8 APR 2022

The Paradoxical Platypus

The history and science of this unusual mammal

We travel downunder to meet one of Australia’s most unusual creatures: Ornithorhynchus anatinus, better know as the Platypus. We explore the folklore, tell the history, look at the science of how we came to understand Ornithorhynchus anatinus. Along the way there are epic arguments and a secret WW2 mission, finally we top it off with a rap written and performed by Anton!

Ornithorhynchus anatinus

Few animals have caused such debate as our duckbilled friend, for nearly a century leading scientists across Europe debated exactly what this paradoxical animal was – mammal, lizard, something entirely new? What are the eggs all about, and where are the nipples? And don’t get us started on the penis! The Platypus is one very strange animal indeed.

A strange creature, half bird, half beast

Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle-upon-Tyne

The first images and specimens of the Platypus to reach Europe caused a great stir. Nothing like it had been seen before. Generations of scientists would say they had solved it’s mystery but each would fall claiming false truths.

Of all the Mammalia yet known it seems the most extraordinary in its conformation; exhibiting the perfect resemblance of the beak of a Duck engrafted on the head of a quadruped. I almost doubted the testimony of my own eyes

Dr George Shaw

As debate raged across Europe over whether the creature laid eggs, suckled young, was a mammal the likes of George Bennett would hunt the truth in Australia. Many of the Aboriginal peoples told they laid eggs but this wasn’t enough to appease the curiosity of western scientists.

As well as it’s odd appearance the Platypus is one of very few venomous mammals. The males have a spur on their hind leg they use to puncture and inject the venom. The peculiarities don’t stop there, they also glow under ultraviolet light and their bill is electro-sensitive.

During the height of World War 2 Winston Churchill had an odd request: he wanted a Platypus delivered all the way to London - alive!

It would take months of preparation and planning and a special order from the Australian government (taking live Platypuses from the country was illegal) but did the mission to transport this delicate animal succeed? You’ll have to list to the podcast to find out!

Feature reading


This transcript is automatically generated so may contain errors.

Welcome to the curiosity of a child episode 38.

Don't forget if you enjoy this show, please relate us review us and subscribe wherever you listen.

Now Anton after the last episode, you asked me.

Rather, I asked you what you'd like to cover next and.

You told me, didn't you?

And at the time I thought this is a great idea, and that's a little bit far and a little bit quirky.

And interesting, but.

Wow, I did not realise just how many historic kinds of worms this topic.

Would be opening.

And it's a voracious eater as well.

So I'm done.

What are we talking about this episode?

Ornithorhynchus and nuttiness.

A platypus.

Oh a platypus. OK yeah.

That rhymed very well, not smooth.

Allies raised me who are professionals.

Yeah, that's right. So we've got some science, some history, and some fake law all about the platypus. This episode and we even have a Secret World War 2 mission.

Which I know you're like a World War Two buff now. I think in history few animals probably caused as much controversy as the platypus has. After reading a book on the subject so.

Really yeah, Yep.

Well, such an unusual creature, isn't it?

But I thought.

Shall we begin with the story and any like story at home?

OK, so this tale comes from the Aboriginal Re Warriner people and it's collected by David you Nippon, and it goes like.

This long ago.

The animals, birds and reptiles multiplied save greatly in numbers that the country in which they lived was not large enough to accommodate all of them.

The birds and the koalas, the Kangaroos, and the snakes, and all the creatures gathered together to discuss the problem.

Platypus said Kangaroo is seen numerous that they outnumber the rest of us combined. Just look on either side of this range of mount.

Times platypuses on great numbers to be seen everywhere. The frilled lizard tired with the waiting cooldown. A storm of Thunder and rain and lightning that wrecks the lands and washed away the platypus.

And how dramatic but three years later, his survivor was found.

And no doubt, feeding a pang of guilt. The animals gathered together to help.

But to which tribe did the platypus belong?

The doc is here resemblance in his bill.

The Pelican in our eggs. The lizards 2 they confused could see a link and the mammals thought they were related as well.

Pangu said the platypus could take any animal to be his bride and he chose the bandicoot and hence was related to the Hairy tribe.

Despite all the other animals reminding platypus of his lizard like eggs and duck-billed snout.

And all the.

Other similarities he declined to be with them.

Instead, simply being happy to be platypus and he never forgot the day they called down at the Great Storm that caused him such harm. Which is why he stays, say, hidden away.

So that's a yeah. An old Aboriginal story of where the platypuses come.

From I'm not sure if you will but.

Hopefully Mr listeners have seen at least a picture of a platypus, but they do look like loads of animals.

Measured into one.

They do their right, aren't they? Which I think is why he changed them.

Yes, I don't know how old this story.

Is but a.

Lot of fake tales have a basis in fact.

It may, and there's flood myths from all over the world, so maybe it stretches right back to the last ice.

Age yeah, because when the ice melted.

Who would have lots and lots of water?

