Question Sheet: Pondering the puzzling platypus


Before reading:

  1. The platypus has a duckbill and webbed feet. Is it a bird, fish, mammal or


  2. Why wouldn’t it make a good pet?
  3. Where would you look to find them in the wild?
  4. Why do you suppose they’re found nowhere else in the world?

During reading:

  1. Why did George Shaw think the preserved body of a platypus that had been

    sent to him was a joke?

  2. What’s a good reason to avoid the spurs on the hind feet of the males?
  3. How are platypus babies born?
  4. What do the animals’ electroreceptors do — and what other types of animals

    have these organs?

  5. What is a genome?
  6. Platypuses and humans had a common ancestor roughly how many years ago?
  7. To which other families of animals is the platypus also distantly related?

After reading:

  1. Why did biologists bother to sequence the platypus genome? What information

    would it provide that they couldn’t glean from just looking at the critters?

  2. What do the genome findings suggest about the animal’s evolution?
  3. What do its genes suggest about the animal’s evolution and from which

    families did the platypus descend?


  1. How many platypuses are alive in the world and are they valued in their home


  2. Why do island nations — even big ones like Australia — tend to be home to

    such especially weird wildlife?

  3. The biotech industry is a quickly growing one. The cost and

    time-to-completion of sequencing an animal’s DNA have been falling. Give

    examples of how that has been changing over time.


  • Write a small poem about the platypus and its weirdness.
  • Write platypus on a piece of paper, then list eight words that start with

    each letter in its name (don’t duplicate words for the second p). Each word must

    be at least four letters long. Now write a letter to a family member about the

    platypus — and include each word from your lists in this letter at least once.

    Underline each word from the platypus lists.