The Duck Billed Platypus by J. R. S. C.
The Duck-Billed Platypus.
So far as we know at present, the platypus duck-mole, or water-mole, is
the strangest of all animals. Its home is in Australia, but, owing to
the progress of civilisation, it appears likely to die out before long,
for many of its haunts have been disturbed by the advancing white man.
When the first specimens reached England, dried, the creature puzzled
the naturalists, who were almost inclined to think it was not genuine.
The animal is about twenty inches long, covered with thick soft fur,
which is brown on the back, and white below. The curious muzzle is
lengthened and flattened, much resembling the beak of a duck; its edges
are hard, and at the back part of the mouth are four teeth. But it
cannot grasp anything very firmly with the bill, which shows that its
food must be of a soft nature. The feet of the platypus are five-toed
and webbed, being, like the rest of the body, suited for an aquatic
life. Another singular fact is that the animal has a spur on each hind
leg. This spur is connected with a gland, which resembles those of
serpents, and may contain poison. Certainly it appears as if this spur
is a sort of weapon, though the animal is of peaceful habits.
Before sleeping, the platypus curls round to keep itself warm, and
brings the flattened tail over the back. It is very particular about the
fur, which is kept smooth and clean by means of the beak, and is also
brushed with the feet. Much of the animal's time is passed in diving and
swimming, the food being mostly water insects, or such as are to be
found on the banks of streams. The platypus is an excellent digger, and
forms deep burrows or tunnels, the opening being hidden by the herbage
of the bank. At the bottom there is generally a nest, carefully lined by
the animal with grass and leaves. There the young ones are brought up by