Well, maybe it's just telling of a history of flooding in those regions and you know in the last couple of weeks Australia has really been hit by terrible flooding, hasn't it?

Uhm, yeah. So perhaps these fake stories are a reminder of what's happened in the past.

But it's not just people who are being affected by the recent floods, it's the wildlife too.

And I have an audio clip here from ABC News, which I'm going to play. Are you ready?

ABC a platypus has survived floodwaters after a CPR rescue. Mary Valley resident Lady Penelope spotted the little feller in trouble once floodwaters had receded on Queensland's Sunshine Coast hinterland.

And I drive up to to the main bridge into Imbil off the New Valley Rd, and I noticed I actually thought it was a dead baby, dark at first, then realised it was a platypus and it wasn't.

Breathing and I've never been that close to a platypus.

And so that I I just had it, I didn't know what to do, so I before my brain kicked in, I I just instantly started doing those two finger compressions like we're taught to do on babies that aren't breathing sort of coughed, and spluttered and.

Started breathing again, which was just amazing so I just instantly sort of collapsed into the mud with my happy tears and sat there with it until it and yeah, that 10 minutes went past and it sort of looked at me, blinked its little eyes and.

Sort of just.

Very slowly walked back towards the water and.

Actually swam off, it was just.

The most incredible thing.

Oh wow, so once you've given it, its little you know rescue manoeuvre you just stood back and let it kind of recover and move on.

I figured it had.

A pretty traumatic time to be washed up and not breathing, and I didn't want to add to its stress.

But yeah, certainly one of the most joyous things I could have ever been apart of was to see it just get back into the water and swim away.

That is a truly touching story.

It is we will have a link on our website in the show names.

Anyway, back to our episode.

Back to the show.

The year is 1798.

But on a lake near the Hawksbay River north of Sydney in Australia, now Sydney back then, it wasn't the modern city like it is today, have only been founded a decade previous as a penal colony where the British would send there.

Isn't this so? The lands were still very strange, exotic and unexplored, OK?

The Governor of Sydney was mangled John Hunter and he watched as an Aboriginal court, a small amphibious animal of the mole kind.

The creature may have been small, but it was tenacious and it jabbed the spur of its hind leg into its attackers arm. But that wasn't enough to save it.

The platypus is one of only a small number of venomous animals. The males have a spur on their hind legs, which they use in defence and inject a venom that contains more than 50 compounds.

Yeah, we've got a photo which are having the show notes and.

The length it's about the width for finger, isn't it?

It looks weird. It's like just perched on the end of the.

Foot, yeah, it's odd. It's it's like a backwards facing to.

Yeah, so you can see that being very painful. Yeah, actually it's reported to be very painful.

Second giant thorn.

It is, yeah, but there hasn't actually been any deaths or there's no known deaths.

And I believe here you've got a.

Report from 1818.

I'm not sure the Australian accent would have developed, yeah?

All right, I'll just do my regular voice.

I woon did well with a small shot and on my overseers taking it out of the water stuck its spur into the palm and back of his right hand with such force and retained them in which such strength that they could not be withdrawn and how it was killed. The hand instantly swallowed her prodigious bulk.

And the inflammation having rapidly extending to the shoulder, he was in a few minutes threatened with lockjaw and exhibited all the symptoms of a person bitten by a venomous snake.

He was obliged to keep his bed for several days. I did not recover to perfect use of his hand for 9 weeks.

Yeah, so a strong reaction isn't.

It nasty.

Yeah, very nasty, so I think we're probably safe in Guernsey from Paris. Is is you don't want lockjaw in your podcast.

So he cures with his discovery under heavy animal skin, placing a keg of spirits and sent halfway around the world to the literary and philosophical Society of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Now, once in England the keg is being carried into these societies, officers by a lady, but unfortunately it split when she's carrying it and she got actually covered in this in.

The liquid inside.


Well, just been horrible we since had this dead animal, and God knows what else.

But falling to the floor near her feet was.

A strange creature. Half Bird, half beast.

The shock of the platypus had reached Europe.

The purpose would receive wider attention when Thomas Barwick included it in the 4th edition of his general history of quadrupeds in 1800, in which he wrote. It seems to be an animal of its own kind.

It appears to possess a threefold nature, that of a fish, a bird and a quadruped, and is related to.

Nothing. We have a Heather I seen.

So he's already confused, isn't he? What could this be? And we have an image in the show notes of a woodcott, so this would have been the first time many people would actually come across the database, and I think it looks a bit like a a plushie.

That now straight looks a little bit chubby.

And it's the.

Way the legs kind of stick out to the side.

And amphibious animal.

So more pickled platypuses were sent to Europe, including one do Doctor George Shaw, who was the assistant Keeper of Natural History at the British Museum, who names the creature?

Platypus and nuttiness.

A platypus comes from Greek, and it means flat footed and from Latin, Amiga and madness, meaning doc like so flat footed.

Doc like creature.

But the names changed hasn't.

