Why the Platypus Can't Make Up Its Mind
A collection of contradictions!
What do you call a duck-billed platypus, if not confused? I often have difficulty making up my mind. But the platypus...they simply refused to.
It get's its names, platypus, which means 'flat foot', aptly. It's scientific name, Ornithorhynchus, means 'bird snout'. If you're looking at a platypus and you're wondering what happened, so are the rest of us.
This creature is so weird, European naturalists decided it had to be a fake, stitched together from various other animals. In 1799, after examining the body of a platypus, they just knew somebody had to be yanking their chain! I can just see it, all those stuffy professors in their goatees, and all of a sudden one of them snorts Kool-aid through his nose!
"OK, What is …that? That is not funny!"
It looks like something your eccentric aunt might have knitted, the one that still sends you fruitcakes in the mail?
The platypus, if nothing else, is a collection of contradictions.
Who else but the platypus?
So what do you call a semi-aquatic, egg-laying mammal with a bill like a duck, webbed feet, and a broad flat tail like a beaver?
We're talking about the only venomous mammal on the planet, injecting it's poison from a spur on the hind leg. An animal so bizarre it has a bill is like a giant electroreceptor, covered with thousands of cells that are able to detect minute electrical fields. The platypus' snout is so sensitive, it's able to hunt its food and navigate even in brackish waters by electrolocation, a trait it shares only with the dolphin.
Give up? So do I.
"So much for that theory." No one ever heard of Darwin after that.
Did evolution come unraveled suddenly? I can't help but think, what would have happened to his theory, had Darwin wound up in Australia, instead of the Galapagos Islands? I think by the time he got to the platypus, he'd have thrown up his hands in frustration.
Everything is going fine. "OK, those are reptiles...birds...mammals...oh? Hey! What the?! Those guys back home are never going to believe this. So much for my theory."
He just tossed that notebook into the trash. "No one will ever believe this now."
"What else can I become famous for?"
Afterward, Darwin could only find work in a 7-11 making 'slurpees'. No one ever heard of him after that.
My theory is...
I have this theory. Bear with me, it is still a theory.
The only obvious explanation for the platypus is that it was actually designed by Congress. This explains much. After billions of dollars of taxpayer money and cost overruns, this was the best we could get because no one could agree. Finally, a strange sort of compromise was reached between the union and the non-union workers.
"What do we do now?" The guys at the office threw up their hands in angst. "These parts don't even match and we're out of money again?"
So they just threw some parts together on the assembly line and this is what we wound up with, a chimera of dissimilar parts.
The project came in behind schedule, and, several politicians are still under investigation.
The Democrats still blame the Republicans for this fiasco, and the Republicans...well, you know how that goes.
A split in the family tree
It's like nature got bored all of a sudden and decided to play Mad Libs with the species. For whatever reason, the monotremes split from the rest of the mammal family about 166 million years ago. Apparently they were so indecisive, the rest of the mammals couldn't get along with them.
An obvious clue to its bizarre appearance is that it comes from Australia, a continent that insists on its own collection of unique critters found no where else in the world. Where else but Australia?
You'd think, after a few million years, the platypus could finally make up their minds "....bird? ...mammal?" So they just made up their own phylum!
Oh, great. I'm extinct now!
I can just imagine standing at the evolution check out line, the dinosaurs are standing in line behind the platypus'. Everyone is in a big hurry to evolve. Two platypi are having a debate -why not platypi? Everyone else is making up their own words.
Listen in on the conversation.
"Oh, I don't know ...bird? mammal? I can't make up my mind. OK, mammal, definitely a mammal...no. um, bird. no, mammal...wait a minute? live birth?"
"No, too messy!"
"So what is it?"
"No live birth. That's just too painful. Stretch marks? Nope! Not for me. Birds lay eggs. Why can't I lay eggs?"
The T-rexes were the first to complain. That's just how carnivores are!
"Hey, up there! Can you hurry it up? We only have a few million years left and then we go extinct, you know!"
The platypi ignore them.
"Do these webbed feet come in my size, Gertrude?"
"Oh, those are just adorable, Margaret!"
"So what is it, Gertrude? Are we mammals or birds or...what?"
"I'm just not sure", she frets.
Next thing you know, the plant-eaters are griping.
"Any epoch now!"
Another platypus in line pokes her husband in the ribs. "Harold! Does my tail make my butt look fat?"
Harold, being a wise husband is thumbing through a copy of Marsupials Unlimited, the Sports Edition, pretending not to hear...
"My geologic clock is ticking," bellows another. This time the pterodactyls are complaining.
The impatient clerk at the check out is fuming. Will that be mammal ...or birds?"
"Oh for petes' sake," a frustrated diplodocus fumes. "Just make up your own phylum so the rest of us can get out of here!"
And that's how the problem was solved.
Unfortunately, by this time the dinosaurs had already gone extinct....and now we know what really happened! I just solved two geologic mysteries in one theory!
Let's see them do that on The Discovery Channel!
Clean up on aisle 4!
Things get out of hand quickly in the Jurassic period. I suppose they could have just changed lines at the check out. Easier said, than done.
Every time the long-tailed dinosaurs tried to change to another check out, they knocked over the canned goods display and, …what a mess! Meanwhile the carnivores had such little forelimbs they couldn't dial customer service for help
Tempers begin to flare!
It's the T-rexes again.
"Melvin!" -it's Mrs. T, his wife. A hungry T-rex gets grumpy when it has to wait in line.
"Quit snacking on the stegosaurs. You know you always get those plates stuck between your teeth."
Pretty soon a brawl breaks out. That's what happens when you put the meat-eaters and the plant-eaters in the same checkout line
If you thought the Jurassic Period was a mess, wait until the humans show up.
And now you know...
So that's it. That's how it all happened and why no one can tell what it's supposed to be. Not even the platypus!
Until someone comes up with a better theory, I'm sticking with this one.
And now you know how the platypus couldn't make up his mind.
© 2020 Jim Henderson