Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus).
Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus). (photograph: Dave Watts)

Platypus and echidnas

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​​Platypus and echidnas  are classified as monotremes; monotremes have lower body temperatures than other mammals and have short legs which extend out.  These features, together with their egg-laying, are more like that of a lizard than a mammal. 


Scientific name - Ornithorhynchus anatinus

The platypus was thought to be a joke by the first scienists to examine their body in 1799.  They are one of the only egg-laying, semi-aquatic mammals in the world.  They have webbed feet, a broad tail like a beaver and a characteristic duck-like bill. Closing their eyes and ears when they dive underwater, like a dolphin, electrolocation through their bill is used to find food.  This means sometimes they end up on the end of fishing lines, unable to see the danger. 


Scientific name - Tachyglossus aculeatus​

E​​​chidnas feast on ants and termintes and protect themselves with spines, which can reach 5cm long.  Solitary for most of the year, until mating time when several males may follow a single female. Taking shelter in rotten logs, stumps, burrows, or under bushes, echidnas go into to a type of hibernation over winter. Surprisingly, echidnas are good swimmers, paddling about with only their snout and a few spines showing above the water. They have even been known to swim amongst the waves in the ocean! 

​Where can you see both of them?​