The Ornithorhynchus anatinus

The Ornithorhynchus anatinus

Hayley Nicole Veen, Staff Writer

Many school curriculums need to explain the evolutionary history of Ornithorhynchus anatinus. The Ornithorhynchus anatinus is a furry animal hoisting a bill and a thick tail. The males have stingers on the back feet, and heels. It is easier to call this confusing creature the platypus. 

What do platypuses look like?

The platypus has a thick tail of a beaver and clawed webbed feet akin to otters. The duck-like bill is used to find food such as larvae, worms, and shellfish. The eyes and ears are water-proofed with flaps of skin, and the platypus has no teeth. Platypuses are among some of the only mammals to lay eggs. Platypus mothers often keep a few eggs warm in burrows on the side of rivers. These eggs then hatch into puggles, baby platypuses.

How could such a creature come to be?

The platypus was first discovered in 1799 by British doctor George Shaw. When the animal proved to be real, he named it ‘platypus anatinus’ from Latin and Greek words meaning broad/flat, foot, and duck-like. However, there was already a beetle with a similar name. Therefore, the platypus was renamed Ornithorhynchus (bird-like snout) to avoid miscommunication. 

Since their discovery, few platypus fossils have been found. There have not been any fossil discoveries outside of Australia besides a, 61-63 million-year-old fossil tooth was found in Patagonia, in southern Argentina. Though the evolutionary history of the platypus family is not well-known, it can be traced back to the Mesozoic Era (252-66 million years ago). The Mesozoic version of the modern platypus is defined by an opalized jaw found in the mining town of Lightning Ridge in north-central New South Wales. The jaw size seems to indicate the creature is a similar size as it was millions of years ago. The environment and the jaw seem to also indicate a similar diet.

How do I learn more about the platypus family?

While there is not much known about the platypus species, the creatures seem to have a long and fascinating history. The Australian Museum, resting near the animal’s habitat, has most of the information and fossils from the species. Most of this information can easily be found on the website, including much of the modern lifestyle.