The platypus is one of the strangest-looking animals in the world. With its duck-like bill, beaver-like tail, and mole-like body, it’s not exactly a looker. But don’t judge a book by its cover. The platypus might not be the most beautiful creature on earth, but it’s certainly one of the most intriguing. It’s also a pretty weird one! With so many unusual features packed into such a small frame — including venomous spurs on its hind legs and an external duck bill that can appear like a third hand when it covers its eyes with it — how can we not ask: do platypuses have stomachs? Let’s find out!
Does A Platypus Have A Stomach?
No, a platypus does not have a stomach. A stomach is a part of the digestive system that is made up of a muscular sac that secretes enzymes and acids to break down food so that it can be absorbed into the bloodstream. A platypus has an esophagus, stomach, and small intestine, but these are all combined into one organ called a proventriculus. The food travels from the esophagus to the stomach and then directly into the small intestine. The proventriculus secretes enzymes to break down food as it moves through the organ. The food is then absorbed directly into the bloodstream.
Why Platypuses Don’t Have Stomachs?
1. They have small mouths with only one opening
Although this doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with how they digest and process food, it’s definitely worth mentioning. People often forget that a platypus is a mammal, which means they have the same types of mouths and digestive systems as humans. They just happen to look very different. And as such, they have only one opening for both eating and excreting their food. That’s right. They eat, chew, swallow, and poop all out of the same hole. Their mouths are made up of a small pouch with a one-way digestive system that doesn’t allow food to flow back into the mouth. And, as we’ll discuss in more detail later in the article, this could explain why they don’t have a stomach.
2. Their food isn’t fully digested before excretion
This is probably one of the most common reasons why people think the platypus doesn’t have a stomach. They just assume it isn’t there because their food isn’t fully digested before it’s expunged. Which is a perfectly legitimate assumption. But once again, it’s not as simple as that. While the food they consume isn’t broken down in the manner we’d typically expect, it is still partially digested before excretion. But don’t take our word for it. Let’s look at what the experts have to say on the subject
3. They produce urea from protein instead of breaking it down
As we’ve already discussed, platypuses don’t have the typical mammalian digestive system. Instead, they have a unique evolutionary hybrid of different systems. In particular, they have a unique digestive system that produces urea from protein instead of breaking it down. For those not familiar with urea, it’s a naturally occurring compound that’s usually found in urine. It’s also used as a pesticide. So how does the production of urea explain why the platypus doesn’t have a stomach? Well, the formation of urea requires the breakdown of protein. And since they don’t actually digest that protein, they can’t form urea. Which means they don’t have the enzymes necessary to break down the protein in their food.
4. They can re-ingest their own feces
Okay, now this one is pretty gross. But, it’s also really important for understanding why the platypus doesn’t have a stomach. So here goes… Their food is only partially digested before excretion. It’s also re-ingested and subsequently digested again. That’s right. The platypus can re-ingest their own feces. And as if that wasn’t strange enough, they also use it as a food source. They chew it, regurgitate it back into their mouths, and then chew it again. And this has a lot to do with where the food actually ends up. We’ll get to that in just a second…
5. Their diet is different from what we’d expect for an animal of size and weight
As we’ve already discussed, platypuses don’t have a typical mammalian digestive system. And this is especially true when it comes to their diet. In fact, their diet is different from what we’d expect for an animal of their size and weight. They mostly feed on small crustaceans and other aquatic creatures. But they also consume plants, worms, larvae, and small insects. This is surprising when you consider that their food is half protein. This is especially the case for worms and insects, which are almost entirely protein. But if they had a regular mammalian digestive system, they’d have to break down all that protein before they could absorb it. And we know from the previous point that they don’t digest their food properly.
How Platypuses Digest Food?
Platypus Digestion: It Starts With a Long Tubular Mouth
First, let’s start with a basic description of platypus anatomy. The first thing to know is that, despite appearances, the platypus is not actually a rodent (despite being closely related to the echidna and several species of the shrew). It is, in fact, a type of mammal, but one that is completely unique in the animal kingdom. And one of the most fascinating aspects of this mammal’s anatomy is the unusual shape of its mouth. The lower jaw of the platypus is actually connected to the upper jaw via a flexible membrane called a “hinge joint” that allows the mouth to open wide enough to swallow large prey. This is similar to the way the jaws of snakes and lizards open really wide. In addition, the mouth of the platypus is very long, with a tubular mouth that extends almost all the way back to the animal’s stomach!
Platypus Digestion: How They Chew With Their Mouth
Another amazing fact about platypus digestion is that they don’t actually chew their food at all. This is because they swallow their food whole, so it never enters their mouth in the first place! Some scientists have suggested that they use a muscular pharynx to grind the food in their stomachs, but this has never been observed in the wild. And no one knows exactly how they process their prey, because they don’t regurgitate it as some birds and rodents do. In fact, they are one of the only mammals that consume mostly aquatic plants – and they may be the only mammals that rely exclusively on aquatic plants for nutrition! This is because aquatic plants have more protein and fewer nutrients than plants that grow on land. But because of their unusual dietary habits, the platypus can’t get everything they need from their food alone.
Platypus Digestion: The Role of Venom
One of the reasons the platypus is such an amazing species is that it’s able to digest nutrients from its prey despite the fact that venomous insects contain harmful toxins. Venom is a cocktail of different proteins that are specially designed to harm or kill the animal that they are injected into. In the case of platypuses, venomous insects contain proteins that would disrupt the digestive system of the animal and make it less efficient at absorbing nutrients. But the platypus has evolved its own unique way to deal with venomous insects. It produces special enzymes called “proteases” that are able to break down the proteins in venom. This allows them to digest the nutrients in venomous insects without disrupting their own digestive enzymes.
Platypus Digestion: The Importance of Proteins and Fatty Acids
Another interesting aspect of platypus digestion is that they are able to extract more nutrients from their food than other mammals that eat similar diets. This is due in part to the platypus’s unusual way of processing fatty acids. While most mammals convert fatty acids into energy and store them as fat, the platypus actually breaks down fatty acids into nutrients and stores them back in their food. This means that the platypus is able to use the energy from fatty acids to break down proteins in their prey and extract more nutrients from aquatic plants than other mammals can. This unique ability is especially important because aquatic plants generally contain few nutrients. Without a way to store and break down fatty acids, the platypus would not be able to get enough nutrients from its diet to survive.
The fact that platypuses don’t have stomachs is just one more reason why they’re such a fascinating species. They’re so fascinating, in fact, that there are entire zoos dedicated to these creatures — including the Australian Platypus Nature Park in Koondrook, Australia. It’s the only platypus zoo in the world, and it’s home to more than 150 of these weird and wonderful creatures!