Marine Biology

Appetite of a Platypus



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The platypus is an unique Australian animal whom does not really fit into any one category of animals. It has a tail like a beaver, bill of a duck, lays eggs like a reptile but is still considered a mammal. The platypus is a very shy, timid animal, often only coming out after dark. If the platypus is spotted they dive into the water making a huge splash to scare any predators away. The male platypus is also equpped with a spur on their back leg which delivers venom that is able to kill small animals and cause great pain in humans.

Covered with a thick brown fur, webbed feet and a bill like a duck it is almost possible to mistake the platypus for a duck. The bill has the mouth on the underside of it while the nostrils sit atop of the bill. The platypus' eyes and ears are set within a groove just off of the bill which closes over when the platypus ventures underwater. Platypus' are a seemingly quiet mammal, although they have been heard to produce a low growling sound when kept in captivity. They weigh between 2 and 5 pounds making them a small creature able to move quite quickly and hide in small locations.

The platypus builds their burrow along streams, quite often only sharing with one other adult. Their ideal location includes running water, logs and within their burrows they spend up to 17 hours of their day sleeping. Female platypus who are nursing young, will actually use their long claws to dig a burrow about 20 feet away from the stream to nest her young at.

The platypus diet consists of invertabrates such as shrimp, mussels, crayfish dragonflies, mealworms, tadpoles, fish eggs and even a few fish. The platypus detects it's prey by using electroreceptors that pick up the electric current of their prey. These currents are created when the prey moves throughout the dark, murky water and picked up by the platypus while it moves its head back and forth searching. While beneath the water, the platypus must close its eyes, ears and nostrils preventing it from potentially seeing or smelling their prey.

After catching their prey, the platypus places it in a pouch in their cheek pouch while they continue to search. When the cheek pouches are filled or the platypus needs to breathe, it returns to the surface. The food is then chewed using not teeth, but rough grinding pads located inside the mouth. The lower jaw contains serrations that are thought to assist in the sorted of chewed food particles. The tail of the platypus stores fat for when food is scarce or if the platypus needs extra energy to incubate eggs.

The digestive tract in a platypus is very short, measuring approximatly 1,400 mm long. The stomach has thin walls and is very small. Not much is known about the platypus' digestive tract as their food is so finely ground. Any food samples have been taken from the cheek pouches for analysis.

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