It Yeah, Patterson is already taken for a species of insect.

Flat footed, flat footed insects. That's nice.

Yeah, yeah, I think of the type of beetle so they couldn't use that again. Interestingly, that name is still in common use, isn't it? But sure, he did question the authenticity.

Persisting that it might be a hoax.

Because there was a well known trade at the time of peculiar taxidermic creations being brought back by sailors from the east.

So did they think it was like half like somebody had taken a a fish and a duck or something and soon it together?

Of all them, Amelia yet known, it seems the most extraordinary in its confirmation, exhibiting the perfect resemblance of the beak of a dock in grafted on the head of a concrete pad, I almost doubted the destiny of my own eyes.

Now another pass Briskin was delivered to Johann Wombok, a German scientist, and he was an important figure in the advancement of zoology and anthropology, and he rates. Do you want to try this one as your German accent?

It needs not tell you how exceedingly I must be surprised by the view of so stranger creature as the owner.

Folding clothes paradox us for being under the necessity of christening it. I thought this a convenient name.

Yeah, so there we.

Go, that's the rest of the naming puzzle.

For you, because he didn't know that it's already been named by Doctor George Shaw. So one of the ringus means bird like beak. Then paradoxes comes from its odd shape and.

Characteristics so to.

But that changes again. It's like linking the two together.

Exactly, yeah, so there's. There's named by both names, which is.

Monitoring is a madness.

Yes, but he seem.

To have a little practise saying for some reason.

I wonder why?

Yeah, very odd.

There's an early picture there which hopefully I can put.

In the stream notes, that looks cool.

Oh, that's very webbed feet.

But it's only it's only the front.

Ones, yeah, the front ones are more.

Webbed it's a really unusual animal.

But they've been around for.

Quite a long time as well.

They have 166 million years I.

Think so last before that. Some of the dinosaurs died, isn't it?

So now that scientists knew about this creature and had given it a name, they had to work exactly where it fitted with the rest of nature. Was it a mammal, a reptile, or something entirely new?

When the first people who properly studied the anatomy was Everard home, he wrote a series of papers from 1800 to 18.

02 he learned that the beak wasn't part of the mouth, but was in fact an organ for exploring the dark, murky waters where the animal fed.

Today we know a.

Lot more about the bill and.

That it isn't sewed on.

It's not hard like a beak, but soft and covered in tiny hairs. Yeah, that enable it to detect tiny electric fields given off by its prey of worms and shrimps, which it can find even in cloudy waters. When diving it can close its eyes and ears and still scavenge.

Yeah, so it picks up the tiny electrical signals being sent and they did some tests where they put them in tanks and then they would drop a shrimp or something into it and it could be 1015 centimetres away and they would still.

Be able to find it. That's cool, yeah?

Yeah, I like how they can close their ears as well.

They're not fully formed. Is there more than little holes? And it's a whole kind of little flap of skin that could.

Cases over them.

It's actually got a simpler, more primitive brain structure than most mammals. It's got smooth surface, rather funny, wrinkly surface that we have in our brains.

That's cool, but it's Siebel Cortex, still very well developed, and that's probably due to how sensitive and its builders and kind of all the sensors.

It has.

There the early studies.

That were performed by these scientists must have been on really poorly preserved specimens.

They were basically pickled in barrels for several months on the voyage, halfway around the world that actually shows a remarkable understanding that and anything could be ascertained.

From them

But there's lack of on the ground research and observation in Australia itself is going to be a very long running problem. So whenever I dissected the platypuses, he saw their reproductive organs.

They're not loads of mammals, but rather appeared a very, very vividly press.

Are you sorry? I can't say no. The Paris.

I've over viktoras.

It close enough.

So what does a V for rippers mean?

I'm not sure.

That it it some. When a animal or Organism it forms the eggs actually inside their body, but it doesn't lay them and instead they develop fully and hatch inside the mother's body, but still winner like an egg. So unlike a human. So think of it like a chicken that doesn't lay outside.

Today we know that the Peppers does lay eggs, but for a long time this was not thought to.

Be the case.

And would be the course of decades worth of arguments.

However, when asked, many of the aboriginals they told colonists that yes they did lay eggs. But scientists back home in Europe thought this was a preposterous idea.

And mammal that.

Lays eggs, kill these natives. Don't understand what they are saying.

Yeah, even though they admitted that they had no idea what's before their eyes.

Well, yeah.

Exactly, yeah.

And another odd thing about this is that they don't have any ******* so have the young suckle.

Until scared to ask.

Thank you.

Uhm, but through his dissections ever at home also discovered that they only have 1 hole down below, they are monotremes OK, and the male urinates from enabling at the base of his penis.

So a little bit different to you, I think.

Oh the base. Oh whoa.

Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah.

These characteristics distinguish the ornithorhynchus in a very remarkable way for all the other quadrupeds giving this new tribe a resemblance in some respect to birds in authors to the amfibia, so that it may be considered as an intermediate link between the classes are familiar.

