What Is the Most Mixed Up Animal in the World?

This strange creature has fangs that squirt poison, just like snakes. It lays eggs, just like chickens. It has a bill and webbed feet, just like ducks. It burrows tunnels in the ground, just like moles. And it nurses its young just like dogs, cats, and humans. What is this mixed-up creature?

It’s the duckbill platypus, whose native Australia is home to many unusual creatures, including the koala and the kangaroo.

The duckbill platypus is both a water and a land animal, and to adapt to both environments, its body combines features found in reptiles, birds, and mammals. The platypus’s feet, for example, have webbed toes like turtles and ducks to help it swim underwater. But these toes end in sharp claws like those on birds. The platypus uses these claws to dig tunnels in muddy river banks.

On the inside of each leg, the platypus has a bony, hollow, needle-sharp fang like those on snakes. Through this fang the platypus shoots a deadly poison into its enemies. Its snout, or bill, is very similar to a duck’s, and like a duck the platypus uses it to poke around in the river’s mud bottom in search of worms, snails, and tiny shellfish.

Also like every species of birds, the female platypus lays eggs and sits on them till they hatch. She does this in a nest she has burrowed out of the mud on the river bank.

Yet, surprisingly enough, with all these features of birds and reptiles, the platypus is a mammal! Why have scientists classified it as a mammal? Simply because the female platypus nurses her young with her milk.

Newly hatched platypuses look like hairless squirrels!

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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