Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Holy Shit, the Platypus!

Australia was an afterthought of creation, and was thus designed in an alcoholic frenzy.

It was really only a matter of time before I got around to this one. Platypodes (that's the Greek plural form. There is no correct plural form. Look it up.) are what happened when nature had a few extra animal parts lying around and was drunk. They have the bill of a duck (hence the colloquial name), the feet of an otter, the tail of a beaver, and the good sense to live in Australia, home of the weird-ass animals of the world. It's also one of the five species of mammal that lays eggs.

That's something that really shouldn't be possible. Egg-laying is traditionally one of the red flags that say "NOT MAMMAL" in large, imposing letters. However, since the Platypus and its cousins have hair, produce milk, and generally play ball with the rest of the criteria, scientists decided to give them a pass.
It's the only way to play.
Similar to how we sometimes allow this to be called a sport.

That's despite the Platypus flaunting its cloaca around the neighborhood. Where most mammals have various orifices for having a wee, a poo, or a baby, the Platypus streamlined the process into a single cloaca. I assume the main advantage of this technique is that it inspires a great deal of sympathy in other species for Platypus. "I'm not eating that thing," says the Rakali. "He's got it rough enough already with that cloaca business. No wonder they lay eggs."

At times, sympathy is not enough, and the Platypus is threatened. At other times, a human will spot a goofy specimen, and upon seeing its wittle beak and lovey-dovey eyes, will attempt to cuddle it. In both cases, the interlopers are in for one of the shittiest days of their lives. Because those cute little otter feet that Mr. Platypus boasts are good for both swimming and administering an excruciatingly painful venom.

Platypus Foot
Counter-intuitively, this should strike fear into your heart.

Platypus venom is known for two things: not killing you and making you wish it would. When a human is stung by the Platypus' spur, the area around the sting almost immediately swells, and the swelling rapidly spreads. Instead of wrecking shit in your body and causing pain as a result, Platypus venom goes straight to the pain receptors in your brain and manually flips your pain switch. Because it takes such a direct route, traditional opiate analgesics like morphine do literally nothing for you.
Menacing Platypus
And he stares at you mercilessly all the while.

After a few days, the pain fades away. By which I mean it is replaced by hypersensitivity to any other pain. As in, "The wound feels better but every time you stub your toe you'll be fairly convinced that it needs to be amputated." While there are no deaths on record from Platypus venom, it may be one of the meanest venoms that nature has ever produced.

The Platypus is weird. Weird as hell. So weird, in fact, that when sketches of it first reached Europe, it was almost universally dismissed as a hoax. When a pelt arrived in England, scientists were still skeptical. Some even demanded to examine the body so they could find the stitches they just knew were holding that goddamn beak in place. Eventually, they had to admit that such a thing could possibly exist.
Platypus Sketch
Truly, the Bigfoot of the Nineteenth Century. Except real.

And if you ever see one in the wild, then for god's sake, don't touch it. You will know the deepest depths of pain if it's in a foul mood.

Holy shit.

1 comment:

  1. Thinking about how in the world something like this could have evolved hurts my brain more than the venom of said Pladypodes.