So we're starting to see. OK, this could be a link between different things.

He's up until now many leading scientists had seen all animals in a linear hierarchy with humans at the top and the lesser beasts below for mammals, descending lower down to birds and lizards and things OK, and the platypus.

Thank you.

They could kind of fit it in.

This order it was a mammal like creature with some features from a lizard. It was audible, it worked.

But since then our understanding is coming very long way and we now view life as a large tree of species, branching off and involving different characteristics.

Don't we, the monotremes of which the platypus is only one of five surviving species, are called monotreme matter.

And approximately 166 million years ago they split off from the early lizardlike proto mammals, and there's they'd relatively unchanged compared to most other mammals ever since, so even there.

That is very long time ago.

It is, isn't it, yeah.

So he would be walking the earth around.

Then the dinosaurs.

Yeah, yeah, I mentioned that earlier tonight.

Crazy, isn't it, huh?

And even their brain structure and their gait is quite similar to a lizard with their.

Legs out by the side.

Are snakes, monotremes?

No, they would have split off from the sauropods all the way back here 350.

1,000,000 years.

Ago and then that went off to birds and snakes and lizards and things.

Now there's an amazing fossil which is 110 million years old. That's old. Yeah, it's very old, older than Granny.

Yeah, and it's from a ancient, larger relative of the modern platypus.

And part of it is actually April, making it the Amy transparent fossil discovered and there's a picture which up in the show notes which showed the jawbone.

Whoa, how big would that be?

I'm going to say using my Knowledge 7 to 8 centimetres.

I've got no.

Idea it was bigger than the modern, prosperous state, which is Amy, what?

30 centimetres big.

In 1800, Napoleon ordered a scientific and political mission to New Holland. As Australia was then known.

The venture had 23 scientists, zoologists, botanists, minimalists, natural artists, and every other type of yeast you can think of.

Despite being at war with England on the other side of the world, the French wouldn't trade friendly hospitality from the British at Port Jackson, and they would spend time together. His defence would even invite the British onto their vessels for have a chat.

But weren't the French ships very dirty compared to?

British ships

You just read my.

Mind I don't know if they still were there, yeah, but there are stories of yeah, French ships being very stinky compared to the British ones, so perhaps they were.

Sadly, however, only five of the scientists and artists would return to France. The rest died from disease and other dangers. During the longer expedition.

That's from was it 23 wasn't it? Yeah, I mean that's not a very good survival rate.

Very suspicious systems.

Yeah, maybe it wasn't so friendly with.

The British oh.

Yeah, he reported that it was friendly.

They did however, return to France with over 100,000 preserved animals, including two and a.

Half thousand new.

Species that's a.

Lot how long were they there for?

Within a few months.

I think yeah.

Still a lot.

They took with them a nudge rate of live animals, including emus, Kangaroos and wombats.

And there during rough weather on their journey back, they would be putting the cabins to keep them safe so the officers had to be outside on the deck.

Bearing the elements.

Could you imagine that journey though?

A kangaroo hopping around on this scallion.

Still alive.

Yeah yeah life yeah Oh yeah.

No, we're not over 100,000.

It's not like all right? Yeah, I thought they were like just most of them were missing and wife already preserved somethings of them, but it really is her living ones.

Yeah, it's it's in live animals back, George curvier. He excitedly proclaimed we have made known more nude beaches than other travelling medalists of recent times put together.

If French area was better.

Well, I struggle with French, you're the one studying at school.

Francois Peron, he was a nutless aboard the voyage. He waited the startling findings, the science of New Holland defines our conclusions from any comparisons among cells studies and shakes them to their foundations most firmly.

So you're saying, yeah, they're what they've discovered there rocking everything they already know the creatures that they were finding were different to established ideas.

Fortunately parent he died aged only 35, described as an old man. The rigours of the voyage to take in there too.

For him and for all their hard work and the loss of life, much of the information they had actually gathered wasn't made available for.

A long time.

I think it's still just left locked up in when they museums, which.

Really sad, I think they've gone.

Through, but I guess a lot that probably came down to the political and Western France at the time.

Now, do you remember that I said that the platypus lacks ******* I mean, how could you forget that?

And this was going to cause a problem, and even more arguments so.

Why are mammals called mammals?

Because they have money or am I?

And what they?

Owe glands are the milk glands, things they like. Create the milk. I remember learning that in science, actually.

Yes, yeah.

Well done yes. And they got *******

Generally, and even all smiles of ******* for some unknown reason.

The French naturalist Jean Baptiste Lamarck, who had some early ideas in evolution. He didn't know where to place platypuses or kidneys in the tree of life, so he actually made a new class for them to sit in.

Because to him they were not mammals as they had no mammary glands. Not a reptile, as the heart was wrong or not. A bird as they don't have wings.

So he stopped them in their whole new order.

In 1824, the German comparative anatomist Uhan Michael, and out that he had discovered mammary glands but no nibbles.

