Platypus Duck-billed Platypus

Playtypus Swimming

What is a Platypus?Description of the Platypus

Platypus Underwater

Scientific Name: Ornithorhynchus anatinus

The Platypus (pronounced pla-tee-pus) is a funny looking animal. Its got a beak like a duck, a tail like a Beaver, webbed feet like an otter and it lays eggs!

The existence of the platypus, like so many other animals of Australia wasn't known to the rest of the world until after the first European explorers arrived in 1770.

It is an egg laying monotreme. It is also called a Duck-billed Platypus sometimes.

The platypus is about 60 cm (2 ft) long and has thick dark brown fur.

The platypus uses its large flat tail and webbed feet to paddle underwater.

It lives in creeks and streams. It can swim under water for up to 3 minutes at a time. It closes its eyes, ears and nostrils when swimming underwater.



A beak like a duck?
A tail like a beaver?
Feet like an otter?
A mammal laying eggs?

They said it must be a hoax,


The Platypus builds its nest in a burrow on creek banks with an underwater entrance.

The platypus's beak is called a bill. It is flat and quite soft and rubbery and very sensitive (it looks like its made of plastic). It uses its bill to stir the creek bottoms in search of food. It eats mostly worms, insect larvae and yabbies. It eats its food underwater. It uses its bill to tell it about its surroundings.

The female lays two or three leathery eggs. She curls around them for about three days to incubate them. The platypus doesn't have teats like other mammals. She secretes milk from special glands under her skin onto her fur and the baby platypuses lick it from her fur.

The male platypus also has two very sharp rear claws called spurs. They have poison in them. which can kill a small animal.

The greatest threat to the Platypus are snakes, goannas(large lizard), foxes and of course man.

The plural of "platypus" is not "platypi" as some would expect. It is "platypuses".


How did the Platypus get its name? Why is it called a Platypus

Southern Cassowary Helmet

Scientific Name: Ornithorhynchus anatinus

The history of the origin of the Platypus's name is an interesting one. Just like many other animals in Australia its existence was unknown to the rest of the world until after Australia was first visited by outsiders in 1770. The aborigine people, the first inhabitants of Australia, called them by a number of names such as dulaiwarrung, tambreet and mallangong.

The first white explorers and settlers called it a duckmole, watermole and duckbill. In 1797 Governor John Hunter of the fledgling Colony of New South Wales sent some sketches and a pelt to a platypus back to England.

When the first specimen of this odd creature arrived in Europe in 1798 the scientific community were totally sceptical. They were convinced that it was an elaborate hoax – a fake, stitched together by an expert taxidermist to trick them.

In 1799 the noted, naturalist George Shaw was the first to formally examine and name the animal. He named it Platypus Anatinus which means flat-footed and bird-like. The German anatomist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, working independently of Shaw, named the animal Ornithorhynchus paradoxus (puzzling bird-billed animal). It was soon discovered that a beetle had already been named platypus so the scientific name was changed to Ornithorhynchus Anatinus (bird-like animal).

The general public liked the name Platypus. So that's the name that stuck. It is also known as the duck-billed platypus.

This animal is the only one in the genus Ornithorhynchus.


When the conflict in names was discovered an old zoological convention was used in determining the new scientific name. To summarise the rule in a nut-shell, the oldest names takes precedence.

So they couldn't use the genus name Platypus because it was already assigned to a beetle. The next oldest genus name was assigned by Blumenbach which was Ornithorhynchus. So this replaced Platypus. But the sub-genus, Anatinus, assigned by Shaw was older than Paradoxus assigned by Blumenbach. So the sub-genus used became Anatinus.

There you have it; the reason for the scientific name being Ornithorhynchus anatinus.

What is the Plural of Platypus? Is the Plural for Platypus Platypuses, Platypodes or Platypi?

Two Platypus

Oh dear this gets complicated.

The name 'platypus' is modern Latin, used especially by the scientific community for naming things. It is derived from the Greek 'platupous'. This is constructed by the concatenation of two words platus 'flat' + pous 'foot'.

Using a Greek Construct
If we were to use a Greek construct for the plural for words ending in –pus/poûs the word would end in 'podes'. So using a Greek construct for the plural for platypus would be 'platypodes'. But this is strictly speaking not a Greek name it is simply constructed from two Greek words. 'Platypodes' was sometimes used in the past for the plural but it is rarely used today. It is also acceptable for the use of "es" to signify the plural in third declension Greek. Then 'platypuses' becomes acceptable.

Using a Latin Construct
If we were to use a Latin construct the plural would be 'platypi'. This comes from the belief that it is a Latin second declension noun. But it is not a Latin word either. It is third declension Greek.

Using a Modern English Construct
If we use modern English then as with most nouns ending in s, the plural for platypus would be platypuses. (busbuses, walruswalruses)

The most correct plural form is 'platypuses'. The next most correct form is 'platypodes', but this is rarely used today. As for 'platypi'? Well English is an evolving language and common usage sometimes dictates a word's acceptance into the language. Besides its so much fun calling them 'platypi'.



Here is a great video from Ask the Editors at Merriam-Webster.
A similar approach can be taken to the word 'platypus'

Where does the Platypus Live?Platypus Habitat & Geographic Distribution

Red Bellied Back Snake Habitate Range

Platypus Stream

Platypus in a stream foraging for food

platypus Den

The platypus lives in freshwater creeks and streams along the eastern coast of Australia. Their range extends all the way from Queensland to South Australia..

Platypus Venom Its Poisonous

Platypus Spur


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