God Takes Care of the PlatypusBy Kimberly M. Wetherell
January 29, 2009
Filmmaker Kevin Smith jokes about the Platypus in the opening disclaimer to his film: DOGMA
Remember: Even God has a sense of humor. Just look at the Platypus. Thank you and enjoy the show.
P.S. We sincerely apologize to all Platypus enthusiasts out there who are offended by that thoughtless comment about Platypi. We at View Askew respect the noble Platypus, and it is not our intention to slight these stupid creatures in any way. Thank you again and enjoy the show.
While categorically a mammal, the Platypus has physical characteristics of birds and reptiles as well. Studies have proven that the Platypus was the first species to diverge from reptile to mammal and therefore, evolutionarily speaking, it is sometimes thought of as The Missing Link.
It is also one of five surviving mammalian Monotremes – the other four are species of Echida, or spiny anteaters. Monotreme meaning: “single hole”, from which, the female lays eggs.
The females have a pair of ovaries, but only the left ones work. Per annual mating season, that lone ovary produces 1 – 3 eggs which are fertilized in utero, gestate there for a month and then are laid and incubated for two more weeks until they hatch. The females have no teats. Instead, the babies lick the fur around the mammary openings, where milk is secreted.
Their relationships are polygynous, so as soon as the male mates, he moves on to the next ‘single hole’, and the resulting Platypuppies are left to be raised by single-moms. And when they’re ready to go, they leave the nest forever. Platypus don’t live in packs or prides or schools. For the better part of their 15-year lifespan, they’re loners.
Platypus (note to the View Askew folks: the plural is the singular, like Shrimp or Sheep) have no external ears, small eyes and have bills, like a duck, hence the common moniker: Duckbill Platypus – regardless of the fact that there is no other kind: no Pelican-beak Platypus, Elephant-trunk Platypus or Rhinoceros-horn Platypus. Their bills are different than ducks’, in that Platypus’ are uniquely equipped with electroreceptors, a food-finding GPS, since they can neither see, smell nor hear their prey. However, since they are onlysemi-aquatic animals, they have to come up to the surface in order to grind what they catch into a mushy pulp. That’s right: along with everything else, they are toothless, losing their three measly baby teeth at puberty, never to return.
The Platypus have a fatty tails, like beavers. The tail serves as a paddle, working in tandem with their fully-webbed front feet. The back feet are pretty useless for swimming, what with only flimsy half-webbing, but instead, work as rudders. Males have an additional venomous claw on their hind foot, the poison in which is potent enough to kill a dog or severely injure a human. Which is pretty cool, considering that the largest max-out at around 5 lbs.
They were very nearly made extinct by European pelt-hunters, but in 1974 the Platypus became protected by Australian law and have sufficiently repopulated themselves in Eastern Australia and Tasmania, but surprisingly enough, not under human care. Very few have survived in captivity, and if they did, it was for considerably shorter lives. They do much better left alone in the wild.
All of that is to say, the Platypus is one egg-laying, venomous, duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed, feral, utterly mind-boggling animal.
Truly, one of a kind.
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I remember first learning about the Platypus from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, specifically the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Ana Platypus and her parents, Dr. Duckbill and Elsie Jean, lived there.
They were minor players in Make-believe at best, but I remember being fascinated with the oddity of the Platypus – how it could be so many things at the same time: Mammal and Bird and Reptile.
So I never questioned the possibility of growing up to become This and That and the Other. I never limited myself to being just one thing. I could be whatever I wanted and I could be them ALL AT THE SAME TIME. I mean, if the Platypus – God’s little joke – could do it, why couldn’t I?
There are a lot of us Platypus around, I think. Oddities who don’t function quite like the rest. Who swimand burrow, who gestate inside and outside, who are shy loners and who strike out with venom, who function better not only outside the box, but without a box anywhere in sight.
And we’re doing okay.
God takes care of the Platypus.
So what if He laughs a little?
Kimberly – This made my day. Truly. Love the platypuppies.
yes, we are doing ok…*smirk*