But they were very primitive, but not everyone was agreeing with his findings, including every radhames who up until now. Here being the leading figure.

And he said that the German had.

The imagination of a mind prepossessed with the existence of mamei. After examining three more bodies himself, he still couldn't find any evidence.

But homes was beginning to think that they may actually in fact lay eggs, and this is backed up by the reports starting to return from Australia how everything still pretty vague at the time.

And there are lots of conflicting.

Ideas game.

Round but French biologist George Curvier he had the correct idea and he said what was required. Was it trained?

Anatomist to describe exactly these eggs, their origin within the body, and their development. After being deposited outside the body.

And that the debates could only be.

Settled by those who observe a living animal.

Which is right, isn't it?

I mean, if you're trying to do science, it makes sense to actually.

Go and look at.

What it is that you're trying to study? So enter Richard Irwin. Good first name.

At only 24 years of age, he was ready to get to the bottom of the mysteries of this most paradoxical creature. Initially, he supported him in his belief that there were no mummy.

I see what it is because.

It's like mummy.

And usually the females have like the *******

The working ones. Yeah, yeah.

Yep, the functional ones and it's mummy.

Yeah, I see where where it happened.

OK yeah, very good.

As I'm saying initially.

Aaron supported him in his belief, but this changed in 1831 when new tenant Mortdale Moon he was stationed in Australia rate to the Zoological Society of London.

During the spring of 1831, being detached in the interior of New South Wales, I was at some pains to discover the truths of the generally accepted belief, namely that the female platypus lays eggs and suckles its young.

Yeah, so he's on the right idea there isn't he what he's had, so he uncovered a nest with a female and two young which he tried to keep alive, but he fired up his task, but he did observe that.

Milk oozed through the fur.

On her stomach.

Yeah, so he saw milk and this body was sent to Richard Owen and his examinations of it and several other platypuses confirmed that they do produce milk but have ******* Should around service system. Liver was here.

I mean, you always have been.

Wow, they the truth is coming out this episode.

Now over the next decade, Yronwood become the leading figure of authority, demonstrating that they do produce milk and rebuffed any claims to the country. But the question of their reproduction egg laying still needed to be fully answered.

And there had been reports from colonists in Australia such as Sir John Jameson in 1816 saying that the female is a vigorous. So that's egg laying.

And also in 1821, naval surgeon Patrick Hill sent a report to Oxford University that the Aboriginal elders knew that they laid eggs.

So again, maybe we should listen to the people who've been living with them for this all this time.

Yes, all the Kangaroos.

It is a fact well known to them that they lay 2 eggs about the size, shape and colour of those of a hen.

So they're like actual eggs, not like.

Little almost frogspawn eggs.

Aaron had made friends with the adventurous George Bennett when they studied together in the 1820s. Now not content with life.

I am Bennett liked travel and soon he was in Australia. Perfect for Owen who had a man on the ground and he greatly assisted Owen in his studies and rise to prominence. Bennett himself. He was an aspiring natural.

And no intellectual slouch. And he understood the importance of observation and said of the European based thinkers. The majority preferred forming theories of their own and arguing over their plausibility to devoting a few leisure days to their collection of facts by which the question might be set to rest forever.

It would take more than a few leisure deeds to discover all there is to know about Ornithorhynchus anatinus.

They're very shy creatures and surprisingly good diggers, creating long barriers and riverbanks where they may spend 17 hours a day when nursing young.

They'll plug the.

Ends in making them really hard to spot the entrances can even be made underwater. The barriers can reach 16 metres longer.

Twists and turns along their path.

Pretty impressive work for an aquatic animal, less than 30 centimetres big, as well as living underground. They also spend a lot of time in the water where they can quickly duck and hide if disturbed.

See what I did there? Dark ducks bill.

Very good yeah amazing they got these really big nuts but.

You wouldn't think of it.

He mentioned their front feet earlier.

How did he dig?

During the 1830s, Bennett would capture many platypuses, digging up their bodies at different times a year in their attempt to try and understand their reproductive nature.

He even attempted to tame some, hoping to take them to England, but was unable to keep him alive in captivity for very long.

And he was also surprised by just how much they ate pizza. Single platypus would eat what he thought would.

Feed 5 minute.

However, here's a busy man, and he had soon had tasks of his own, so Aaron had to turn to others to aid in his research, and he requested that more ornithorhynchus should be shot and pickled for his study.

Saying 100 would not be too many, a whole should be cut in the belly and spirit training and then she should be placed in spirits bodily.

If it takes 2/3 or more filled with specimens, the spirit should be changed once or twice before they are finally packed off or as specimens. They were slow and hard to come by.

And Owen's belief that the platypus hatches eggs internally only grew stronger with time. And in the 1860s is becoming more and more dismissive of any suggestions to the contrary.

But he's requesting a lot, isn't he's saying I need hundreds of these dead animals?

We sent to me, yeah.

