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Partly birdly, partly mammaly ~ Ogden Nash
I have spent the last week as a nearly full-time reader of platypusology ~ Stephen Jay Gould

The platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus), sometimes referred to as the duck-billed platypus, is a semiaquatic monotreme endemic to eastern Australia, including Tasmania. The platypus is the sole living representative or monotypic taxon of its family Ornithorhynchidae and genus Ornithorhynchus, though a number of related species appear in the fossil record.


  • Of all the Mammalia yet known it seems the most extra-ordinary in its conformation; exhibiting the perfect resemblance of the beak of a Duck engrafted on the head of a quadruped. So accurate is the similitude, that, at first view, it naturally excites the idea of some deceptive preparation by artificial means; the very epidermis, proportions, serratures, manner of opening, and other particulars is the beak of a shoveler, or other broad-billed species of duck, presenting themselves to the view; nor is it without the most minute and rigid examination that we can persuade ourselves of its being the real beak or snout of a quadruped.
  • Although the settlement had now been established within a month of ten years, yet little had been added to the stock of natural history which had been acquired in the first year or two of its infancy. The Kangaroo, the Dog, the Opossum, the Flying Squirrel, the Kangaroo Rat, a spotted Rat, the common Rat, and the large Fox-bat (if entitled to a place in this society), made up the whole catalogue of animals that were known at this time, with the exception which must now be made of an amphibious animal, of the mole species, one of which had been lately found on the banks of a lake near the Hawkesbury. In size it was considerably larger than the land mole. The eyes were very small. The fore legs, which were shorter than the hind, were observed, at the feet, to be provided with four claws, and a membrane, or web, that spread considerably beyond them, while the feet of the hind legs were furnished, not only with this membrane or web, but with four long and sharp claws, that projected as much beyond the web, as the web projected beyond the claws of the fore feet. The tail of this animal was thick, short, and very fat; but the most extraordinary circumstance observed in its structure was, its having, instead of the mouth of an animal, the upper and lower mandibles of a duck. By these it was enabled to supply itself with food, like that bird, in muddy places, or on the banks of the lakes, in which its webbed feet enabled it to swim; while on shore its long and sharp claws were employed in burrowing; nature thus providing for it in its double or amphibious character. These little animals had been frequently noticed rising to the surface of the water, and blowing like the turtle.
  • It is well known that the specimens of this extraordinary animal first brought to Europe were considered by many as impositions. They reached England by vessels which had navigated the Indian seas, a circumstance in itself sufficient to rouse the suspicions of the scientific naturalist, aware of the monstrous impostures which the artful Chinese had so frequently practised on European adventurers; in short, the scientific felt inclined to class this rare production of nature with eastern mermaids and other works of art; but these conjectures were immediately dispelled by an appeal to anatomy.
    • Robert Knox, "Observations on the anatomy of the duckbilled animal of New South Wales, the Omithorhynchusparadoxus of naturalists", Memoirs of the Wernerian Natural History Society, vol. 5 (1823), p. 27
  • The Platypus burrows in the banks of rivers, choosing generally a spot where the water is deep and sluggish, and the bank precipitous and covered with reeds or overhung by trees. Considerably beneath the level of the stream's surface is the main entrance to a narrow passage which leads directly into the bank, bearing away from the river (at a right angle to it) and gradually rising above its highest watermark. At a distance of some few yards from the river's edge this passage branches into two others, which, describing each a circular course to the right and left, unite again in the nest itself, which is a roomy excavation, lined with leaves and moss, and situated seldom more than twelve yards from the water, or less than two feet beneath the surface of the earth. Several of their nests were, with considerable labour and difficulty, discovered.
  • During part of June and July I spent many hours daily in the water, hunting everywhere for the eggs of Ceratodus. Towards the end of July the blacks began to collect Echidna, and very soon I had segmenting ova from the uterus. In the second week of August I had similar stages in Ornithorhynchus, but it was not until the third week that I got the laid eggs from the pouch of Echidna. In the following week (August 24) I shot an Ornithorhynchus whose first egg had been laid; her second egg was in a partially dilated os uteri. This egg, of similar appearance to, though slightly larger than, that of Echidna, was at a stage equal to a 36-hour chick. (Caldwell 1888, p. 464)
  • Close by the reserve flowed the River Yarra, in which the Platypus abounds, the “Water Mole,” as it is called here, or the “Duckbill” (Ornithorhynchus paradoxus). I offered the men three half-crowns for one recently shot. [...] It was all to no purpose. I was doomed not to see a living Platypus or even a Kangaroo in Australia. I saw only the footprints of the Platypus (like those of a duck), which the Black pointed out to me, in a regularly beaten track, made by the animals from one pond to another. The Black said that he was certain the Platypus did not lay eggs, and that he had several times seen the young ones, and his description of them agreed with what I knew from Dr. Bennett's researches on the subject.
  • I like the duck-billed platypus
    Because it is anomalous.
    I like the way it raises its family
    Partly birdly, partly mammaly.
    I like its independent attitude.
    Let no one call it a duck-billed platitude.
    • Ogden Nash, "The Platypus", The Private Dining Room and Other New Verses (1952), p. 43
  • I have spent the last week as a nearly full-time reader of platypusology.
    • Stephen Jay Gould, Bully for Brontosaurus: Reflections in Natural History (Norton, 1991), p. 275
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