The platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is a semi-aquatic animal that lives in eastern Australia.
As you can see, there’s a lot wrong with it. It’s like evolution started building a duck, planned to finish it in the morning – but then slept through the alarm.
In addition to the fact it’s a complete aesthetic disaster, the platypus is a member of the monotremes – the only egg-laying mammals. As a strategy for reproduction, egg-laying affords a few minor advantages for some species (like birds and reptiles), but scientists uniformly agree it’s a really dumb thing for a mammal to be doing. For one, it completely screws up the otherwise excellent taxonomy system we have in place for classifying animals. It’s not hard to envision some poor naturalist walking along the banks of an eastern Australian river mumbling happily to himself: “Kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and…oh f me in the a-hole, what the hell is this now?”
Egg-laying and bad looks aside, the platypus has done something halfway right – it has evolved special receptors in its bill that can sense electric fields produced by the muscle contractions of prey. Clever, right? But think about it: this animal is equipped with a unique power of perception yet it has absolutely zero concept of “me.” Otherwise, it would probably start cutting itself.
Not to keep beating a dead monotreme, but the platypus is just bafflingly uncreative – it’s nothing more than a bunch of parts from other animals thrown together without any consideration for the final product. Apparently it was due the next morning and the main thing was to just get it done. It’s reminiscent of a school science project submitted by a kid whose parents are either unskilled or just don’t care about academics. It is nature’s equivalent of the baking soda volcano.
Since the process of natural selection obviously phoned this one in, maybe it’s time for a little artificial selection of the monotremes. The kind with a bolt action. Then we can all get back to our tidy definition of mammals as animals with hair that don’t lay eggs.
The platypus would receive a failing grade were it not for the fact that it’s also venomous. That’s sort of awesome.