But you can see it's quite interesting change their, which as a young man he's very much for finding actual evidence in questioning their perceived ideas. But with age he's beginning to stagnate, wasn't he?

And that's why it's important that people understand the scientific process and that it's a continual progression of knowledge and understanding, questioning, challenging testing, reaffirming, and replacing of ideas.

Scientists should transcend beliefs and because it's meant to be built on a foundation of inquiry and change, isn't it?

As you need to remember the background, all of these debates was the very underpinnings of the organisation of nature and these odd Aussie animals had really thrown a spanner.

In the works.

So the accepted beliefs and Christian belief was a large part of it here was in creationism and the unique ordering of life being from the mind of 1 creator being yeah.

So the confounding facts for platypus a kid. Now marsupials, and more were beginning to make people think differently about the origins and development of life.

Say they also piqued the.

Interest of a certain Charles Darwin.

And I imagine you've.

Heard of yes.

And he recounted.

In the evening we went with a gun in pursuit of Platypi and actually killed one. I consider a great feat to be in at the death of a so wonderful an animal.

Quite odd, we're thinking today, isn't it?

Is he obviously?

Had a massive love of animal.

Rose in nature.

And ah, fantastic. I saw one shot.

He also wrote.

I have been lying on a sunny bank and reflecting on the strange character that the animals of the country and as compared to the rest of the world a disbeliever and everything beyond his own reason might exclaimed, surely 2 distinct creators must have been at work.

Yes, if I had no say different thinking, how could the God have made all the animals in Europe also have made these in Australia?

It's almost like they, if there were two creators they were like working together on this one, 'cause the platypus is so so different that like Bob did. 1/2 Joe did the other half or.

Something it's a great collaboration.

That's all, and with the UM.

Front, having the bill. Actually the front is probably more like a duck because it's got the webbed feet mostly at the front and not so much of the back. And then at the back it's like A and I.

And also or something.

Yeah, not sure beavertails something. Yeah the platypus. It appeared to be an ancient link between lizard or mammal.

In freshwater, we find some of the most anomalous forms now known to in the world. The honour for Rinkus, which like fossils connect to a certain extent, orders now widely separated in the natural scale. These anomalous forms may almost be called living fossils they have endured.

To the present day, from having inherited a confined area and thus being exposed to less severe competition, except from the the wise Lizard Thunder.

At this old lizard, yes.

Unfortunately for Aaron, he found himself stuck more with his belief of his theories and the evidence that he was being given, and the younger generation of scientists many excited by the writings of Darwin, didn't see him in a good light.

Aaron is based, feared, and hated wrote SW McLean in 1851. It is astonishing with what intense feelings Owen is regarded by the majority of his contemporaries. So even from a bit of a hero to the Virgin Mary.

So just like we needed a young Richard Owens and 50 years earlier, we now needed a young anti heroine.

I will Jessie happened to get one in the Scottish embryologist by the name of William Cardwell. He arrived in Australia in 1883 and he was well equipped to finally solve this mystery.

Now Ben Epps remember Owen's friend. He would later write to Aaron that he had no way to compete as he was only an amateur and he simply didn't have the resources of these young professional scientists. So there's been a real change here from the gentleman scientist to a much more professional discipline.

Oh, I just spotted a cat in the.

Outside of the lab.

Hello yeah, this is Kirstie kitten.

Curiosity love.

Well, it could be a good T shirt and a nice keep castle on it.

I could actually know we've got a merchandise store I.

Believe haven't we? Yes, shopped at the Curious David Charge.

Dot com I think that's it.

Anyway, if you wanted to determine if platypuses lay eggs or not, what would you do? How do you solve that?

Watch them.

Watch them very good.

Although that that's hard 'cause they're shy.

Shy yes.

Cardwell had a different idea.

He just killed lots of them.

Because that's how they did things back then, assisted by a team of 50 Aborigines he dug up as many deaths as he could, and he told George Bennett that he had killed over 70 females in one area and would be the same down another river. So to our modern eyes, these methods seem very crude.

Don't they?

It's as if the quest for knowledge.

Comes at the expense for things actually studying.

But only one year into his mission on the 24th of August 1884, he managed to shoot a platypus in the process of.

Laying eggs.

Oh how lucky.

Yay, we've done it, haven't we?

When he had arrived in Australia, Cardwell, he'd actually believed that they give birth to live young, but seeing the evidence before his eyes, he had solved the 90 year old mystery.

Forgetting that the Aboriginals have been telling us.

This for years.

90 years, so it's quite a long time.

It is, isn't it?

But Kardo, he did acknowledge the Aboriginal people.

Without the services of these people have had little chance of success.

I can't do accents.


Well, at the start of the episode I said there was a Secret World War 2 mission, didn't I?

But World War Two is over 50 years away, so shall we leap forward in time.

They're making darts from the like.

Thorn feet of the males.

They're weaponizing patapie.

Oh yeah, no.

Oh yeah, no.

