The Hoax That Was Real
from the book, "Petrified Lightning"

Book: 
Petrified Lightning

The Hoax That Was Real

In 1880 a stuffed specimen of an animal arrived in England from Australia. Australia had a reputation (well deserved) for being the source of the most unusual animals and plants in the world. But this new arrival baffled everyone and raised quite a few eyebrows.

The specimen had a thick coat of hair, but it also had a bill and webbed feet one would expect to find only on a duck or some related species. The animal also had a spur on each hind ankle for secreting poison, as one would expect from a snake or related reptile. Oh, and later, when a female was examined, no poison spur was found, but under the tail was a single opening that was definitely used for laying eggs.

As one might expect, zoologists of the day immediately suspected a hoax, that this specimen had been artificially put together with parts from several unrelated animals. However, a close examination by scientists could find no evidence whatsoever of any artificial joining of any body parts. Experts were baffled by this new arrival from the land down under. What could this combination mammal—bird—reptile possibly be? Well, this animal, which in life lives both on land and in water, has since been intensely studied. Of course it was no hoax. Europe was just not ready to accept the duck—billed platypus, a true mammal that lays eggs and nurtures its offspring with milk as any other mammal does.