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.