Are Platypus Marsupials? (And why does it matter?)

are platypus marsupial

I see this question popping up often on the boards, and I can see why the platypus still, in 2020, baffles people the same as it did in 1799 when they first brought its sketch to Europe, but let me first answer the question.

Are Platypus Marsupial?

Platypus are semi-aquatic mammals and therefore are not considered to be marsupial. They are, in fact, the only mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young.

What Is A Platypus?

Platypus is a semi-aquatic egg-laying mammal endemic to eastern Australia, including Tasmania, and it was considered a hoax when the British scientists first looked at it.

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Why did someone sew a duck‘s beak onto the body of a beaver-like animal, John?

Its scientific name is Ornithorhynchus anatinus and is derived from ορνιθόρυγχος (ornithorhynkhos), which literally means “bird snout” in Greek; and anatinus, which means “duck-like” in Latin.

Platypus is its common name because a wood-boring ambrosia beetle already took the scientific name platypus. The early British settlers called it by many names, such as watermole, duckbill, duckmole.

RELATED: Can You Have A Platypus As A Pet? (Should You?)

Males and females become fully grown between ages 12 and 18 months, and they become sexually mature at about age 18 months. They can live for 20 years in the wild, and there have been cases of platypus surviving nearly 23 years in captivity.

What do you think is the plural form platypus? Scientists generally use “platypuses” or simply “platypus.” I’ll use platypus.

Platypus range in length from 38 to 60 cm (15 to 24 inches). Male platypus weighs up to 2.4 kg, and female clock in at up to 1.6 kg.

are platypus marsupial
Just chillin’

“Platypus? I thought it was pronounced platymapus. Has it always been pronounced platypus?”

― Jessica Simpson

Mammals vs Marsupials

A marsupial is a mammal. It is one of the three main types of mammals:

  • Egg-laying Monotremes
  • Marsupials
  • Placental Mammals

Marsupials belong to a group of mammals that includes two basic groups: the American marsupials and the Australian marsupials. Close to 70% are found on the Australian continent and the rest in the Americas, primarily South America.

Well-known marsupials include kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, phalangeriformes, opossums, wombats, and Tasmanian devils.

Marsupials, unlike other mammals, give birth to tiny, underdeveloped babies – who then have to crawl all the way across their mother’s bodies and into her pouch, where they continue to develop.

RELATED: Are Platypus Dangerous?

Let’s talk about mammals a bit because, after all, the platypus is a mammal.

They are one of the six basic animal groups:

  • invertebrates,
  • mammals,
  • birds,
  • amphibians,
  • reptiles and
  • fish

We can find mammals in the sea, in the tropics, in the desert, and even in Antarctica, and there are over 5,000 species. That is not much compared to other animal groups like fish.

All mammals have or had hair at some point in their lives. Yup, even whales had hair when they were embryos.

READ ALSO: 15 Animals That Are Always Hungry

Platypus Lay Eggs

Platypus are one of only two mammals that lay eggs rather than bear live young, but like all mammals, the female platypus nurse their young with milk. A mother typically makes one or two eggs and keeps them warm by holding them between her body and tail.

The Platypus and Echidna are the only mammals that lay eggs, and they are a group of mammals called monotremes.

Where Does The Confusion Come From?

The platypus is not your typical mammal. It has a beak or bill like a duck, lays eggs like a bird, and tail like a beaver. I guess people think that platypus are marsupial because they mostly come from Australia as well. Australia is famous for its marsupials like kangaroos, koalas, or opossums.

Are Platypus Venomous?

Platypus keeps surprising us. Our good old duck-face is indeed venomous! They are one of only a few living mammals that produce venom. Some of the others include insectivores, vampire bats, or slow loris.

Which Platypus Has Poison Claws?

Although people often think that platypus have venomous claws, they actually have venomous spurs. Both males and females have ankle spurs, but only the male platypus have a venom-delivering spur found on the hind limbs. The strong crooked spoor is located on the heels of the rear feet.

How Strong Is Their Venom?

The venom is only strong enough for a platypus to win against another male platypus in a battle over territory or a female. They can paralyze the limbs of the opponent meaning, whoever is still standing strong after a battle is a winner, and the loser can literally crawl back into the water.

What happens if a platypus does stick its spur into you? Well, first of all, don’t go around petting male platypus. I know it might be compelling to pet their duckbill or their fur, but – don’t. If you are unlucky to get stung by one, you might feel nauseated or maybe suffer from cold sweats or even have the muscles wasted away in your stricken body part. You know, nothing an amputation can’t fix (jk).

Related Questions

Do platypus have pouches?

Most people seem to think that platypus have pouches to hold their young like a kangaroo. But, the fact is, that platypuses don’t have pouches. They’re also not marsupials like kangaroos, but mammals.

What type of marsupial is the platypus?

Although people seem to think that platypus are marsupials, they are in fact mammals and aren’t a type of marsupial.

What is a group of platypus called?

A group of platypus are called after their tails – paddle. Although you’d think they use their tail for swimming, they actually use their webbed feet much more.

Why are platypus so weird?

Platypus look so weird because their genes reveal a blend of several vertebrate animal classes that include birds, reptiles, and mammals. Their genes are primitive and haven’t changed in a very long time.

Did you think platypus were marsupials as well, and if so, is this topic a bit more clear for you now?

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Adrian Volenik

I've lived around animals my whole life and I hold a Diploma in Animal Physiology. When I'm not reading or writing about wild animals, health and fitness, and technology, you can find me playing with my son and two cats. My pastimes include running, playing video games, and solving the NY Times crossword.