10 Real Animals That Seem Make-believe

A Platypus baby or "puggle" is held before being transferred back to its burrow at Sydney's Taronga Zoo. The platypus is one of only two mammals that lays eggs. GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images

This semiaquatic, fur-covered, duck-billed, web-footed mammal that lays eggs seems to have been assembled from bits of other animals. Hailing from Australia, the platypus is about 2 feet (61 centimeters) in length and weighs just 3.5 pounds (1.5 kilograms) [source: ADW]. In fact, the platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is so odd that when English naturalists first obtained a carcass for study in 1799 from New South Wales Gov. John Hunter, they worried that it might be a hoax foisted upon them by a mischievous taxidermist [source: Museum of Hoaxes].

The platypus is a forager that scoops up insects, larvae, shellfish, worms and gravel with its bill from the mud on the bottom of streams. It stores its finds within cheek pouches until it reaches the surface and then uses the gravel to mash up the food for eating – a platypus has no teeth. Despite its seemingly awkward design, the creature turns out to be a surprisingly adept underwater swimmer, thanks to its webbed feet and beaver-like tail [source: National Geographic].

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