So by the mid 1900s we got much better at keeping platypuses alive in captivity, and the leading expert was a chap called David Flea. What's his name as the platypus man?

Dun Dun Dun.

He would successfully breed the first purposes in captivity.

Oh, I thought he looked like a platypus or something.

No, no, he was just the best part of us keep over. So he he had a pet.

Sorry, which is an artificial habitat which mimics their natural environment.

That's nice, might use that in the third verse of something.

Yeah, however, in the March of 1943, as war raised across the Globe, Flea was approached by two officials from the Commonwealth Department of Health hang orders from no less than Winston Churchill himself.

Which must be kept hush hush.

Churchill had cabled Australian Prime Minister John Curtin with an odd request. He wanted no less than six live platypuses to be sent to the United Kingdom.

Is it platypuses or platypi?

You can use.

It either the book I read, said platypuses.

I quite like the sound of platypi anymore.

So do I. But yeah, I was. I was using this book as my authorative source.


Yes, safely. He said that the request was the.

Shock of a lifetime.

You sound like a Scouser.

If I understood this so badly.

Right kangaroo koala shock of a lifetime.

And he never knew exactly why Churchill made this peculiar request. No living platypuses ever reached Europe before safely had a tricky task ahead.

And he refused to send six of his beloved animals, and those dead cohort and selected only one platypus to make this voyage by sea. And guess what they chose to cool this monotreme?

Yeah, Winston.

After the big man himself.

Looks like a hat on him.

Or something he should only answer guard his mouth.

I was always drunk.

The precious passenger would require careful attention during the long voyage. Safely set about training, a special crew member, it would act as the platypus keeper and also build a.

Uh, bespoke battery which would be on the ship and will protect it from the buffeting and swaying of the vessel in the waves.

By May Churchill was getting impatient and urged the Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs to hurry things along during a meeting in Washington. It's obviously an important meeting, probably with Roosevelt and about what's going on.

In the war.

But now Churchill. Instead, he made sure that his head round was.

Sent it said.

Kangaroo Koala Church route Washington. Most anxious that the catapult should leave immediately. What is present situation?

Poop, poop, poop, poop, poop, poop, poop.

But churchy, we'd have to wait until September for the platypus to actually depart aboard the ship. Port Phillip with enough.

Earthworms, crayfish, mealworms and freshwater have refuelled Winston on a.

Complete round the.

World voyage and he sailed the Pacific and then up through the Panama Canal, then into the Atlantic Ocean. So what sort of dangers would be finding the lantic during World War Two?

Yeah U boats.

Yeah, Germany boats say do you think they will make it?

The platypus is going to save the day.


Or that, no, the platypus is going to swim.

OK, let's find out, shall we? So here they are in the Atlantic, and Winston is still in good shape, and they're just four days from England.

Churchill was preparing the Royal geological desire to receive a special operative from Australia.

I'm scared because you're keeping the next bit very hidden.

I know I'm keeping it very dramatic here.

The ship Sanor picked up a German U-boat. Sailors has charged the depth charges into the ocean.

Splashing into the ocean, they sunk under the waves, sinking towards the enemy, submarine, and exploded.

Could explain them.

But our delicate platypus, with a sensitive bill, was killed by the.

Shock Oh no.

Did reach his namesake?

As he was stuffed and had pride of place on Churchill's desk.

Oh that's nice. Oh, I'm just imagining, like his Winston Churchill, his name tag and then. But in front of the stuff pacifists, as Winston, uh Winston Churchill.

So right now, admission wasn't it. So why do you think church?

I might have requested that I have no idea.

Just to say if it dies I.

Don't know, do you think it was almost like a?

We have the British Empire. We can still do this. Despite wartime. We can bring the sensitive animal all the way round around or something. Just a air show of power.

I don't know.

Do you not know? Did you see it anywhere?

No, I didn't. I people don't know why he why he did it. It's very odd.

Oh, that's weird.

It's just hard in this.

Animal oh I.

Know what it was he accidentally wrote like.

Australian instead of American and platypus. Instead of like something else. And it was meant to be like a.

Sherman tanks

Text yeah, I don't know.

Oh Pershing, or something, yeah?

Uhm, so just like Winston Churchill was very curious about platypuses and there's the store then continues to this day.

Yes it does. And 2020 scientists discovered they glow under ultraviolet light. Paula Aneke said.

Was a little flabbergasted to see the platypus is bio fluorescent. No one knows why they glow, but it might help them hide from predators. That's what it was Winston knew.

It was like.

Then so secret super weapon. Yeah, I'm sure Paul is going to love.

That's that's why.

Your impression out there?

Sorry, so there's a picture here which we'll have in the show notes which shows them glowing different colours under different types of light.

It says.

Yeah, it's a dead one mate. There's been thousands killed with this episode. Elaine. Yeah and virtually look like they blame more on the underside.

So I think that might be if they're swimming on the surface of the water, it might camouflage them.

Competitors belay, which I'm looking up and then against the UV lights in the sky.

