Platy­puses find food us­ing their elec­tric bills

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The platy­pus is a truly bizarre crea­ture. Not only are these

Aus­tralian crit­ters weird to look at with their duck-like bills and beaver­like tails (so odd, in fact, that the sci­en­tists who dis­cov­ered them thought they were be­ing tricked with an elab­o­rate hoax), they’re also some of the only mam­mals to lay eggs. This abil­ity puts them into the monotreme fam­ily along with their cousins, the echid­nas. But one of the platy­pus’ strangest quirks isn’t so ob­vi­ous.

For years, re­searchers were be­fud­dled as to how the semi­aquatic crea­tures find their food un­der­wa­ter, par­tic­u­larly con­sid­er­ing the fact that they close their eyes, ears and nos­trils while swim­ming. By analysing the crea­ture’s bill they re­alised that the platy­pus’ sig­na­ture ac­ces­sory isn’t just for show – the dig­ging beak con­tains over 40,000 elec­tri­cal re­cep­tors, which are used to de­tect the tini­est move­ments of prey and lo­cate liv­ing crea­tures with re­mark­able ac­cu­racy.

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