Wonder Contributors

This revised Wonder was inspired by Jet from New York City!

What do you get when you cross a duck with a beaver and throw in some traits from the otter and the snake? If you said a platypus, you’re right!

Of course, the platypus isn’t really a mixture of these other creatures. It just looks like it! The platypus is a semi-aquatic mammal native to Australia and Tasmania.

Along with four species of echidna (a mammal that looks a bit like a porcupine), the platypus is one of only five species of monotremes in the world. Monotremes are mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young.

The platypus has a bill like a duck, a tail like a beaver, the skin and feet of an otter and venom like a snake. These features truly make the platypus one of the most unique creatures on Earth. In fact, when the platypus was first discovered hundreds of years ago, scientists at the time thought it was an elaborate hoax.

The name “platypus” comes from the Greek word for “flat-footed.” The male platypus has special spurs on its hind feet that it can use to defend itself by injecting painful venom into a predator. Although the venom isn’t deadly to humans, it can cause severe pain.

The platypus can walk and run on land, but it moves awkwardly. Its webbed feet and waterproof skin help it to live much of the time in the water, where it feeds on insects, shellfish, worms and other small creatures at the bottom of bodies of water.

The platypus is mostly nocturnal and can spend up to 10 hours at a time in the water, searching for food. When it’s done swimming, the platypus likes to live in a burrow dug into the bank of a nearby body of water.

The female platypus lays one or two eggs each season. When a baby platypus emerges from its shell, it’s about the size of a lima bean. Its mother will take care of it for three months or so until it’s ready to head out into the world on its own.

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    • We’re glad you liked today’s Wonder about monotremes, boyWONDER! Thanks so much for visiting Wonderopolis bright and early this morning and for sharing your comment with us. Have a WONDERful day! :-)

  1. Why did you delete “that word” in my comment for yesterday’s wonder when I said I thought today’s wonder of the day would be about worms? Please reply. Please do not remove any words in this comment.

    Anyway, according to my guess for today’s wonder, I was really close. :)

    I loved today’s wonder! :D I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day will be about birds that can fly or bugs that can fly.

    TJ

    • Hi, TJ! We sure appreciate your comment today! Although the type of worm you mentioned yesterday is a real (recently-discovered) species of deep-sea worm (scientific name: chaetopterus pugaporcinus), the common name of that worm is not one that we feel comfortable sharing with all of our Wonder Friends here in Wonderopolis. :-)

      We hope you understand that we have to respect everyone’s level of sensitivity to words and phrases that could be considered not-so-nice by one or more Wonder Friends. What might be fun to say for someone (or a common phrase/term), might be offensive to other people. Wonderopolis is a place where ALL Wonder Friends need to feel safe and comfortable about learning new things, that is why we chose to remove the common name of the worm you talked about in your comments yesterday and today.

      Again, we hope you understand! Thanks so much for being an AWESOME Wonder Friend! We appreciate your comments very much! :-)

    • Hi there, Julia! We really like your guess for tomorrow’s Wonder, too! One of the AWESOME things about the FUN “Wonder what’s next?” section of each Wonder of the Day® is that every Wonder Friend has the opportunity to share their own guesses! It doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong, as long as we’re all using our creativity and giving our WONDER brains a workout! Thanks so much for sharing your comment today! YOU ROCK! :-)

    • Way to go, Wonder Girl! We’re super proud of you! We hope you had as much fun as we did learning about monotremes today! We thought some of the facts (like about the venom in the back feet of a male platypus) were SUPER interesting! :-)

  2. Hi
    We didn’t know that the Platypus could produce venom in their feet. We were also surprised that the babies are the size of a lima bean. Does it hatch with an actual beak and an egg tooth?
    What is their life span?
    We are curious about tomorrow’s wonder!
    Mrs. G’s Class

    • We’re super glad you guys are WONDERing more about monotremes, Mrs. G’s Class! We will all have to do a bit more WONDERing about your platypus questions, but we found a cool page on the San Diego Zoo’s website that features more fun facts about another monotreme…the echidna! Check it out: http://www.sandiegozoo.org/animalbytes/t-echidna.html. Happy WONDERing and THANKS for hanging out in Wonderopolis with us today! :-)

    • It make us SUPER happy to hear that, Mandy! Thank you for letting us know! We hope you and all of your classmates have a WONDERful day! :-)

  3. Hi Wonder friends,

    This is our first post. I’m teaching summer school to 6th graders in St. Louis. We really liked today’s wonder. We didn’t know that playtpus’ were venomous. Wow!! That’s so cool. We wonder, are the females venomous too?

