The Platypus

The Platypus Ornithorhynchus anatinus is one of the world's three extant egg-laying mammals (order Monotremata) and inhabits the lakes, rivers and streams of eastern Australia from the Cooktown area in the north to Tasmania in the south. Equipped with webbed feet, both fore and aft, as well as a horizontally flattened tail, similar to those displayed by the placental beavers (Castor), the streamlined body of the platypus is well suited for the animal's semiaquatic mode of life.

Because it lays eggs and some of its bones are like those of living reptiles and fossilised mammal-like reptiles, the platypus is sometimes referred to as "primitive", and even a "furred reptile". But overall it is much more mammalian than reptilian and, far from being primitive, is said to be highly evolved and sophisticated. Considering its unique form and behaviour, the platypus is quite a fantastic mammal and certainly one of Australia's greatest natural treasures.

Some morphological features of a very special animal

Department of Anatomy & Physiology
University of Tasmania
GPO Box 252-24, Hobart Tasmania 7001, Australia
phone: +61-3-6226 2678, fax: +61-3-6226 2679

Page maintained by Philip Bethge, last update: 03/07/97