Unique Animal Platypus Essay Example
Unique Animal Platypus Essay Example

Unique Animal Platypus Essay Example

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  • Pages: 9 (2208 words)
  • Published: November 22, 2016
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The first platypus was first found in Australia and is present in high numbers in the deciduous forests. It appears as big as a fully-grown house cat and is a very intriguing creature. The scientific name for platypus is Ornithorhynchus anatinus, and is also known as 'duck-bill' as it face appears as though a duck's bill has been sewn to the body of the mammal. The platypus is a very unique animal as it is one of the mammals, which lay eggs. It has other unique - the duckbill present in the front portion of its mouth and the webbed feet.

Along with the echnidas (the other two Echnida include the Papua New Guinea long-beaked echidna and the Australian short-beaked echidna), it is the only egg-laying mammals found on earth. The species of Platypus belong to


the group monotremes or ‘egg-laying mammals’. Earlier, it was thought to be a bird or a reptile, but scientists have confirmed that the platypus is in fact a mammal. The word 'Anatinus' comes from the Greek word 'anus' word meaning 'duck' and 'inus' which means 'flat' or 'broad'.

The word 'platypus' also comes from the Greek word 'Platus' which means flat and the word ‘pous’, which means foot (The State of Queensland Environmental Protection Agency, 2008, Sam, 2001, Department of Primary Industries and Water, Tasmania, 2008, & BBC, 2008). Platypus are known to live for a period of ten years in the wild, and in captivity, they can live for up to 17 years. The platypus has one of the lowest body temperature compared to any other mammals. They are able to maintain a temperatur

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of around 30 degrees centigrade (BBC, 2008).

The males of the platypus species grow only slightly bigger than the females. Males measure about 45 to 60 cms in length, and females measure 39 to 55 cms in length. The bill in the male grows to a length of 5. 8 cms in average, whereas in females, it measures about 5. 2 cms. The tail measures about 11 to 15 cms in males, whereas in females it is about 9 to 12 cms. Males weigh anywhere between one kg to 2. 5 kgs, whereas the females weigh between three-quarters of a kg to 1. 5 kgs. However, depending on the area in which the platypus is found and the season, the weight of the platypus would differ.

For example the Tasmania Platypus grows to a huge size of 3 kgs in some males (Department of Primary Industries and Water, Tasmania, 2008, & BBC, 2008). The fur on the back of the platypus appears dark brown to black in color (head, body, back and the outer surface of their limbs). The underside or the belly appears silver, light gold, or light brown in color. The eye and the groove of the ear have light patches of fur above them. The fur of the platypus not only provides are waterproof coating, but also provides it with insulation required to tolerate the Australian winter.

In fact, the platypus would be having two layers of fur coating. The outer coat is waterproof and a wooly undercoat provides it protection in the form of insulation. The bill and the feet are devoid of fur covering. The tail of

the platypus also contains coarse and bristly fur. The bill of the platypus is very sensitive and contains a rich supply of nerve endings for the sensory receptors. These carry sensory and tactile signals. The front and the back limbs of the platypus are small and the front feet of the platypus are usually bigger compared to the hind feet.

The front feet are fully webbed, whereas the back feet are only partially webbed. In the hind limbs of the male platypus, a horny spur is present which emits venom. This horny spur is in turn connected to venom or a crural gland via a venom duct. The venom gland helps the platypus in fighting with other males, defending themselves from predators and also hunting. The venom is not strong enough to kill a human being, but it can cause excruciating pain, which could last for days or even months. The venom of the platypus is strong enough to kill small-sized animals such as dogs.

One five of the mammals are known to be venomous including the platypus. However, the exact role and function of venom in the platypus is not understood clearly. During the breeding season, the size of the crural glands becomes larger and the amount of venom that is produced also increases. The platypus usually produces a growling sound in order to communicate with others in their species. The tail of the platypus appears broad and flat, and helps the animal in swimming by acting as a rudder. Several of the researchers and the scientists determine the condition of the platypus by the diameter of its tail.

Platypus usually

prefers slow-flowing waters, as they are not fast swimmers. It also acts as a cushion and can store fat to provide during adverse conditions. The area behind the bill contains small sac-like structures that are able to store food. The body of the platypus appears streamlined permitting it to swim in water easily. Usually, the platypus dives in the water rapidly for food, and is usually found on the surface of the water while they return. When the platypus is swimming in the water, they can be seen like the tip of the iceberg (the top their head, tail and back).

The platypus has no visible external ears. During his movement on the land, the platypus folds their webbed feet. The front legs of the platypus are stronger then their back legs which helps them for digging and padding. On the back feet, the webbing does not cross the base of the claws. The back legs help them to steer and guide in the water (Department of Primary Industries and Water, Tasmania, 2008, & BBC, 2008). The platypus is native of Australia and is especially concentrated in the eastern part of the continent.

They are also present in Kangaroo Island. The region east of the Great Dividing Range contains large number of platypuses in the rivers and the streams. Platypus can survive in hot and cold regions of Australia. They are typically found in the alpine lakes of Tasmania and the rainforests of Northern Queensland. Platypuses are found in large quantities in the various water bodies of Tasmania (Department of Primary Industries and Water, Tasmania, 2008, & BBC, 2008). Platypus prefers the areas

found near water bodies.

