The Strange Case of the Duck-Billed Platypus 光怪陸離鴨嘴獸
The Strange Case of the Duck-Billed Platypus
by Jeremy Beacock
The duck-billed platypus is a creature that just doesn''t fit in.
When 18th-century scientists first came across Australia''s duck-billed platypus, they thought it was a trick. It is not surprising that the platypus had people confused. This funny-looking animal has feet and a bill like a duck, but is nonetheless a furry, warm-blooded mammal.
While other mammals usually keep their blood at around 37 degrees Celsius, platypuses have a lower body temperature of 32 degrees. Aside from its appearance, the platypus'' bill is not really like a duck''s bill at all. The platypus'' mouth is actually under the bill, which is rubbery, not rigid. The bill is equipped with electroreceptors. The platypus closes its eyes when swimming, and instead of seeing its prey, it uses these electroreceptors to pick up tiny electrical currents made by the creatures underwater.
Strangest of all, the platypus is a mammal that lays eggs. There is only one other family of egg-laying mammals: the echidna (針鼴蝟) of New Guinea and Australia. Both the platypus and the echidna lay soft-shelled eggs, and both feed their young with milk that leaks out through their skin. These animals also walk in a way that is similar to crocodiles and other reptiles, with legs on the sides of their bodies rather than underneath. These characteristics are linked with the fact that they are one of the oldest mammals and have kept some reptilian traits.
Though cute, in a weird way, the platypus is actually one of the few mammals that are poisonous. A male platypus has knife-like bones on its back legs which have enough poison to kill a dog. The platypus has the honor of being one of the oldest, and oddest, mammals in the world.
1. Which of the following is false?
(A) Platypuses have a body temperature of 32 degrees Celsius.
(B) Platypuses only open their eyes underwater.
(C) Male platypuses are poisonous.
(D) Platypuses find food by sensing electricity.
2. Characteristics of the platypus are compared with those of _____?
(A) 18th-century scientists
(B) dogs and echidnas
(C) the duck, the crocodile, and the echidna
(D) only the echidna
3. Which of the following cannot be said of both the echidna and the platypus?
(A) Their eggs are soft.
(B) They feed their young with milk.
(C) They walk differently from most mammals.
(D) They are both native to Australia and New Guinea.