Platypus: My Favourite Extreme Mammal

An educator in front of the duck-billed platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) exhibit in the Extreme Mammals exhibition.

Andrea McKay in front of the duck-billed platypus exhibit in the Extreme Mammals exhibition. Image: Camile Gavazzi-April © Canadian Museum of Nature

Four Canadian Museum of Nature staff members have each adopted a favourite extreme mammal. Follow them in this blog to see what’s so special about these awesome creatures. You’ll be certain to have all the cool and extreme info on these mammals when you search for them during your next visit!

Have you ever heard of a mammal that lays eggs? The duck-billed platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is one extreme mammal—part of the monotremes group—that lays eggs. The young hatch with the help of a special egg tooth and are then cared for by their mother, who nourishes them with her unorthodox mammary hairs. When navigating through its native waterways in Australia to catch food—crustaceans being a favourite—the platypus uses a system of electro-receptors and mechano-receptors in its bill to locate its prey. (See— aside from looking positively ridiculous, the bill is useful!) Now, that is one high-tech mouth!

Illustration of a duck-billed platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) swimming in water.

A duck-billed platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus). Image: © Canadian Museum of Nature

Males have “spurs” on the back of their ankles that are connected to venom glands. They use these to defend themselves against predators and to show the other duckbills who’s in charge—yikes! All of these—especially the venom-filled glands—make this mammal, in my opinion, the best extreme mammal ever. If the platypus were a Pokémon, it would be undefeatable!

When I first heard about the new Extreme Mammals exhibition coming to the Canadian Museum of Nature, I was beyond ecstatic. When the exhibition was complete and we got our first glimpse, we were all acting like kids on Christmas Day (who wouldn’t be?!), staring in awe at the massive Indricotherium, giggling when we passed the cartoon-like Macrauchenia patagonica (they resemble the Eopie creatures in Star Wars) and, in my case, very very excited to see the fantastic platypus not once, but twice in the exhibition—that’s just how extreme this little guy is! All in all, an incredible exhibition—and an even cooler little mammal!

A duck-billed platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) swimming in water.

A duck-billed platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus). Image: Paddy Ryan © Paddy Ryan

Extreme Mammals is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York, USA, in collaboration with the Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, USA and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, USA.

This entry was posted in Animals, Exhibitions, Extreme Mammals and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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