    • Hi, Alison and your AMAZING summer school class! We’re so very happy that you guys visited today’s Wonder and shared that you liked learning fun new facts about the platypus! We did some more WONDERing about your question, and we discovered that, even though both the male and female platypus may be born with spurs on their back feet, it’s only the male who produces venom. Cool fact! :-)

    • Thanks for wishing us a good day and also for sharing your guess for tomorrow’s Wonder, Julia! We think it ROCKS that you are visiting Wonderopolis on your summer break! :-)

  4. I already knew a little bit about the platypus, but one thing I didn’t know was that they have venom! I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about birds migrating or how they fly.

    • We think it’s GREAT that you already had a little background knowledge about the platypus before you explored today’s Wonder, LKvolleyballGirl! We’re glad you were able to learn some new things, too! Thanks for being a friend of Wonderopolis! :-)

    • Welcome back, Logan! We’re not sure what tomorrow’s Wonder will be about, but some other Wonder Friends have also guessed that it might have something to do with birds or bird migration. We can’t wait to visit Wonderopolis tomorrow to see what we will all be WONDERing about with Wonder #626! :-)

  5. Another quality of a mammal is that they nurse their young. Does the platypus nurse their young? If not, why would the platypus be considered a mammal? Fascinating!

    • Those are AWESOME questions, Jennings Family! While we were doing even more WONDERing about monotremes, we discovered that the female platypus nurses her young for the first three to four months of their lives until they can venture into the world on their own. Thanks so much for hanging out in Wonderopolis with us today! :-)

  6. Hi maya’s back! Sorry I couldn’t come on as much as I would’ve wanted to. I love this interesting article. It was packed full with information.
    I love wonderopolis!

    • It’s so SUPER to hear from you today, Maya! Thank you for letting us know you thought today’s Wonder was interesting…that makes us really happy to hear! We are proud to count you as a Wonder Friend! :-)

  7. I think this was a great wonder of the day. I only know two monotremes that lay eggs. Is that all?
    And I think that tomorrows wonder will be on birds.

    • Thanks so much for checking out today’s Wonder and leaving us this GREAT comment, Wonder Girl! There are two types of monotremes (platypus and echidna), but because there are four different species of echidna out there, the total number of monotremes is five (four species of echidna + one species of playtypus). We think it’s FUN to learn about new things and WONDER in Wonderopolis, don’t you? :-)

    • We like that you are a fan of Phineas and Ferb, Carlos! That’s COOL! Have you visited past Wonder #528 about AGLETS? We think you will really like the video for that Wonder! Here is a link that will take you right to it: http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/what-is-an-aglet/.

      Have a GREAT rest of the week! Thanks for being a friend of Wonderopolis! :-)

  8. We like the playtypus’ webbed feet. Do you think when it swims that it’s eyes, ears, and nose are shut?

    • We’re not sure if the platypus has to close its eyes, ears and nose when it swims underwater, but that’s really something neat to WONDER about, Stella and Ruby! Thank you BOTH for stopping by today’s Wonder and sharing your comment with us! :-)

  9. Hi! I’m from Susan G’s class. I really liked this.Its cool how platypuses have kinda fish-like front feet. By the way, I’m in grade 3, 8 years old. Anyway… Did you know that Sharks are fish and they give birth? Also, some special kinds of snakes give birth instead of laying eggs. Well, I think Platypuses are great animals. Are they endangered? How long can they stay underwater? How big is a platypus?
    Also I LOVE WONDEROPOLIS!