They usually reside near the areas found besides lakes, ponds, rivers and streams. Usually the platypus would be staying alone and only during the mating season would they come together. The platypus is a nocturnal animal, leaving its burrow during dusk time, hunting and moving around during night and returning back at dawn. Some of the platypus is active during the early morning and the early evening’s period. During the period from dawn to dusk, the platypus would be searching for food and can consume anywhere between one-eighth to one-fourth of its own body weight in a day.

The platypus can hold their breath for about 20 to 40 seconds and can dive to depths of about 4 to 8 meters. They require breaks on the surface to gulp in air for about 10 seconds. On the whole, the platypus can perform about 75 dives in an hour. The platypus would be hunting for invertebrates, crustaceans, insects, worms, etc, in the river and lakes. They would catch these animals in the river and carry them in their cheek pouches. They would usually consume them on the riverbanks or deliver them to their young ones in the nest. The platypus has horny pads instead of teeth in order to hold their prey.

The platypus would also constantly groom its hair either on land or in water (Department of Primary Industries and Water, Tasmania, 2008, & BBC, 2008). Platypus is usually non-vegetarians and consumes insects and other invertebrates. Occasionally they may consume smaller reptiles and mammals such as frogs, rats, etc. The bill present in front of the mouth and

the feet help in hunting, to catch, tear and eat their prey. The webbed feet and the bill also help the platypus to move through murky waters found in swamps and marshes (BBC, 2008). The platypus usually resides close to water bodies.

They are one of the best swimmers amongst mammals. They are able to close their eyes, nostrils and ears, whilst swimming and diving. They usually build their nest next to the banks of rivers or streams. They tunnel through the soil and may build in nests more than 30 meters in length. THE platypus is a nocturnal animal, and would come out of its nests during night times. During the day, the animal would usually rest inside its nest. One platypus may have more than one burrows and different platypus may utilize one burrow at different periods of time.

The manner in which the female platypus would build these burrows is different from which the male platypus would build its burrow. The female platypus would build burrows that are about 20 meters in length and which has multiple chambers, most probable for its young ones. The platypus would build its nest next to lakes and rivers, as they are semia-acquatic in nature. The platypus would also be using vegetation in order to protect its nests from predators (BBC, 2008, & Department of Primary Industries and Water, Tasmania, 2008).

The mating season for the platypus usually lasts from July to October. The process of mating and copulation, usually take place under the water. The male chases the female and when he is able to catch her tail, he ejects the sperms

into the vagina. Once fertilization occurs, it takes around two to three weeks to lay the eggs. Egg of these eggs is about 17 mm in diameter. The females lay about two to three eggs in the nest constructed by the females, which hatch within 10 days. Once the young ones hatch, the mother begins to suckle them like other mammals.

The platypus does not have any nipples like others in the Echidna group. The milk simple drains on to the skin, which the young ones would feed on. It is only during the summer period (that is January to March) are the young ones able to come out of their nests. The young ones develop fur by the sixth week. During the first four months, the young ones seldom leave their burrow. The parents may often take them outside for short intervals of time, especially for swimming exercises (Australian Fauna, 2006, The State of Queensland Environmental Protection Agency, 2008, & BBC, 2008).

The platypus has very good eyesight, although their eyes seem to be very small. Their eyes usually remain closed under water, and would open up when they put their heads out of the water. Platypus usually uses their eyes to detect any movement that may occur on the riverbanks. Platypus also has a good sense of hearing. They are able to hear sounds in the frequency that are audible to man, but are more sensitive to the lower frequency sound waves. The ability of the platypus to detect various tastes and smell is not understood clearly.

However, during the breeding season, the males have certain musk secreting glands that

release certain odor in order to attract the females. When the platypus is moving under water, they usually depend on the touch sensations through the receptors present in the outer covering of its body. Another sixth sensation known as ‘electro-reception’ is also present that is special to monotremes (egg-laying mammals). This is present in sharks and stingray fishes. They are able to detect electrical waves released from the muscular contractions of their prey.

From the signals emitted, the platypus is able to determine the direction and the type of prey. When a platypus detects these waves, they would follow the prey (BBC, 2008, & Department of Primary Industries and Water, Tasmania, 2008). In the Australian Sub-continent, the platypus is a well-protected species. Several platypuses are found in several natural parks of Australia. However, several uncontrolled human activities such as deforestation, excessive agriculture, pollution, global warming, etc, are adversely affecting the platypus. In some areas of Australia, the platypus is hunted for their fur.

Platypus may be inadvertently caught in the nets during fishing and trapping activities. Hunting dogs are also responsible for the death of several platypuses. The fungal infection caused by the fungus Mucor amphiborum is having a serious affect on the platypus especially in the Tasmania region. This infection results in the production of ulcers in several parts of the body, often causing a fatal outcome due to secondary infection or temperature variations. Several of the platypuses also find excessive algae growth in the waters a problem.

The best way to conserve the platypus is to leave the cut trees, branches and twigs around the riverbanks and the lakes undisturbed.

It would also not be advisable to use chemicals such as pesticides around riverbanks where the platypus would be found. If the platypus finds it difficult to cross a river as the water may be too fast, it would use the road. This makes it vulnerable to be hit by traffic. It is very important to protect the natural habitat of the platypus to conserve them (The State of Queensland Environmental Protection Agency, 2008, & Department of Primary Industries and Water, Tasmania, 2008).

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