shy animals. They have a flattened head and body to help them glide through the water. Their fur, dark brown on top and tan on their bellies, is thick and repels water to keep them warm and dry even after hours of swimming. They grow to about 18 inches (47 centimeters) in length and weigh around 3 pounds (1.5 kilograms).
These water-loving mammals have fully webbed front feet to power themselves through the water. They use their back feet and tails to brake and steer. Their most remarkable feature is their amazing snout. It looks like a duck's bill, but is actually quite soft and covered with thousands of receptors that help the platypus detect prey.
If you thought these marvelous mammals couldn't get any more bizarre, they have another trick in store: Male platypuses are venomous! They have a pointy spur on their hind ankles that connects to a venom sac in each leg.
They mainly use these weapons in mating battles with other males, but they will attack with them if threatened. The poison is not strong enough to kill a human, but people who have been stung say the wound is extremely painful.
Platypuses spend most of their time alone, sleeping or eating. They feed in the water at night, frantically swimming around with their eyes and ears closed, using their bill to search for their favorite foods: insect larvae, shellfish, and worms. Their mouth has no teeth. Instead, a pad of rough skin near their throat grinds up food before swallowing.
During the day, platypuses sleep in burrows made with their long front claws. Each animal will maintain several burrows, usually dug in areas where there are overhanging branches and exposed roots to disguise the entrance. Platypuses are eaten by a wide array of Australian predators, including dingoes, foxes, large snakes, and even eels.
A mother platypus will dig a very deep tunnel, called a nursery burrow, when she's ready to lay her eggs. These burrows sometimes extend 100 feet (30 meters) from the water. They have a leaf-lined den where the mother curls up to incubate her eggs.
She blocks the entrance with several dirt mounds to keep water and predators from entering and will nurse her hatchlings there for up to four months. Platypuses are long-lived, surviving 20 years or more in captivity and up to 12 years in the wild.