  10. Our class LOVES Wonderopolis. We look at it everyday it is just awesome. We just learned about the hints and we really like that too.
    Are there any other wonderful things about Wonderopolis?
    Thanks

    • We’re SO GLAD to hear that you guys love exploring Wonderopolis, Wonder Class 7! In fact, we think that ROCKS!

      There are SO MANY awesome things about visiting Wonderopolis! Did you know you can explore Wonders based on specific categories, like CANDY (http://wonderopolis.org/category/candy/) or INSECTS (http://wonderopolis.org/category/insects/)? You can also tell us what YOU guys Wonder about anytime you like by leaving us a comment or by clicking on the “nominate” link at the top of every page in Wonderopolis! We LOVE hearing from our Wonder Friends and your ideas just might turn into a future Wonder of the Day®!

      We could go on and on (and on!) about all the WONDERful things here Wonderopolis, but we hope you will explore even more and discover some of them yourselves!

      Thanks for being GREAT Wonder Friends! We appreciate you! :-)

    • Thanks for leaving us another comment to let us know you are still concerned about us removing a certain word from your comments, TJ! We feel the common name (not the scientific one) for the type of worm you wrote about in your comments might sound offensive to some of our other Wonder Friends. We really want to make sure that every Wonder Friend can feel comfortable visiting Wonderopolis and has the same opportunity to learn awesome new things, so we removed the word. We think you ROCK for WONDERing about the world around you! :-)

  11. Mammals that lay eggs that are only found in Australia are called marsupials. You should mention that in the wonder words and info.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts about mammals that lay eggs, Eliz! We appreciate your comment and are SUPER glad you stopped by Wonderopolis today! We encourage you to re-explore this Wonder of the Day® to learn about monotremes. They are a bit different than marsupials! Here’s a COOL past Wonder all about marsupials, too!

      Wonder #447 – What Do Kangaroos Keep In Their Pockets? http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/what-do-kangaroos-keep-in-their-pockets/

      Happy WONDERing! :-)

    • We think turtles would be REALLY AWESOME to WONDER about, Alex! Thanks for sharing what type of Wonder you’d like to explore here in Wonderopolis! We appreciate your comment! :-)

    • A big HELLO to you, Kaylee! Thanks for sharing your love for the platypus and commenting at Wonderopolis today! It’s great to see you– we will Wonder again soon! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Do any mammals lay eggs?
  • What are some of the unique characteristics of the platypus?
  • What is a monotreme?

Wonder Gallery

platypus_shutterstock_12449005Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Wow! What an interesting creature the platypus is! Keep the learning going by checking out one or more of the following activities with a friend or family member:

  • Have you ever seen a platypus up close? Sometimes you can find them in zoos. If you want to see a platypus and learn even more about these fascinating creatures, check out these cool Platypus Pictures online. Do you think you’d want a platypus as a pet? Why or why not? Before you say “No,” be sure you check out these 15 Adorable Photos of Baby Platypuses. What do you say now?
  • Still curious? Check out National Geographic Kids’ Creature Feature about the Duck-Billed Platypus. See more photos and videos online. What other interesting facts can you learn about the platypus? Have fun learning even more about this super cool, semi-aquatic creature!
  • Ready to pretend to be a platypus? As a platypus, you get a lot of other animals making fun of you from time to time. After all, you do look like a mixture of a lot of interesting creatures. Are you part duck? Part beaver? Part otter? Part snake? Maybe you’re all of these things wrapped into one because you have superpowers that make you more special than all those other animals combined! What special powers do you get from each animal? What amazing things can you do that no other animal can do? Do you work for the Australian government? Are you a secret agent? Tell us all about your super-special platypus powers. How have they helped you on secret missions over the years? Can you draw a picture of your superpowers in action? Feel free to share your story and/or picture with other Wonder Friends on Facebook. We can’t wait to read about your platypus powers!

Still Wondering

In Science NetLinks’ Platypus Genome Science Update, students learn how scientists have sequenced the genetic code of one of nature’s strangest animals.

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