On matters of life and death (and animals assumed to be hoaxes)
September 26, 2013 7:44 AM   Subscribe

The male 'Duck-billed Platypus' has venomous spurs on its hind legs.

Spurs and venom.

Platypus spurs are normally held in a relaxed position, folded back against the inner ankle. Particularly during the breeding season, a spurring response will be initiated if the male is touched or stroked on its abdomen in the area between the hind legs. The hind feet are rapidly rotated outwards and upwards, pulling each spur erect and locking it into position against the lower limb bones. Both spurs are then jabbed inwards with great force, impaling any object in their path from two directions.

Source

Apparently, you can swim and frolic with a Platypus (presumably female without the venomous spurs)

It's a strange creature:

The unusual appearance of this egg-laying, duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed mammal baffled European naturalists when they first encountered it, with some considering it an elaborate fraud.
posted by panaceanot (41 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Platypus venom is not life-threatening to humans, but can cause severe localised swelling and excruciating pain which gradually abates over a period of a few weeks.

Yikes.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:49 AM on September 26, 2013


Amusingly, the poisonous spurs of the platypus are used as a plot device in the Nutmeg of Consolation - O'Brian used them as a way to get Padeen back on board of the Surprise.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:54 AM on September 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I was confused by this initially because I thought it was being presented as a new discovery and I was all NO STEPHEN MATURIN KNEW THIS YEARS AGO.
posted by elizardbits at 7:58 AM on September 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


Speaking of Platypi and boats, obligatory Platypus Sex!
posted by Infinity_8 at 7:59 AM on September 26, 2013


Venomous spurs, previously, previouslier.

The platypus is the emblem of the Australian Federal Police. Apart from the many virtues of the animal, the name is latinised Greek for flatfoot.
posted by zamboni at 8:00 AM on September 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Platypodes dude... it's not latin, durr. ;]
posted by panaceanot at 8:00 AM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Although platypus are not particularly aggressive animals, great care should be taken whenever picking up either an adult male or an individual of unknown age and sex. In particular, such an animal should NEVER be supported from below. Instead, grasp the animal firmly by the END half of the tail (which cannot be reached by the spurs) before lifting it up and transferring it to a cloth bag, lidded box or other secure container.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:01 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


The More You Know!
posted by jquinby at 8:05 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am unable to find via google any definitive information about the inventor of the animal catch pole/giant net on a stick contraption but I feel quite strongly that they must have been Australian.
posted by elizardbits at 8:07 AM on September 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Apparently, you can swim and frolic with a Platypus



I CAN?



It never occurred to me that I could have a platypus snuggling the side of my head, so I didn't realize how much I wanted that to happen.

Very, very much, for those of you keeping score at home.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:12 AM on September 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


The pain is resistant to morphine and other pain-killing drugs and anaesthesia of the main nerve from the spur site is often the only way to relieve the patient's suffering.
Don't be a dill and piss off a duckbill.
posted by flabdablet at 8:12 AM on September 26, 2013


Man, nature is hilarious.
posted by dry white toast at 8:36 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Where can I eat one in LA?
posted by planetesimal at 8:39 AM on September 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


You can watch some brave Australians demonstrating the correct tail-grasping maneuver here.

A "Wade with the Platypus" experience is offered at Healesville Sanctuary outside Melbourne. I am informed that it is pretty great and yes, female platypuses only.
posted by penguinliz at 8:43 AM on September 26, 2013


brave Australians

When everything in nature on your continent is actively trying to kill you or cause you debilitating pain, this phrase becomes redundant.
posted by OHSnap at 8:46 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]




I bet they're awfully smelly though. Otters are similarly huggable looking but they have a distinct and fishy pong.
posted by elizardbits at 8:48 AM on September 26, 2013


I've been to Healesville, though I didn't wade with the platypuses. I did see them, though, which is more difficult than you might think. They're shy little buggers; that was the fourth zoo/sanctuary we'd been to, but the first time we saw the animals. They are lovely. Tassie Devils are still my favorite, though.
posted by Fnarf at 8:58 AM on September 26, 2013


I like the duck-billed platypus
Because it is anomalous.
I like the way it raises its family
Partly birdly, partly mammaly.
I like its independent attitude.
Let no one call it a duck-billed platitude.


— Ogden Nash
posted by ubiquity at 8:58 AM on September 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


(there is no well-established special term for a baby platypus)

We must get on this lack now.
posted by jeather at 9:09 AM on September 26, 2013


Platypup!
posted by elizardbits at 9:17 AM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Platypodling?
posted by zjacreman at 9:18 AM on September 26, 2013


Yes, but what does one call a group of platypuses (platypi?)
posted by C'est la D.C. at 9:22 AM on September 26, 2013


More venomous mammals! The best Creepy Animal Fact on that page is actually regarding venomous amphibians, though - the salamanders that poke their poison-tipped ribs out through their own skin to jab you.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:29 AM on September 26, 2013


Apparently, because they're mostly solitary, there's no word for a group of platypuses.

The plural, as pointing out above, is, in Greek, platypodes, but I think platypuses is generally accepted. The same holds for octopuses, by the way.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:39 AM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


To help reduce drag in the water, the male’s testes and penis are normally held within the body.
...
males probably court as many females as possible,
...
Particularly during the breeding season, a spurring response will be initiated if the male is touched or stroked on its abdomen in the area between the hind legs. The hind feet are rapidly rotated outwards and upwards, pulling each spur erect and locking it into position against the lower limb bones. Both spurs are then jabbed inwards with great force, impaling any object in their path from two directions.
Heaven help the unfortunate male who mistakes one of his mates for somebody he can actually mate with and approaches at the ready!

