The Duck-billed Platypus: Not a Hoax!

I know we are different. But a hoax? Never! I feel we’re an awesome example of our Creator’s genius.

The hoax idea started, it seems, when the early settlers of Eastern Australia first discovered us in the late 1700s. When they attempted to send one of our kind to England by way of the Indian Ocean (it died on the way!), the English naturalists were suspicious that some Chinese sailors were playing some kind of joke on them, that they had taken parts from a number of different creatures and somehow tacked them together (what an idea!). Only when more of our kind arrived in England did the naturalists finally, grudgingly, grant that we were for real!

Why the suspected hoax? Because, in my opinion, our great Designer simply took the best designs from others of His creations and adapted them to give us exactly what we need to survive in our environment. That is why we have the fur of a mammal, the skin of a mole, a muzzle like a duck’s bill, a beaver-like tail, the webbed feet of a duck, and—most astounding—we lay eggs, yet suckle our young. You will agree, we are unique!

Who are we? We are the duck-billed platypus. A small animal, about half the size of a house cat, we live along the eastern coast of Australia, in its rivers, streams and lakes, mostly in the south land where the climate ranges from hot to very cold—I’m fine with most of it. But we can be found as far north as northern Queensland.

I hardly know where to begin to tell you what makes me unique, because I do not fit into any of the standard categories. But let me start by mentioning a few of our features.


My duck-like bill is soft, flat and rubbery, and very sensitive to touch. It is quite literally all nerves. I use my bill to search for food, and to find my way in the water (I will tell you about that later). On top of my bill are two nostril holes through which I breathe. Since these holes are on top of my bill, I am able to swim just below the surface of the water and still breathe normally—what a great idea! I only have to hold my breath when I dive deep.

On either side of my head, just behind my bill, are two grooves, which contain my eyes and my ear openings. When I’m on land, my eyes are very acute for seeing long distances, though because of their placement I can’t see what is literally “under my nose.” But that doesn’t matter! When I dive, I close them all up tight—my eyes, ears, and even my nostrils (I don’t like the water inside!).

My tail is much like the beaver’s, and serves several purposes. It stores fat, which I draw on to give me fuel when food is short. I also use it as a steering mechanism when I swim. Incidentally, I’m an excellent swimmer. You may think my swimming methods juvenile—I use a stroke very similar to your dogie paddle. But what is wrong with that? My Creator designed my big front paws with webbing to give me super propulsion through water. My back feet are small, but they also have webbing that I spread out when I swim, for steering and braking.

Cozy Warm and Dry!

I must tell you about my fur coat. My Designer didn’t give it to me just so I could be accused of being a false beaver—no. He gave it to me because I spend a lot of time in the water, and my thick, double-layered fur coat keeps me cozy warm, even in icy cold water. What’s my double-layered fur coat like? Probably you’ve never seen one like it. I have a thick covering of waterproof hair all over my body, except for my feet and my bill. This outer hair layer is long, coarse, and very dense—like 800 hairs per millimeter. Beneath this layer is another layer of hair that is very soft and smooth. With a layer of air trapped between the two layers of fur, I don’t even get wet when I swim, or feel the cold water. Isn’t that marvelous? With this good insulation, I can go swimming for food even in very cold environments—and this is very important (I’ll tell you later).

I have another very special mechanism for combating the cold. Reptiles reduce their metabolism in a cold environment and become cold and lethargic. If that happened to me, I would die. I have to keep eating to survive. So what do I do? My Creator has given me the ability to turn up the heat when I begin to get cold. My metabolism speeds up, producing a greater amount of energy. Of course this also means that I need more fuel, but not so much as you might think, because my Designer has given me a way to use the additional heat very efficiently. When my metabolism speeds up, my blood takes a different route through my body. In this way the heat is carried to the parts of my body that require it and not sent to my hind legs, tail and bill. In this way, the usefulness of the heat is maximized, and I can go on swimming and eating year round. Isn’t that wonderful?

Time for Dinner!

We all like to eat. And here I really specialize. Every 24 hours—that’s every day— I consume food equal to between one-quarter and one-half of my body weight. If you were feeding me, that translates to about 1200 earth worms and 50 fresh-water fish a day! I also like small water creatures that live on the bottom of streambeds. I have been provided with all the right tools to enjoy these yummy delicacies on the bottom of streams.

