It was once believed that the platypus was a practical joke. When the first examples were brought back to Europe from Australia, it was thought that it was actually parts of two animals sewn together as a prank. It looks so utterly alien as a species, with features you would expect from a duck, a beaver and maybe a seal. But not features you would see together. It was unlike anything that had been seen before.
Despite its initial surprise appearance, it turned out that the platypus, or duck billed platypus, was indeed a real animal. Not only are they real but they are fascinating. And baby platypus are incredibly cute. They are tiny, fragile and so unique. They only live in specific regions of one continent, but are a true example of the wonder of evolution left undisturbed for millennia.
Here are some incredible baby platypus facts, as well as some pictures and answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.
6 Incredible Baby Platypus Facts
Baby Platypus Are Called Puggles
It’s a very strange name, but with what sounds like something out of a Harry Potter film, baby platypus are actually called ‘puggles‘.
As they grow, there are no specific terms for male or female platypus but a group of platypus is unofficially known as a ‘paddle‘. It’s believed this collective term comes from the shape of it’s tail. There is no official collective noun for a group of platypus though, as these animals are typically solitary outside of breeding and rearing groups.
Platypus puggles are born and live in ‘burrows‘, which can contain several chambers. Their mothers dig these burrows into the side of riverbanks and ponds and they can be several meters long.
Baby Platypus Develop Electroreception Soon After They Hatch
Platypuses are unique in that they’re the only mammals with electroreception, meaning they can find underwater prey using electrical impulses. This allows them to see and hunt in waters that would be completely dark to other animals.
One study exploring the incredible electroreception of platypus is recorded in the National Library Of Medicine. In order to create an anatomical description of the developing electroreceptive system, a series of platypus developmental stages were observed. At 10 days post hatching putative electroreceptors (composed of modified mucous glands) became visible. So this ability develops early.
The platypus uses this ability to bring food such as insect larvae and freshwater shrimp to the surface. While this ability is otherwise unheard of in mammals, it is present with other marine life, particularly with sharks.
Baby Platypus Can’t Swim
Despite being born in burrows just above the water surface along riverbanks, baby platypus can not swim. It is not until they are fully weaned at around 3 to 4 months that a baby platypus will be able to swim confidently on it’s own. Until that time they remain in their burrow and close by to their parent.
It’s probably a good thing for them, as they are very small at first, and pretty defenceless against any would-be predators.
After the first few weeks, the mother will spend more time away from her young, finding food and spending less time nursing the infants.
Baby Platypus Are Completely Dependant On Their Mothers
The baby platypus is a very vulnerable animal indeed. They are ill equipped to handle the harsh environments of live outside their burrow for the first few months of life. We know they can’t swim, but on to of that they are also furless. They are not ready to handle being in the water, and their beaks are poorly developed at first too.
While adult platypus develop two coats of fur which help them insulate and to stay dry, they are furless as infants. They need their fur to keep their skin dry, to insulate and remain buoyant when in the water.
They also need their mothers milk for survival through the first few weeks and months until they are able to feed themselves. They are rare in this regard, as a mammal that hatches from an egg but also suckles from their mother.
Baby Platypus Lose All Their Teeth
Baby platypus are born with teeth, but lose them all by the time they are ready to leave their nesting burrow to find food. As a baby, the platypus has two premolars and two molars on both sides of the upper jaw and two to three molars on each side of the lower mandible.
As with many other species born in eggs, such as baby crocodiles, baby alligators and even baby turkeys, they also have what is called an egg tooth, which helps them to break through their shell when ready to hatch.
Ancient species of platypus (the extinct species of Obdurodon) show through fossilised remains, that they kept teeth into adulthood, but the modern extant platypus species alive today, lose them all. Why is that?
Some research suggests that the platypus evolved to give up their adult teeth in place of their developed sense of electroreception, to help them find food un dark and murky water. The nerves required for this skill need space and so the teeth were sacrificed in favor of this more useful skill.
Despite loosing all their teeth, the platypus does still enjoy crunchy things like crayfish, but in stead of chewing with teeth, they grind them up using their tough keratinized bills.
Baby Platypus Are One Of Only Two Types Of Mammal Not Born Live
Most mammals give birth to live young, and there are very few exceptions to this. There are only two extant species of mammals, including the platypus that lay eggs rather than giving birth to live young. These types of mammals are called monotremes, and other than the platypus, the only other mammal egg layers are echidnas or spiny anteaters.
Baby Platypus FAQs
What Is The Lifecycle Of A Baby Platypus?
The lifecycle of a baby platypus is fairly typical for a mammal. They are born after a gestation period of between 2 – 4 weeks, and they weigh only around 50 grams. They then incubate for a further 10 days or so.
Baby Platypus are relatively helpless when they are born, and they depend on their parents for care and nourishment. Baby platypuses feed on milk from their mothers, and they typically stay with their parents until they are weaned, and venture out of their burrows around 4 months old. After that, they fend for themselves and start to learn how to live in the wild. By the end of their first year, they will be fully grown.
How Many Baby Platypus Are Born In A Litter?
On average, a mother platypus will lay one or two eggs which she incubates by holding them close to her body heat using her tail. The eggs hatch after around ten days, but the newborns are no bigger than lima beans and completely helpless. Nursing lasts for three to four months until the babies can fend for themselves in water.
How Big Are Baby Platypus?
At birth, a baby platypus is very small, usually less than 3cm in size and around 50 grams in weight. They will become fully grown and sexually mature by 18 months of age.
Depending on the platypus, adult males can be anywhere from 15.7 to 24.8 inches (40 to 63 cm), while females range from 14.5 to 21.6 inches (37 to 54 cm) long-tail included.
In terms of weight, male platypuses typically weigh about 1.7 – 6.6 lbs (0.8-3 kg) while females are recorded at around 1.3 – 3.7 lbs (0.6-1.7 kg)
What Do Baby Platypus Eat?
Baby platypuses eat different things depending on their age. Nursery-aged platypuses eat mostly insects, while juvenile platypuses will also add crayfish, shrimp, and other small fish to their diets. Adult platypuses eat mostly aquatic invertebrates, such as water beetles and dragonflies.
Where Do Baby Platypus Live?
The baby platypus lives in a burrow that the mother digs out in the riverbank. The burrow has two entrances, one at the surface of the water and one underwater. The baby platypus lives in the burrow with its mother and father.
The platypus is native to Easter Australia and can be found along riverbanks in this region.
What Are The Natural Predators Of Baby Platypus?
Non native species of dogs, feral cats and foxes may also hunt platypuses, as well as native threats like dingoes, water rats, snakes and monitor lizards. The baby platypus relies on its camouflage and swift swimming to avoid becoming prey.
Do Baby Platypus Have A Stomach?
The baby platypus doesn’t have a stomach in the traditional sense, and they don’t develop one either. Instead of having a pouch where food collects, its esophagus is directly connected to its intestine.
Are Baby Platypus Venomous?
The platypus is one of the few venomous mammals in the world and its venom is potent enough to kill a dog. There are only six venomous mammals across the entire planet!
The males have a spur on their hind legs that can inject venom, but it’s not clear how potent this venom is. It’s not likely to kill a human, and it isn’t fatal to other platypus, but it could certainly cause pain and discomfort.
Females also have this spur, but they are not venomous and their spur falls off before adulthood. Males use their venom when fighting and competing during mating season.
The effect of the venom is reported as being immediate and very painful, like being stung by a swarm of hornets.