Equipped with adaptations that make him look like a cross between a beaver, an otter and a duck, the duck-billed platypus is well-suited for traveling both on land and in the water. Though the platypus is only located on and around a lone continent, his particularly recognizable features make him easily identifiable in or out of his natural habitat.
The duck-billed platypus calls only one continent home: Australia. Platypuses typically live along the eastern and southeastern coast of the continent, as well as on and around the island Tasmania. As semi-aquatic animals that hunt underwater and benefit from adaptations for an aquatic life, even platypuses that live inland always stay near bodies of water and otherwise wet environments.
Platypuses divide their time between land and water, so they generally dig burrows in the soft, muddy earth near bodies of water like rivers, ponds, lakes and lagoons. Though they may live near the Australian coast, they prefer freshwater environments to the ocean. As the rare mammal that lays eggs, the platypus also uses her burrow as a safe hiding place where she can incubate the eggs for 10 days, at which point they hatch.
Because the platypus lives both on land and in the water, she is adapted for both. For example, the webbing on her feet is retractable -- this makes her an efficient swimmer, but also provides her with claws for navigating wet terrain and digging burrows. Her broad, flat tail also helps her swim, while her nostrils seal themselves to help her hold her breath underwater. She is able to cover her eyes and ears with special skin folds, enabling her to see and hear underwater with her acute senses.
These animals face a variety of dangers in their natural habitat, as they are preyed upon by foxes, dogs, cats, birds, large snakes and eels. However, the male platypus has yet another unique adaptation that allows him to safely navigate his environment. Males have venomous claws on their hind feet, which he uses to scratch at adversaries and infect with toxins similar to snake venom.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.