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A platypus is a carnivorous, semi-aquatic mammal that lays eggs. Its physical appearance is very distinct and unique. Its bill and feet are like those of a duck’s, its body like that of an otter’s, and its tail like that of a beaver’s.
See the fact file below for more information on the platypus or alternatively, you can download our 23-page Platypus worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- The platypus is the only existing member of the Ornithorhynchidae family. Platypuses are one of the five surviving species of monotremes. Monotremes are mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth. The name platypus comes from the Greek word platupous meaning “flat-footed”. It is also called the “duck-billed platypus”, “duckbill”, “watermole” and “duckmole”.
- Upon its discovery in 1799, English zoologist and naturalist George Shaw thought the platypus was a fake animal because of its odd appearance. In his book, The Naturalist’s Miscellany, he wrote that “Of all the Mammalia yet known it seems the most extraordinary in its conformation; exhibiting the perfect resemblance of the beak of a Duck engrafted on the head of a quadruped.”
- The platypus’ first ancestors were much bigger than modern-day platypus. Its average size now is approximately 1.5 feet long but it used to measure up to 3 feet long. Males are generally larger than females.
- They are endemic to Australia, particularly eastern Australia and Tasmania.
- A platypus is semi-aquatic. It depends on freshwater for survival. It is commonly found in streams and rivers. They can’t see underwater though. A platypus closes its ears and eyes underwater and uses its bill to sense its environment. It has waterproof fur and webbed feet. When walking on land, its feet fold back.
- A platypus’ bill is leathery and highly sensitive. Its bill is very useful in hunting for food because it has electroreceptors that can detect the electrical currents generated by its prey.
- Its diet consists of mainly invertebrates such as worms, insect larva, shrimp, crayfish and occasionally frogs and fish. A platypus doesn’t have any teeth. It uses mud and gravel to chew and munch on bits of food that its toothless mouth wouldn’t be able to chew otherwise. It gathers food and stores it in its cheek pouches before eating it on the surface. A platypus needs to eat at least 20% of its total body weight in a day.
- A platypus doesn’t have a stomach. Its esophagus connects directly to the intestines.
- It is a venomous mammal so it’s best not to pet them! Only the males are venomous. Unlike most reptiles, their venom is not found in their teeth but in spurs on their ankles. Researchers have found that it is only during mating season when their venom glands gets activated. It is suggested that venom is one of their mechanisms to beat competition during breeding season.
- A platypus’ tail may look like a beaver’s tail but its use is different. A platypus tail is mainly used for four things: 1) to store fat in case of food shortage, 2) to push away dirt while digging, 3) to gather leaves and make nests and 4) to incubate eggs.
- Platypuses are known to pay attention to their grooming. They can be found on logs or in the water grooming themselves.
- In reproduction, female platypuses are unlike most mammals because they lay eggs. However, they do nurse their babies after birth and provide them with milk. They don’t have nipples so their young suck milk from the fur around the mother’s mammary glands.
- Females make a burrow to nest their eggs in. They lay 2-3 eggs per season. It takes two weeks for the eggs to hatch and another four months for the young to mature and emerge from the burrow.
- A major threat to platypuses is habitat destruction. They live in freshwater, which makes them vulnerable to drought, irrigation, dam building, land clearing, pollution, man-made improvements and disturbances, and fish netting. They are also vulnerable to predators such as dogs and foxes.
- Platypuses are also kept in captivity in Australia to conserve their species. Wildlife sanctuaries are found in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. In captivity, a platypus’ lifespan is up to 17 years.
- There are multiple references to the platypus in popular culture. The image of a platypus is found on Australian coins and postage stamps. Perry of Phineas and Ferb is a platypus. A.B. “Banjo” Paterson wrote a poem entitled Old Man Platypus.
Far from the trouble and toil of town,
Where the reed beds sweep and shiver,
Look at a fragment of velvet brown –
Old Man Platypus drifting down,
Drifting along the river.
– First stanza from A.B. Paterson’s “Old Man Platypus”
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about platypus across 23 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Platypus worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about a platypus is which a carnivorous, semi-aquatic mammal that lays eggs. Its physical appearance is very distinct and unique. Its bill and feet are like those of a duck’s, its body like that of an otter’s, and its tail like that of a beaver’s.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Platypus Facts
- Platypus Sketch
- Vocabulary Check
- Body Blocks
- Mammal Moms
- Truth Bubbles
- Life of a Platypus Mom
- Habitat Destruction
- The Platypus Diet
- Perry the Platypus
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Link will appear as Platypus Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, July 4, 2018
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.