Marine Biology

Platypus Eating Habits



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Anyone that has ever had the experience of seeing a platypus can tell you that it is one of the most distinctive and unusual mammals known on earth. Even though this animal is considered a mammal, it lays eggs and feeds the babies in a pouch much like a kangaroo. Because it lays eggs, it is considered a monotreme mammal.

Native to Australia, the platypus lives in deep burrows along rivers and lakes. They are known to be a timid creature with excellent swimming and diving abilities. You will find the most unique features of this animal is the body structure. The bill on the end of their face is an extended snout that is covered with receptive nerve endings.

All four feet are webbed and their body is covered with three layers of fur. All of these layers serve three distinctive purposes for the survival of the platypus. The inside layer traps air for warmth, the middle layer is compared to working like a "wet suit" and the outer layer allows the platypus to feel objects that are around them.

A hollow spur is located on the inside of both back ankles on the male platypus. This spur is used as a defense mechanism and produces a toxic venom that is painful to humans yet strong enough to kill small animals. The female is also born with these spurs but fall off sometime after their first year of life.

The platypus eats during the night hours and can eat its own body weight in food during one night. The weight of a full grown platypus ranges from two to five pounds. Their main diet consists of mussels, insects, slugs, insect larvae, shrimp and worms. The platypus uses their sensitive snout to dig in the mud at the bottom of the water to find their meals. The food is stored in a special pouch inside the cheek until it has reached the surface of the water.

After returning to the surface with their meal, the platypus grinds the food with pads that are located inside the bill. The adult platypus do not have teeth and these grinding pads are used in the same manner as we use our teeth. Because the platypus defecate in the water which makes it difficult to analyze, researchers base their studies on the eating habits mostly by what has been found in these pouches.

Hunting mainly at night, the platypus closes its eyes and ears and relies on the snout to locate food. They use the many receptors located on the snout to pick up on the currents that are produced when their prey move in the water.

According to deposits found in New South Wales, ancestors of the platypus can be dated back to approximately 110 million years ago. With the different features that the platypus has, it can be safely said that this creature does have a long lineage dating back to the age of dinosaurs. While the platypus does have threats from the wild, the biggest threats are from humans. The deterioration of their environment, polluted water and even fishing nets are all factors affecting the survival of this extraordinary animal.

Sources:
http://australian-animals.net/plat.htm
http://www.genevaschools.org/austinbg/class/gray/platypus/food.html

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