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Saturday, June 26, 2010

What shall we call it?

I did not want you readers to think that all I think about any more is government waste and budgets, or oil spills, or any of that type of stuff. I am still pondering many, many, of lifes wonders.

A question has been on my mind for a few days of late. It is a question that I have pondered off and on for years.

I know most of you, if not all, have heard of a Baltimore Oriole, a Siamese Cat, a Canadian Goose, and/or a miniature poodle. All these animals have the modifier in their name to distinguish them from others of their type. If I just said "I like that cat.", and you looked over and there were three or four different cats; you might not know I meant the Siamese. You get the picture.

For the life of me, I cannot figure out why we have a duck billed platypus. There are no other platypuses (sic? - platypi?) that are alive today, nor were there when the duck billed platypus was discovered. What are we distinquishing it from? The non-duck billed version? As I said - does not exist.

Platypi (I looked it up, either "es" or "i" can be used - the "i" is much cooler) are, along with the spiny anteaters, the only egg laying mammals. Cool. huh? I learned in biology class that one of the defining features of a mammal was it bears live young. Platypi, ha - they scoffed at that rule.

As you would imagine, the duck billed platypus has a duck-like bill. It has webbed feet, sort of like a duck. It lays eggs like a duck. Why was it not a mammalian duck, or similar when it was named? There is more.

The platypus is not your normal duck, mammal hybrid. No, no, my friend. First, it has a beaver-like tail. This tail is used to store fat to help it through times of limited food, like the winter. It has fur, not feathers. The duck-like feet I mentioned above - actually they are more like an otter.

The females have two ovaries, but only the left one is active. (how about that for an obscure fact?). They are mammals, they have milk-glands - but no teats. The milk is excreted through pores into channels, like troughs where the young drink.

Not cool enough for you yet. Here is the fact I like the most. The male platypus (duck-billed platypus, excuse me) is venomous! They have a hollow spur on their back legs that can be used to inject venom. How awesome is that? Still not a fan?

How about being the only mammal known to use electrolocation? They have sensors that allows them to track prey in the water by sensing their magnetic field. Come on, you gotta be a fan now.

But, I still wonder why we call it a duck-billed platypus when it is THE platypus?

Some questions just cannot be answered.