Ann Moyal: Platypus

The enigmatic Platypus

Peter Menkhorst

 

Platypus
by Ann Moyal
Allen & Unwin, $24.99 pb, 249 pp, 9781741757798

 

When the first specimen of the Platypus reached Europe in 1798, it was received with incredulity by zoologists. With anatomical and morphological characteristics seemingly belonging to reptiles, birds, and mammals, it simply did not fit into the existing classifications. Further, it appeared to lack mammary glands and therefore could not be classed as a mammal, yet it had obvious mammalian characteristics such as fur and a single bone comprising the lower jaw. It was also noted that there was only one external body opening, the cloaca, into which the uteri, the gut, and the kidneys empty. Hence the name Monotreme (having one hole) applied by English anatomist Sir Everard Home in 1802. Put simply, the Platypus created more than its share of headaches for taxonomists.

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Published in February 2011 no. 328
Peter Menkhorst

Peter Menkhorst

Peter Menkhorst is a Melbourne-based zoologist specialising in mammal and bird ecology and conservation, particularly in devising recovery strategies for threatened species, and guiding their implementation. He has published extensively in both scientific and popular literature, including Mammals of Victoria (1995), a definitive book on the subject, and A Field Guide to the Mammals of Australia (2001, now in its third edition). Peter is currently part of a team preparing a new field guide to Australian birds for CSIRO Publishing.

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