Much has been made of the weird marvel that is the platypus. Let’s get the cliches out of the way. Yes, it looks like someone stuck a duck’s beak and a swan’s feet on a beaver. Yes, it’s such a weird looking thing that a specimen was rejected by the National Institute of Sciencing And Animals And Shit in London. They’d had a few recent and rather embarrassing hoaxes, you see, and they weren’t going to fall for this duckbeaver nonsense.

The platypus is actually an amazing creature. They’re extremely timid, and almost completely silent, so despite existing over a large chunk of inhabited Australia they’re almost never seen in the wild. Their stupid looking beak is actually an ultrasensitive munchies detector, so they can snuffle through the stuff on the the bottom of the river and detect any tasty morsels like worms or small crustaceans.

There are a lot of particularly excellent things about the Platypus. One is that it’s one of only two mammals that lay eggs, an honour it shares with the Echidna. The reaction to this fact in British Naturalist circles was hilarious. They already had a nice set of rules going on, and then along comes this upstart animal whose biology just didn’t fit their plans. Meetings were had, there was shouting and people saying they won’t stand for this. There was a lot of dispute and disbelief but there comes a point where you just can’t fight it anymore. The scientific community had to accept that this was a mammal that just had absolutely no idea how to be a mammal, and the small group called Monotremes was born. One hole. Biologists can be awkwardly direct sometimes.

The other thing that is particularly excellent about the platypus is that it’s venomous. Yes. Really. It’s a venomous mammal that looks like a duckbeaver and lays eggs. Screw you, any concept of rational classification! Only the males are venomous, and it’s largely a mating rights thing rather than defensive or for food. Actually, as their venomous spine is on their back legs, the fact that they don’t use them to hunt for food means we’ve lost some very excellent video opportunities. The spine is most used when fighting other males for breeding, and they have more venom available in breeding season.

But they’re not above having a go at a foolish human who picks them up either. The sting from the spur of a platypus is apparently horrifically painful. It is reportedly not unlike being tased. The embarrassment of having to tell your friends that you were attacked by a duckbeaver is probably nearly as painful.

If a platypus attacks it generally slams its back legs together, trapping an unwary arm or leg and driving its spurs in repeatedly. It can and will just hang there if necessary, and will need to be pried off by the now exceptionally unhappy victim.

Though not strong enough to kill a human, they are able to kill smaller animals such as dogs or cats. The contents of the venom are not all that well known, but it’s not unlike snake venom. Though most snake venom has components that break down flesh and thankfully the platypus doesn’t.

Most stings from platypus occured when it was still legal to hunt them for their fur, so who cares about those guys. Occasionally fishermen accidentally catch them and risk a savage spikening.

There is absolutely no chance of being attacked by a platypus in any other situation. They left long before you knew they were there.

Duck-billed Platypus
Ornithorhyncus anatinus