The platypus is a funny little mammal found in Eastern Australia and Tasmania. Aside from echidnas (the also-very-weird Australian spiny anteaters) they are the only living mammals that lay eggs. This bizarro egg-laying, duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-toed, crocodile-bodied assemblage completely bamboozled European naturalists when they stumbled on it back in 1798. It just had to be an elaborate fraud concocted by Chinese taxidermists (who had a reputation for sewing random bits together into mythical beasts). The serious European museum folk spent countless hours digging around with scissors looking for the stitches. In reality, he is the last living descendant of an ancient proto-mammalian reptile. Or a post-reptilian mammal. It’s not always clear, but this funny little nocturnal predator has some crazy-cool strategies that are apparently still working just fine. For instance, he has the baffling habit of folding up his eyes, ears, and nostrils within his skin when he dives. So, how does he find the wiggly little crunchy creatures he likes best down there? How the heck does he know where he’s going? The answer turns out to be truly marvelous, an exquisite combination of braille and electrolocation. Could we emulate the genius of the platypus? Find out more in today’s entry of The Biomimicry Manual !
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