Yeah, maybe, but there's probably actually, but they'd go like down to the.

River batch.

Feeding yeah yeah.

Yeah, the platypus has also had its DNA sequenced and uncovered the complex sex chromosomes and showed the links to birds and reptiles, which those early scientists are starting to understand themselves. It's pretty impressive, I think, even though they had to kill about a trillion to do it.

And also that monotremes are the most distant living relative to what's called the basal animal that marked the split of mammals and reptiles.

Have a million million years ago, I said earlier.

I'm not.


That was a later split of mammals. Then there was the reptile one. I'd like 203 million years ago something.

Well, still a long time.

Ago a long time ago, yeah.

That's awesome, their long long survival and evolution has made them tough. The human immune system has 15 natural killer receptor genes, the platypus.


They are tough despite their size.

So you yeah this on their venom it could have great medical and anti microbial benefits and just only further understanding of life on Earth.

So the platypus has taught us many things about nature and still does to this day. It's odd appearance and quirky genes and evolution make it unique among animals.

Something extra special that reveals the incredible diversity of life and nature. The long running arguments that were really touched on today remind us to keep questioning. Keep reevaluating.

What we know what we believe we know. They tell us to seek evidence and proof.

To be keen observers and not let our egos cloud our understanding.

As new generations made new discoveries that were placed or surpassed the old, they showed how science does work does find the answers. Even in a creature that has changed sailor to win 100,000,000 years.

And if you want to know more about the discoveries the people in the history or there's amazing animal cheque out. Platypus Beiarn Moyle and we have a link to that in the show notes at.

The QFC for.


A book that is the yeah just checking. I always like when you sum everything up 'cause you could get this unexpected.

Thing from like a platypus, for example. Not thinking like that.

Thank you I I try and bring it all together at the end and speaking at the end I think that's a wrap.

Well, that most certainly was a rat.

That was a hell.

Of a wrap well done. Thank you very much. I hope you enjoyed this episode on the Platypus and learned lots of things and realised yeah well obtrude is.

I was not expecting so much.

Material material facts I just said, like you asked me what should we do next episode? I was just like.

Campus I was just thinking about that at the.

Time, yeah, I wasn't expecting all that history and the arguments and things there, but it was interesting to read about and learn about.

Anyway, we are on social media, aren't we?

Yep, at Curi Child pod and that's what on Twitter, Instagram.

Facebook everywhere just search for the tourist overcharge and you'll find us or just have a job podcast. We also have merchandise that you.

Mentioned earlier oh Yup, you could get awesome hoodies or we're actually wearing T shirts now.

Oh yeah, I need these.

As well, we've got a nice.

Yeah, we've got a nice little baby onesie sort of thing saying.

Why you have to find out shots?

You have to find out it's beautiful, why?


That's right, yeah, I gave to you, Christy. Over child.com. So you see all our episodes and show notes and please take a moment to review us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you're listening oil. If I'm podchaser at the moment, every review that they receive for any podcast.

Particulars and then they will donate some money to charity during the month of April. So please go and do that.

All right, I'd also.

I have got a YouTube channel. Yeah I do lots of fun gaming, mostly Minecraft and and at time of recording I've got about.

You do, don't you? Yes.

150 something subscribers. Oh Yep.

And my most.

Viewed video at the moment.

Over 5000 views. Yeah, it's pretty good, yeah?

Yeah, over 5000, which is awesome. I was not expecting it to get that big.

Yeah, you see more enthusiastic, but on my past podcast.

Uhm, I mean, I wrote a whole rap for you. You can't say anything.

He did sorry actually yeah I take those words back complete sorry.

Speaking of podcasts and everything, we are part of the that's not Canon network and we'd like to promote another show from them so we have one here the trainer.

But before that, sorry, I think we're going to say goodbye.


Oops, I thought wrong.

Yeah, so we have another trader here for the what's it called.

The ancient and esoteric order of the jackalope.

I like the sound of.

That I think our episodes always fits into that as well with the mystery, isn't it?

Yeah, as what to say seems quite fitting.

Yeah yeah, I I give it a.

Hi Sandra.

Listen, I said I did listen to cup I have.

To say is always doing.

It's good, yeah. Anyway, thank you very much for listening. I hope you enjoyed this and I need to get Anton to think of another episode topic.

Ah, I might even write another route, which is a bit scary, so we'll see no promises this time, no promises.

It will pressure him into doing it.

And it depends what we're doing the episode on.

Anyway, thank you very much and enjoy your time. Stay safe, stay curious and remember always question things and find the true answers. Yeah, that's deep words again there. So goodbye and goodnight.

Oh, actually wait. If this is goodnight, go back to the beginning of the episode where we did like our story.

Oops, sorry.

Yeah, bedtime story, yes. And then just leave it playing again for the rest of it. Maybe only twice just.

Sleeping so we get more listens yeah?

Yeah, more relaxed.

OK, goodnight.