Episode 151 – Platypus: Defying its Stars

“…and today we’re talking about a creature that looks like it specced into every skill tree. But more on that later.”

In the land down under, there’s dwelleth a strange mammal that looks like an otter that glued a bunch of other animal parts onto its body. The platypus is famous not only for its odd look, but also for its odd behavior. But bills and tails aren’t the only trick the platypus has picked up. It also has some offensive and defensive traits that make it the most interesting animal in the world. But that’s just how you survive in Australia here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.


A platypus has one of the most infamous looks in the animal kingdom. These duck-billed beavers look like a hybrid animal from the world of Avatar the Last Airbender. It is so weird, when Europeans first saw drawings of it in the 18th century, they thought it was a hoax.

  • The platypus has a river mammal’s body like a beaver or otter with thick, dense fur to wick off moisture and glide through the water.
  • Also, like a beaver, they have broad flat tails that aid in swimming.
  • All four of their paws are broad and webbed like a beaver’s back paws.
  • The strangest part may be their bills, which are broad and help them root around on river beds for food.

Measure Up

Welcome to the beloved Measure Up segment. The official listener’s favorite part of the show! The part of the show when we present the animal’s size and dimension in relatable terms through a quiz that’s fun for the whole family. It’s also the part of the show that’s introduced by you when you send in audio of yourself saying, singing, or chittering the words measure up into ldtaxonomy at gmail dot com. We have a new measure up intro this week from Honey Badger, and this time he brought a buddy.


  • Males average 50 cm (20 in)
  • How many Platypuses go into the height of the Parliament House in Canberra, Australia?
  • Hint: The current parliament house has been in use since 1988. Before that the Australian government had decided to build a temporary house to be used for 50 years. It ended up being used for 61 years. 
  • 210.6. The Parliament House is 107 metres (351 feet) tall.


  • 0.7 to 2.4 kg (1 lb 9 oz to 5 lb 5 oz)
  • How many kiwi eggs go into the weight of a platypus? 
  • Hint: Kiwi eggs are the largest proportional to body size for any bird. The egg takes up a huge amount of space in the tiny bird’s body cavity and comes out much larger than a chicken egg.
  • 8 eggs. Kiwi eggs are 300 grams.

Fast Facts about the Platypus

Platypus live in eastern Australia and in Tasmania. They prefer lands with waterways like streams and rivers that support their semi aquatic lifestyle. 

The look of a platypus isn’t where it stops being a strange collection of animal traits. It’s also one of only  four living monotremes, or mammals that lay eggs. Platypuses lay two or three already fertilized eggs at a time. Though they have a bill like a duck, their eggs are soft leathery like a reptile. They incubate inside their mother for 28 days and only incubate outside for about 10. 

When hunting they close their eyes and rely on other senses to locate their target like a jedi. Their broad bill snouts actually have soft sensitive skin on the end that can feel for subtle signs of prey. They eat worms, larvae, shrimp, and crayfish.

Major Fact: Spurred to Action

As we’ve mentioned, and as you probably already know, the platypus, is a weird animal. Despite laying eggs, having a duck bill, webbed feet, mole fur, and a beaver tail, there are a few other tricks it has up its sleeve. 

The first comes down to the infamous cowboy basketball team – the spurs. Male platypuses have little spikes on their hind duck feet that inject a protein-based venom into would-be attackers (most likely rival males). This venom is unique to platypuses and is strong enough to kill small to medium-sized animals. It will also cause excruciating pain in humans–enough to incapacitate. It causes fluid retention in and near the wound and can cause you to become extra sensitive to pain for months afterward.

The second trick Perry has is electrolocation – the ability to use electricity to locate prey. Sharks are famous for having electrolocation, as they can sense the electrical fields generated when a muscle contracts. So flailing or struggling fish pop up on their radar.

The platypus actually has these electroreceptors in their duck bill, and it uses that bill to dig around at the bottom of lakes and streams. It actually closes its eyes, ears, and nose, whenever it’s underwater so it completely relies on electricity to eat – like me since I’m a microwave dinner kinda guy.

On a final note, the platypus will also glow if you shine a blacklight on it, as though it weren’t weird enough.

Ending: So close your eyes, take a dive, and become the greatest-hits album of the animal kingdom like Joe, Steve, Katy, Matthew Perry the Platypus here in LDT.


Thank you to Casy for creating our theme song. To hear more of Casy’s music search Casy Michelle on Youtube

Thank you to Brian for creating the episode art. See more of Brian’s art at xNamaru on Instagram or Twitter.