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No. 45: May-Jun 1986

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Platypus Bill An Electrical Probe

The bill of the duck-billed platypus has always looked kind of dumb -- as if Nature flushed with her success with polar bears (below) got careless when designing the platypus! How ignorant we were of Nature's genius. The platypus didn't borrow its snout from ducks but rather from the electric fishes.

"That evolutionary enigma, the duckbilled platypus, has more than its egglaying to distinguish it from other mammals. It now appears that in common with some species of fish and amphibians, it can detect weak electric fields (of a few hundred microvolts or less). Not only that, but it uses its electric sense to locate its prey, picking up the tiny electrical signals passing between nerves and muscles in the tail of a shrimp."

(Anonymous; "The Battery-Operated Duck-Billed Platypus," New Scientist, p. 25, February 13, 1986.)

Reference. Mammal electrosensitivity is cataloged under BMO8 in Biological Anomalies: Mammals II. This catalog is described here.

Duck-billed platypus

From Science Frontiers #45, MAY-JUN 1986. 1986-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987