Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Illustration Friday- Primitive- Platypus

Platypuses [Ornithorhynchus anatinus ] are primitive mammals belonging to the group called the Monotremes - egg-laying mammals. The monotremes comprise of the platypus and various kinds of echidnas.

Platypuses are interesting animals and they were originally thought to have been a made-up traveller's tale - people could not believe that a mammal that swam like a beaver , had a beak like a duck, laid eggs and had a poisonous claw could really exist. At the time it was popular for carnival side shows to display things like 'mermaids' made from a taxidermied baby monkey and a large fish tail so this reaction is quite understandable.

The platypus is sometimes called a duck mole but the beak is not like a bird's bill- its a sensitive, rubbery appendage used to search the muddy bottom of streams for food such as crayfish and snails.

Platypuses are good swimmers but are quite clumsy on land, They close their eyes , ears and nostrils when they dive and they even mate whilst in the water.

The females dig long tunnels in the river banks and create a nest of leaves and grass in order to lay the eggs.

Platypus eggs are thought to be held within the females for a while and nourished before being laid. The female playtpus incubates the eggs , usually two at a time, by placing them on her belly hair and covering them with her tail.

The eggs aren't like bird eggs - they are closer to reptile eggs as the shell is soft. Its not fully known how long the babies remain in the eggs but its estimated to be about 10 days.

After the young emerge, they are fed on their mothers milk which oozes from specialised pores on her belly - platypuses are unusual mammals because they do not have defined nipples.

This is an illustration of the female platypus in her nest with her twin eggs snuggled into her belly hair. It took a long time to get the platypus looking the way i wanted- partly because reference material for platypus nurseries is not readily available and partly because platypuses are such strange looking creatures that its easy to make them look even weirder. The grass of the nest took a long time to paint too as i was starting to get really obsessive about the celtic-knotwork effect of the interwoven grass.


Alicia Padrón said...

Wow this is awesome! So wonderfully done! I really love your style :o)

Just as a suggestion, you may want to post the picture before all the text.. I think some people are really in a hurry when they look at the entries and they might miss your wonderful illustration because they don't want to scroll down.

Alison Ashwell said...

Thanks Alicia=}
that's a good point abou the layout.

I'll try and remember to post illustration friday images at the top - I think I am just used to posting words then pictures in my usual blog posts -and since i tend to post a lot of images normally it breaks up the text.

Alison Ashwell said...

I've added another copy of the illustration at the top -so i hope that works better

Linda T. Snider Ward said...

Beautiful image--love the grass too. It was very interesting reading about the platypus--nice to include info and art together.

rbaird said...

Its really well done!... and great information. Makes me want to go and hug a platypus!

thedoodlegirl said...

A great entry for "Earth Day" too! Nice work! I love the detail in your illo.

Bee said...

That is a wonderful illustration, well done.

I also loved all of the added information about the platypus. I am an Australian and I didn't know that they had a poisonous claw. Thanks for popping in to my blog.

Dot said...

he (she?) is too cute! i love it..!

thanks for the kind words on mine, too!

Alison Ashwell said...

Thanks for the lovely comments =}

Bee- the males have a poisonous spur on their two back legs.
They are thought to be used in fights when competing for mates or territory.

When a healthy human is stung by a platypus it causes huge amounts of swelling and pain but the venom isn't generally fatal.

However, the venom used to kill hunting dogs in the days when platypuses were trapped for their pelts [if the platypus defended itself with its spurs]

Abi said...

Very nice illustration! I like the soft treatment of the fur.

Girlgirl said...

it's cuute! i always thought the platypus was underrated. they don't get enough hype on the nature shows.

thanks for dropping by at mine too. ^^

Rebecca Ramsey said...

I love your work!
Glad to have found your blog!

Magpie Magic said...

The platypus is really sweet. It looks content lying on its back with it's too little eggs. The grass is very detailed and the knotwork design works really well to frame the platypus.

natural attrill said...

I like the texture you have created on the bill.

p.s. your chosen charity won!