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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts about... the platypus, a creature both whimsical and fickle enough to be the mascot of early spring.


CURWOOD: March 21st, aah, the first day of spring. So the promise is for warm days, with a bit of sleet and snow on the side sometimes if we live far enough north. The season is in constant flux, and if it had a mascot it might just be the platypus. This contradictory character, aptly named "the wingless wonder," is as whimsical as the first days of spring. The platypus lays eggs, but it suckles its young; has the bill of a duck but doesn't fly; walks like a reptile, swims like a fish, and has poison glands on its legs like some amphibians. Its classification took more than 85 years, as scientists fought to solve the mystery of its evolution. Some even dismissed the descriptions of the animal as a hoax. But the furry creature does indeed live. Its home is the freshwater of Australia, where it spends most of its life underwater hunting for food. The platypus uses its bill as a microphone to pick up the heartbeat of its prey. Today, scientists study the platypus in efforts to understand evolution, but Mother Nature has already given us the answer with springtime. Sometimes, she's just plain fickle. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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