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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Plight of the Platypodes

I jokingly e-mailed this GIF to some of my friends and mentioned that I would like to receive a platypus for my birthday. (My birthday isn't for three months. I like to start throwing gift ideas out early.)

Funny Pictures - Platypus on the Prowl Gif

One of my friends, the big goof, wanted to know if it were actually possible to own a platypus. Well, I didn't know, but I do now!
Platypus are wild animals with specialised living requirements. It is illegal for members of the public to keep them in captivity. A platypus which has been accidently captured along a stream or found wandering in an unusual place should never be taken home and treated as a pet, even for a brief time. The animal will not survive the experience.
Only a small number of Australian zoos and universities hold permits to maintain platypus in captivity for legitimate display or research purposes. Current Australian government policy does not allow this species to be taken overseas for any reason.
My dream is dashed. Not only wouldn't they survive in captivity (I'm not sure how well they would adapt to my cats, either,) but they also have some disturbing habits.  Did you know:
  • Every male platypus has a venemous spur on each of his back ankles. This venom is extremely painful to humans and also causes inflammation and swelling (Oxford Reference).
  • The female does not have teats. Instead of suckling, the young lap up milk secreted by skin on the mother's stomach (Oxford Reference).
One more (slightly less) disturbing habit? No one can agree upon a correct plural form of platypus. For example, the Oxford English Dictionary lists four choices: platypuses, platypi, platypusses, and my favorite, platypodes. I don't think I could handle such an "indecisive" mammal. I suppose I'll stick with cats and dogs.

Tom R. Grant "Platypus" The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Ed. David W. Macdonald. Oxford University Press, 2007. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Mississippi Library Commission. 13 April 2011

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