Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Believe in the Improbable! (part one)


When Duck-billed Platypus was exhibited in England in the 1700s, people thought that He was a fake. Some prankster must have sewn a duck’s beak on a beaver’s body. For ninety years, He confounded biologists. What was Duck-billed Platypus: Bird? Mammal? Reptile? The answer to that question was beyond belief! He and Echidna are the only egg-laying mammals (Monotremes) to have survived from prehistoric times. Today, this playful, aquatic Mammal is a symbol of Australia.

A fossil tooth of a platypus was found in southern Argentina, dating from 61 million years ago. According to paleontologists, Platypuses have been living in Australia for 25 millions years. However, the answers to their survival in modern times remain to be discovered. While people ponder these ancient mysteries, Duck-billed Platypuses continue on as They always have for millions of years, hopeful that They will thrive.

An avid swimmer, Duck-billed Platypus sweeps the gravelly bottom of a slow moving river with his sensitive muzzle looking for Worms. Covered by thousands of sense organs that detect electricity, his rubbery bill acts as an extra pair of eyes. When Duck-billed Platypus dives, He closes his eyes, ears, and nostrils. As He swims along, Duck-billed Platypus fills his cheek pouches with food. When his pouches are full, He surfaces to eat. Since He has no teeth, Duck-bill Platypus grinds his food with gravel.

After mating, Mother Duck-billed Platypus digs her nest at the river’s edge, just above the water’s surface. With her thick nails, She makes her nesting burrow. Mother Duck-billed Platypus lines her burrow with leaves and grass. There She lays two eggs (the size of marbles) and snugly holds Them between her tail and belly. While She incubates her Eggs, Mother Duck-billed Platypus does not leave her nest. In about two weeks, the eggs hatch, and her Puggles (babies) make their way through their mother’s fur to nurse.

Once thought to be a hoax, Duck-billed Platypus proves that improbable things can be true. An effective hunter, He uses his extraordinary rubbery beak to find Worms and Snails at the river’s bottom. With his flexible body, Duck-billed Platypus squeezes through narrow spaces to get to Snails. He demonstrates that even an active imagination can pale when compared to reality

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