Facts about the animal kingdom

Is the Platypus a Mammal?

María Luz Thurman
By María Luz Thurman, Biologist/ornithologist. Updated: June 28, 2024
Is the Platypus a Mammal?

The platypus is truly one-of-a-kind and stands out as an extraordinary and peculiar creature among mammals. What makes it so fascinating is its captivating combination of physical features borrowed from various animal groups. When you first lay eyes on a platypus, it's hard not to be completely bewildered and amazed by its appearance. It's like nothing you've ever seen before, leaving you with a common question on your mind: What kind of animal is this creature?

The following AnimalWised article explains what the platypus is, shedding light on its defining characteristics and on the reasons that make it a mammal.

You may also be interested in: 10 Facts About the Platypus
  1. What is the platypus?
  2. Why is the platypus a mammal?
  3. How is the platypus a mammal and does it lay eggs?

What is the platypus?

The platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is a unique and fascinating animal native to Australia. It is considered one of nature's most extraordinary creatures due to its unusual combination of physical characteristics.

At first glance, the platypus might seem like a strange mix of different animals. It has a body similar to an otter, a beaver-like tail, and a duck-like beak. But let's clear up any confusion—the platypus is definitely a mammal.

What makes the platypus special is that it's one of the very few mammals that lay eggs. Most mammals give birth to live babies, but the female platypus lays eggs in a burrow near water. After a while, the baby platypuses hatch out fully formed.

Despite its egg-laying ability, the platypus still has other mammal features. It has fur on its body, which keeps it warm and helps regulate its body temperature. It also has special glands that produce milk to feed its young. These traits make it a true mammal. It also possesses venomous spurs on its hind legs, primarily in males. While the venom is not lethal to humans, it can cause severe pain and discomfort.

Furthermore, the platypus is semi-aquatic, spending much of its time in and around freshwater environments such as rivers, streams, and lakes. It has adaptations for its aquatic lifestyle, including webbed feet for efficient swimming and diving.

In terms of diet, the platypus is primarily carnivorous, feeding on aquatic invertebrates such as insects, worms, and small crustaceans. It hunts for its prey underwater, using its bill to detect electrical signals produced by the movement of prey in the water.

Due to its unique combination of features and its evolutionary history, the platypus is often regarded as a living testament to the diversity and wonder of the natural world.

Why is the platypus a mammal?

The platypus is classified as a mammal due to several key features that it shares with other members of the mammalian class. Here are the reasons why the platypus is considered a mammal:

  • Mammary glands and milk production: like all mammals, the platypus possesses mammary glands that produce milk. Females nurse their young with this milk, providing them with essential nutrients for growth and development.

  • Hair/fur: the platypus has a dense and soft fur covering its body. Hair/fur is a defining characteristic of mammals and serves various purposes, including insulation, protection, and sensory functions.

  • Endothermy (Internal Temperature Regulation): the platypus is an endothermic animal, meaning it can regulate its internal body temperature independently of the surrounding environment. This ability is a shared trait among mammals and is crucial for maintaining metabolic functions and overall physiological well-being.

  • Internal fertilization: the platypus, despite laying eggs, exhibits internal fertilization. During mating, the male platypus transfers sperm to the female's reproductive tract, where fertilization takes place. Internal fertilization is a characteristic feature of most mammals.

While the platypus possesses some unique traits, such as egg-laying, it retains these mammalian attributes, placing it within the mammal classification. The platypus showcases the fascinating diversity within the mammalian class and represents an intriguing evolutionary adaptation within the animal kingdom.

To know more about other mammals that lay eggs, be sure not to miss this other article.

Is the Platypus a Mammal? - Why is the platypus a mammal?

How is the platypus a mammal and does it lay eggs?

The platypus is a remarkable anomaly among mammals, as it belongs to a small group that lays eggs. While most mammals give birth to live offspring, monotremes like the platypus and echidnas defy this norm.

The reason behind the platypus' egg-laying ability can be traced back to its evolutionary history and its adaptation to a specific environment. Over millions of years, the platypus has developed a unique blend of traits derived from reptiles, birds, and mammals.

Despite sharing several characteristics with other mammals, such as mammary glands for milk production, body hair, and the ability to regulate internal body temperature (endothermy), the platypus also retains reptilian features, including egg laying.

This amalgamation of traits arose from an early divergence in mammalian evolutionary history. Approximately 166 million years ago, monotremes branched off from the common lineage of other mammals, evolving their own reproductive strategy that includes egg laying.

The platypus' ability to lay eggs is a result of millions of years of adaptation to its distinct environment, particularly its aquatic habitat and semiaquatic lifestyle.

When it comes to egg laying, the platypus constructs burrows near bodies of water, providing a secure environment for egg development and subsequent hatching. Once the young platypuses are born, they are nourished by their mother's milk, just like other mammalian offspring.

The process of egg laying offers certain advantages for platypus reproduction. For instance, laying eggs allows the platypus to deposit them in a safe environment, away from waterborne dangers and potential predators. Additionally, by laying eggs, the platypus expends less energy on embryonic development, enabling more efficient reproduction overall.

If you want to know more fascinating facts about these amazing creature, be sure not to miss the video we leave you below.

If you want to read similar articles to Is the Platypus a Mammal?, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

  • Abba, AM (2018). The platypus . Residents of the Vertebrate Zoology Division Museum | Faculty of Natural Sciences and Museum (UNLP). Available at: http://sedici.unlp.edu.ar/bitstream/handle/10915/66244/Documento_completo__.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
  • Gregory, JE, Iggo, A., McIntyre, AK, & Proske, U. (1987). Electroreceptors in the platypus . Nature, 326(6111), 386-387.
  • Komblihtt, A. (2009). The platypus genome and evolution . Science Today, 19(113), 74-75.
  • Vega, CZ (2013). primitive mammals . Technological Institute of Costa Rica.
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Is the Platypus a Mammal?