The duckbill platypus is an odd-looking creature – it has features of birds, mammals, and reptiles. It has many adaptations that have taken millions of years to develop, but help it to live in its natural habitats.
The platypus is deaf, blind and cannot smell anything when in water. However, he is adapted to these deficiencies by its electrolocation ability. This means he can sense small electric charges that animals emit when they move.
He also uses his strong bill to stir the bottom of the stream, which excites its prey and makes them move. This helps when he is hunting.
Their tail has two very important functions. It is long and flat, so it helps them swim fast. The tail also stores fat, which acts as a reserve to keep them warm, during the cold season.
Male produce a venomous protein in each of their hind legs, which is used against attackers as well as potential competition against each other. They use it against each other only during mating season, to indicate their dominance.
They are an unusual type of creature in that their sex cannot be determined except from physical features than make the male and female different. This is because they do not have the sex gene other mammals have, and they have 10 chromosomes, where other mammals have only 6.
The females can burrow as deep as 20 to 30 meters into the ground, which allows them to protect their young from predators. However, generally, when not feeding, their burrows are not that deep.
Even though they have traits of mammals, the female platypus does not have nipples. Her milk is secreted from her skin, and she nurses the young for about 3-4 months, during which time, males have little or no contact with their family.
The platypuses are also very careful about protecting their young. Because of this, the mother hardly ever leaves the burrow during nursing time, and even if she does, she blocks its opening to keep it safe.
Since it also has streaks of a carnivore, it plays an important part in the larger ecosystem by making sure that the animals in the lower level of the food chain do not multiply too much.
Interestingly these animals have two layers of fur. The first one is short and thick, so their skin is protected by water. The second layer is longer, which gets wet.
All these adaptations make the duckbill platypus unique – no other animal in the deciduous rainforest has a similar evolutionary makeup!