In fact, you have to wonder whether they try to lure other males into trying to have sex with them-- and then gotcha!-- to knock the competition out of action for the duration.
posted by jamjam at 9:40 AM on September 26, 2013


While not official, there is an oft-repeated misconception that a baby platypus is called a "puggle". Platypup sounds better.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:03 AM on September 26, 2013


> The plural, as pointing out above, is, in Greek, platypodes, but I think platypuses is generally accepted. The same holds for octopuses, by the way.

As I wrote here about this eternally vexed question, you don't have to know any foreign languages, not even Latin or Greek, to speak English correctly:
If enough people say octopi, that is an English plural, whether the ancient Greeks would approve or not. And the ancient Greek situation is not clear either; as I wrote in this LH thread in response to Justin, who had actually looked into the ancient evidence: "It does sound like your average Greek-in-the-street might not have connected polypous (and by extension oktapous) very closely with pous, podos and might have used oktapoi as a plural (and been slapped down by the Safires of the day). I'll have to revise my whole pattern of thinking about this."
I myself alternate between octopi and octopuses depending on mood and my desire to provoke.
posted by languagehat at 11:00 AM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's not a Greek word. It's from the Greek, but that's not the same thing. For starters, no Greek would ever write "octopus" or "platypus", because Greek uses a different alphabet. It's an English word. It takes an English plural: platypuses, octopuses, just like stadiums, campuses, radiuses.

People who say "campi", for instance, should be beaten around the head and neck with a birch rod.

A puggle is a baby echinda, which is the only other kind of monotreme (egg-laying mammal, though the word refers to their cloaca) in the world, so the confusion is understandable. Puggles are notable because they are by a wide margin the cutest baby animals in the universe, and if you don't believe me, get on that Google Image right away and squee, squee, squee.
posted by Fnarf at 11:29 AM on September 26, 2013


Fnarf: "...if you don't believe me, get on that Google Image right away and squee, squee, squee"

wat
posted by jquinby at 11:34 AM on September 26, 2013


"Do you think God gets stoned? I do....look at a platypus."

-- Robin Williams, 1985
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:35 AM on September 26, 2013


Ctrl-f on platy is not found on this page. I would propose something but I'm not a lexicographer or an Australian.
posted by bukvich at 11:39 AM on September 26, 2013


jquinby, apparently that's an orphaned echidna puggle (if you can trust random redditors).

I like platypup too!
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:49 AM on September 26, 2013


Reddit confuses me, but that's Beau, an orphaned short-beaked echidna puggle at Taronga Zoo in Sydney. The picture was taken from this Zooborns post. Zooborns is a rich source of puggle adorableness; no platypups on the site though.
posted by Fnarf at 12:08 PM on September 26, 2013


I wonder if Richard Jeni had been aware of this fact.
posted by NedKoppel at 1:04 PM on September 26, 2013


Platypus venom ain't no ordinary venom. Like the platypus itself, it seems to have resulted from some kind of insane evolutionary bender. It supposedly results in a kind of severe hyperalgesia, where the body becomes so exquisitely sensitive to stimuli that everything registers as pain. For days.
posted by dephlogisticated at 2:26 PM on September 26, 2013


the body becomes so exquisitely sensitive to stimuli that everything registers as pain

Water this down below the actual causing pain level and add it to lube and you just made a billion dollars.
posted by bystander at 3:25 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


They also have 10 sex chromosomes, despite which fact no one is entirely sure how platypus sex is genetically determined.
posted by deadbilly at 4:04 PM on September 26, 2013


Given that humans can have chromosomal aberrations that tend to make things rather confused gender-wise, with 10 sex chromosomes, plattys will be a source of amusement for genetic scientists for years.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:28 PM on September 26, 2013


Just stopped by to drop this in here:
The Way of the Platypus
There's a Platypus Controlling Me
posted by ElGuapo at 10:01 AM on September 27, 2013


They also have 10 sex chromosomes, ...

That is such a weird system:
Monotremes have long been known to possess a complex male heterogametic system in which multiple X and Y chromosomes form a chain at male meiosis (Bick and Sharman 1975; Murtagh 1977; Wrigley and Graves 1988). Recently, individual X and Y chromosomes were identified by chromosome painting (Rens et al. 2004). The male was discovered to have 10 unpaired chromosomes that included five male-specific Y chromosomes and five X chromosomes; the female possesses two copies of the five Xs. In male meiosis, the 10 sex chromosomes form an alternating XY chain, X1Y1X2Y2X3Y3X4Y4X5Y5 (Grützner et al. 2004), unique in vertebrates (for review, see Grützner et al. 2006). These 10 chromosomes pair and recombine in pseudoautosomal regions at the termini of adjacent X and Y chromosomes.
I gather that in females meiosis does not involve meiotic chains, which might lead a person to think that in the male, all the Y chromosomes were chained together, and all the X chromosomes were chained together separately in order to make sure all the Xs end up in one sperm cell and all the Ys in the other, but that's not what seems to be happening.

I couldn't find a picture or diagram of male meiosis which made it any clearer to me.
posted by jamjam at 1:55 PM on September 27, 2013


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