Ode to a Platypus

“Of all the Mammalia yet known it seems the most extra-ordinary in its conformation; exhibiting the perfect resemblance of the beak of a Duck engrafted on the head of a quadruped. So accurate is the similitude, that, at first view, it naturally excites the idea of some deceptive preparation by artificial means.”
–George Shaw, 1799
Platypus engraving

O Platypus, O Platypus,

Why aren’t you like the rest of us?

The hand that cast your symmetry

I fear, has gone somewhat awry.

Your blood is warm, your fur is sleek.

But, look! Upon your snout, a beak!

No ravening jaws to tear or stun,

Your baby teeth give way to gums!

And on your webbèd feet you lumber,

Your awkward gait a mighty wonder.

Yet in the river, under water,

Your tail becomes a steady rudder!

By seeking out electric pulses,

You hunt your prey–whatever’s closest.

And with your venomed spur unsheathed,

Strike down the creatures of the deep.

Now rise and break the rippling waves

And homeward turn your questing gaze,

Where in a burrow made of grasses

Your mate her precious egg now hatches!

A girl or boy? It doesn’t matter.

Ten chromosomes completely scatter

The question of its sex. But really,

Five pairs? That is a bit unseemly.

Monotremes oviparous,

How you simply vex and scare us.

The world decries your nature—“Hoax!

The beast’s unnatural!” they boast.

And yet, my precious Platypus,

Your name remains forever glorious.

I swear to you I never will

Take scissors to your noble bill!

From the Archives. Copyright Bonnie Burns, 2019. All Rights Reserved. 

Read more here about our friend the Platypus.