So seemingly incongruous was the appearance of platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) specimens shipped to England at the end of the 18th century, that many observers assumed it was the fraudulent work of a skilled taxidermist. Even after the specimens were found to be authentic, it was sometime before scientists concluded that the ‘amphibious mole’ was in fact a mammal, albeit the most evolutionary distinct mammal alive. The distinctive features that make the platypus so instantly recognisable are its duck-like bill, dense, waterproof fur, webbed feet, and broad, flattened tail. The plush pelage that covers its stream-lined body is deep brown above, and silvery grey to yellow underneath. The limbs are extremely short, with the heavily webbed front-feet providing propulsion through water, while the hind-feet act more like rudders. In male platypuses, the rear ankles are equipped with a horny spur connected by a duct to venom gland, which is used to inflict wounds on natural predators and other males. Although, the characteristic muzzle of the platypus resembles that of a duck, it is actually soft and rubbery, and contains no true teeth.



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