(ahem) Yeah, me neither.
Who am I kidding? Lately, I feel like my inner self is turning into a sloth.
Not that I don't appreciate the sloth, mind you... I do. With that Chewbacca-like long hair and those diva-like long nails, it's a veritable glamour queen of the animal world, and it undeniably marches to the beat of its own drummer. A verrrry slow beat. But as much as I appreciate the sloth, one of the animals I appreciate even more is the wonderful, amazing, totally unique duck-billed platypus. Talk about individuality! I dunno if Robin Williams was right to say God was stoned when he created the platypus, though. I prefer to think of the platypus as being the manifestation of a great sense of humor.
Because it is anomalous.
I like the way it raises its family,
Partly birdly, partly mammaly.
I like its independent attitude
Let no one call it a duck-billed platitude. [Ogden Nash]
Um, then again, maybe the platypus wasn't one of the original animals from the get-go. Maybe there was a little bit of (ahem) hanky panky taking place on that ark...
Alas, most of us will never have the pleasure of seeing a duck-billed platypus in person, although it's one of those bucket list kinda things for me. You folks in Australia might not even ever see one in the wild, because they're pretty introverted and vant to be alone most of the time. But at least you guys have the option of seeing them in your zoos and conservation facilities. (Lucky you!)
Some interesting fun facts about the platypus:
- They don't have stomachs! (So that's how they stay so slim...) Instead, like fish, they have a gullet that connects directly to their intestines.
- Their bills are covered with thousands of super-sensitive cells that detect the electric fields of other critters... kinda like a sixth sense. When a platypus goes underwater, a protective flap of skin covers his eyes and ears, making him both blind and deaf, but his bill more than makes up for it. That handy dandy electrolocation ability in his bill takes over and allows him to zero right in on his prey.
- They're one of only two egg-laying mammals in the world. (The other is the echidna, also native to Australia.) And although they lactate, they have no nipples! What they do have are mammary glands, and their babies simply suck the milk from their mother's abdominal skin or fur.
- The males have a venomous spur on each hind leg, which is only activated during mating season, presumably to prevent other amorous males from getting too chummy with their ladies.
|[image of spur: wikipedia]|
- The webbing on their front feet is retractable. It helps them swim in the water... using their front legs, like a doggy paddle... and then retracts on land to reveal sharp claws.
- They have no teeth. The adults don't, anyway. (Babies have tiny teeth, but they don't last long, and once they fall out, they don't grow new ones.) They scoop up gravel from the river bottom to use as makeshift teeth to grind their food. Pretty cool, huh?
- Their tails may look like beaver tails, but they serve a different purpose. Platypuses don't use them to slap the water as a warning, like beavers do. Nearly half of their body's fat is stored in the tail... kinda like a back-up pantry... and it serves as a food source during times of scarcity. Moms also shelter their incubating eggs against their warm bodies with those tails.
- Know what platypus babies are called? Puggles! Isn't that adorable? Wouldn't you love to snuggle with a puggle...? (They're such spiffy dressers!)
Is it any wonder I'm so enamored of these creatures?
In December of 2019, there were so many duck-billed platypuses in Australia, they were deemed common. (As if!) Sadly, as of January of this year, they've joined the ranks of endangered species, due largely to drought and wildfires. Thankfully, there are many people dedicated to saving them... like these folks with the Taronga Zoo in Sydney:
If you're like me, that isn't NEARLY enough footage of these critters. So how about a little bit more?
There are sooooo many incredible, awe-inspiring creatures in this world of ours, but to me, the duck-billed platypus is in a class by itself. Truly unique, in every sense of the word... kinda like... us! So I say embrace your differences, people! Celebrate the unique! You may not have the privilege of being a platypus, but, by golly, YOU are the only YOU in the entire world. Like the platypus, you are truly one of a kind.
Oh, yeah! I almost forgot. Did you ever wonder what a platypus sounded like? Well... wonder no more:
Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.