The Amazing Platypus

Posted by on Feb 10, 2011 in Articles | 0 comments

When specimens of the duckbill platypus were first sent to England in the late 1700’s, many English scientists thought it was a fraud.  It plainly didn’t fit well in any of the categories of animals known at that time.  Was it a bird, a reptile, a mammal or a combination of all of these?

The platypus is an extremely interesting creature.  It has fur like a mammal but it lays soft, leathery eggs like a reptile.  Usually 1-3 eggs are laid in a nest built by the mother platypus in a special chamber of a long, sloping burrow dug into a stream bank.  The mother platypus then incubates these eggs by holding them against her body with her tail until they hatch about 10 days after laying.  The young are then fed with milk, but not through teats in the ordinary manner of mammals.  Instead, enlarged milk glands secrete milk directly onto the fur.

Probably the most well-known feature of the platypus is its “duckbill.”  The bill is used to “shovel” into the debris at the bottom of streams and scoop up shellfish, worms, shrimp, and water insects.  The fascinating thing about the bill is that it has a highly sensitive electronic detector which works somewhat like a metal detector and picks up the weak electrical emissions of its prey.  Thus, the platypus is able to forage for its food with its eyes and ears tightly shut, relying instead on this electrical detection device.

In addition to the above characteristics, the platypus has some other very interesting features.  It has a combination of claws for digging and webbed feet for swimming.  The webbing can actually be rolled up into its palms while digging!  Its broad, beaver-like tail is useful not only in incubating eggs, but also in swimming.  The male even has a special poisonous defensive “spur” on its hind leg, with venom similar to that of a snake.

The platypus is truly an odd creature.  Some evolutionists have proposed that it evolved from mammal-like reptiles separately and before other groups of mammals.  However, this would require the evolution of hair and milk-production twice, purely by random mutations (ACCIDENTS!) and natural selection.  Besides that, it is very hard (impossible?) to explain the origin of highly-tuned electronic systems such as the platypus’ bill on the basis of ACCIDENTS!

The platypus gives every evidence of being a specially designed creature, possessing an interesting combination of “stock” parts arranged in a unique way by a creative and intelligent Designer.


By Dave Nutting

Originally published in the May/June 1987 issue of Think and Believe.

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