I always swim with my eyes closed. How do I avoid bumping into things when I swim? And how do I find those sweet, juicy worms? My Designer thought of everything. Does my bill remind you of a duck’s bill? Well, they are very different. My bill is soft and rubbery, and is packed with sensitive nerves—really a miniature electronic receiving station. Equipped with electro-receptors and sensors, it picks up electromagnetic impulses sent out by fish and the tiny animals that I eat, so I can swim right to them and grab them. Yummm! Even the darkest, murkiest water cannot keep me from dinner! These sensors also detect changes in pressure that allow me to sense where solid objects are, so I can swim without bumping into things. Your scientists don’t fully understand how my electrical system operates, but that isn’t strange. I’m not sure that they know fully how their own brain operates either, but you and I both know the Master Mind knows, don’t we? All praise to Him for His masterful works!

Well, when I’m gathering food from the streambed, I don’t eat it immediately. (I can only stay under water a short time, maybe like two minutes. And no matter how hungry I am, I find it very difficult to eat while holding my breath.) So I collect food in my big cheek pouches until I get back to the surface. Then, using my front feet to walk on the land, I find a comfortable place to enjoy my meal.

You may also like to know how I chew. I don’t have teeth as you do. I have grinding pads in my bill that break up my food. I also have serrations on my lower bill that help to sort out the shells and mud I pick up with my food. Maybe the method is different, but it works for me!


Perhaps you would like to know where I live? My home is a burrow, at the end of a long tunnel, perhaps 60 feet or more, that I dig in a riverbank. You probably wonder how I dig a burrow with webbed feet that were designed for swimming? Here again, my Designer thought of everything. When I need to use my feet to dig, I simply retract the webbing into my palms. This uncovers my broad, strong nails, and my hands become claws—just the tool I need for digging.

We platypuses build two kinds of burrows: dwelling burrows and nesting burrows. The entrance can be either above or below the surface of the water. If the entrance is below water, we always burrow up into the river bank—we don’t want water in our houses!

Usually we platypuses are solitary creatures and do not share a burrow, except, perhaps, when I’m off in my nursery burrow caring for my young, another platypus might stay in my nesting burrow. Some people have thought that technically we platypuses should suffocate in our burrows because of insufficient oxygen (we block the door to our nursery burrows to keep out unwanted guests—I think you would do the same). Our babies stay inside the burrow for the first several months, so what about the absence of an oxygen supply? Well, obviously, it isn’t a problem or there wouldn’t be any platypuses around, would there? Scientists guess that we somehow alter the chemistry of our blood so that we can survive on reduced oxygen. Fantastic? That’s what I think. We don’t know how! It’s better to give the credit to our Designer. It is just another example of His wonderful genius!

Mother platypus holds her two babies

Off in the nursery burrow, I lay two soft rubbery shelled eggs that stick together so they don’t roll around in the nest. I hold them close to my body for about 8 days until they hatch. Then I suckle my young on milk that lactates from glands in my skin. My little ones lick the milk off some of my fur. Unique again!

One more interesting feature our Designer has built into us is a defense mechanism for our survival. Our young hatch with a sharp spur on one of their hind legs. This makes them less likely to be lunch for some bigger animal. The females lose that spur within a year. The males retain the spur, which becomes a venom-producing gland that is a defense weapon. The serum can kill a dog, and can cause severe and lingering pain in a human, although you have to seriously provoke one of us to be attacked.

So what do you think? I say we are the unique platypus, far, far from a hoax. Let’s give praise to our wonderful Designer, “the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them” (Acts 14:15).

For our information on the duck-billed platypus, we are indebted to the following sources:

Web Compliation on Duck-Billed Platypus
Melbourne Zoo
Tasmania Parks & Wildlife Service (Page No Longer Available)
University of Tasmania: Faculty of Health Science (Pages No Longer Available)
Creation Studies Institute
Cornell University Course Information (Pages No Longer Available)
Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges
Museum of Hoaxes
Blue Planet Biomes
Zoobooks (photo)