The Platypus is the only animal other than the echidna that is considered a mammal but lays eggs. It is one of the most ancient inhabitants of the planet and for centuries has puzzled people with its peculiarities. For many years, scientists could not determine whether it was a mammal or a bird – the beak is of a duck, the body is with otter fur, there are floating membranes between the fingers and it reproduces with eggs. Like other monotremes, it senses prey through electro-location.
The unique features of the platypus make it an important subject in the study of evolutionary biology, and a recognisable and iconic symbol of Australia. It has appeared as a mascot at national events and features on the reverse of the Australian twenty-cent coin, and the platypus is the animal emblem of the state of New South Wales.
Not only is the platypus an important freshwater carnivore, it is an evolutionary gem, one of the last remaining monotremes—or egg-laying mammals—left on Earth. And we’ve only begun to discover its wealth of secrets, from life-saving antibiotics in its milk to potential diabetes cures in its venom.
As of 2020, the platypus is a legally protected species in all states where it occurs. It is listed as an endangered species in South Australia and Victoria and has been recommended for listing in New South Wales.