The Breeding of the Duck Billed Platypus

Platypus Breeding

The scientific community had finally accepted the fact that the Platypus, Ornithorhynchus anatinus, was an actual animal, not a hoax by a taxidermist. Now they were faced with the ridiculous claim by the native people of Australia that it laid eggs.

Egg Laying

Eventually, scientists accepted the fact that this animal is an egg laying mammal.

Breeding Burrows

The female Platypus digs a nesting burrow. This is about 20 metres (60 feet) long. It is an elaborate structure with several chambers. The mother to be builds a nest with soft vegetation. When there are babies in the nest she plugs the burrow with soil as she leaves. This presumably makes it more difficult for platypus predators to get the babies.

Breeding

A male and a female meet and mate. About 21 days later, the female lays up to 3 eggs in her burrow. The eggs are incubated between the belly and the tail of the female and hatch in about 10 days. Of course, being mammals, Platypuses are warm blooded. The actual body temperature is lower than most mammals, but the eggs still have to be kept warm like bird eggs, not just left like many reptile eggs.

Baby Platypuses

A Baby Echidna is called a Puggle, and many people extend this to include baby platypuses. Platypup has also been used, but I am not sure that most people would understand either without explanation.

Milk

Like all mammals, the Platypus produces milk for its babies. They do not have nipples, but the milk comes out of special pores in the mother’s skin so the babies can lap it up.

Babies

At six weeks old, the babies are fully furred and have their eyes open. At this point they can leave the burrow with their mother for short periods. They are weaned at about four months. The nearest relative to the Platypus is the Echidna. A major difference between the two is that while the Echidna does not train its young in adult survival techniques, with the Platypus there is a reasonable length of time that the babies can be with their mother and, at least potentially, pick up survival skills. This difference may be very significant. The teaching of the young ones by the parents or other older members of the species is common to nearly all mammals and most birds.

Successful

The way the Platypus breeds may sound clumsy, but it works. The Platypus is a very successful animal in its own niche. An illustration of the difficulty of finding the nest is illustrated by the difficulties of the final successful search for the Platypus eggs. W. H. Caldwell was a scientist sent out from England to finally settle the question of whether the Platypus laid eggs. He very sensibly enlisted the help of the Australian native people who knew the most about this animal. The scientist enlisted the help of 150 of the native people. These people are renown for their tracking ability, sharp eyes and knowledge of the Australian bush. Even with this large workforce it took a long time to find some eggs.

Source by Steve Challis

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