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Platypus: The Extraordinary Story of How a Curious Creature Baffled the World

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  141 ratings  ·  26 reviews
When the first platypus specimen reached England from Australia in 1799, the scientific community claimed that it was a hoax. On closer investigation, dubious European naturalists eventually declared it to be real, though in an age obsessed with classification, the category-defying platypus sparked heated debates across Europe for a century. In Platypus, Ann Moyal provides ...more
Paperback, 248 pages
Published November 9th 2004 by Johns Hopkins University Press (first published 2001)
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GoldGato
Newly arrived colonists to Australia called it a 'duck-bill mole'. Europeans believed it was a hoax created by the southern continent's criminal emigrants. In the effort to finalize whether it was a true mammal or laid eggs like birds, the puzzling animal was almost wiped out by hunters and scientists.

 photo platypus_zpsts64shct.jpg

This book specifically traces the effect the discovery of the Platypus had upon scientists in old world Europe. Although there is basic history and physical description, this is much more of a hum
...more
Olgalijo
Jul 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
OK, I think I know as much as I'll even want to know about platypuses. In general the material is very interesting, although narrated in a quite dry way. I would also have enjoyed less emphasys on the history of every single scientist that has researched the animal, and more on the animal itself.
Rachel
Jan 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Look, a lot of these poor reviews pick on the fact that this story has too much of a human element. Read the subtitle before you read this. It is not a biological exploration into the platypus: I've read dozens of nonfiction scientific books, and almost all of them have subtitles. There's a reason for that: to give the potential reader an insight into the truth of the book. This is about HOW the platypus baffled scientists. It's not about the platypus as an entity, though that is brought up and ...more
Chris
Jun 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-nature
I like platypuses. They are awesome because they seem to be everything and nothing. This book traces the discovery of the platypus as well as the determination and backstabbing that went into the scientific research into the animal. This apparently was done by killing a great many. Silly human buggars.
The book is engaging and well written. It includes a look at the science of the time as well as the interest in the platypus. The animal is apparently much smarter than people give it credit for.


(
...more
Dlmrose
Jul 07, 2017 rated it liked it
3+
Duncan
Nov 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Ms. Moyal made what should have been a fascinating history of discovery DRAG in TRUE high-school history teacher style! Most BORING platypus information ever laid out. Unfortunately, I DID learn new things despite her decision to write in a style guaranteed to induce coma, so I have no choice but to give her three stars for that.
Jason Furman
Aug 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
I picked this book up at the gift shop when exiting the American Museum of Natural History's Extreme Mammals exhibit. It is a history of science monograph of the discovery and increased understanding of the platypus, published by a University Press and without any of the flash and pretense you might find in some books of this type (e.g., something with a title like "The Platypus: The Discovery of the Animal that Changed the Western World and the Face of Science Forever.")

The story itself is more
...more
Nelson
Aug 08, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Who do we get to blame for the one-word historical monograph? Didn't Kurlansky write the book about Cod or some such? The problem with these books is that the author needs to find something singular enough to be a subject in its own right, yet significant enough to merit a reader's time. The platypus, as presented by Ann Moyal, apparently doesn't cut it. The book is less about the beast and more about the history of its categorization by increasingly well-informed biologists and amateurs. The mo ...more
Wythe Marschall
Aug 13, 2010 rated it liked it
Moyal's prose can be a little redundant, at least in wording (Australia is ALWAYS "the antipodes," for example; Darwin is always a kindly genius; every chapter rehashes how baffled scientists were and are by the platypus), but overall she is a strong writer.

And of course the subject matter can't be beat. If platypuses weren't such fragile, hungry creatures (feeding them enough shrimp every day costs both arms and both legs, apparently), I'd want to adopt one.

In other news, did you know that Wins
...more
Eva Nickelson
Jun 01, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
It is the story of platypus/human relations, told in chronological order. While it discusses the main sticking points for fitting the platypus into our categorization (does it lay eggs, do its young suckle), it does this from the perspective of European scientists trying to determine the lifestyle from preserved bodies. It is more a tale of the scientists and their methods at classification than a tale of the platypus. This may have been done because the focus was supposed to be on the scientist ...more
Jeff Guertin
Feb 10, 2013 rated it liked it
The platypus is my absolute favorite animal, and being a biologist, I was excited to read about the detailed history of the animal. Unfortunately, it took about 150 pages before I really started to enjoy this book. Up until that point, the book was INCREDIBLY boring, a historical narrative that went back and forth between myriad of different researchers and their debates on oviparity, phylogeny, etc.

Around page 150, the book began to delve into more specific scientific discoveries about the pla
...more
Emmaj
Oct 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Did you know the plural of platypus is platipodes not platipi because it comes from the Greek and not the Latin?
Did you know that platipodes are fairly small, the size of a small house cat, and eat their body weight in snails, worms and small crustaceans everyday?
Did you know that the platypus "beak" is actually an elaborate organ that is used to sense the electrical currents in it's prey?
I bet you didn't.
This is an awesome book answering all your platypus related questions (you know you have so
...more
Ashley-Anne
it was horrendously dull. Halfway through the author was still going on about how people didn't know whether the platypus gives birth to live young or lays eggs. this can't be the ONLY interesting thing about such a wierd creature! not to mention, it is the only thing that everyone now KNOWS about the playtpus, so I was waiting the entire book for people to figure out the answer to a question that I already knew the answer to.
Gillian
While I learned quite a bit about platypus, this book was more illuminating about the development of western science though the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. An interesting read alongside "The Invention of Nature".
I was left with the overwhelming impression of the vast number of platypus that died in the name of science - if only the scientists had listened to the indigenous people instead of dismissing their knowledge, perhaps fewer platypus would have been killed.
Katie
Jun 03, 2008 marked it as ditched
Wowee, this one didn't last long at all. I could barely see the words on the page through my tears of boredom, but I think it's mostly about people arguing over how to classify the platypus. I'm sure there's some way to wring the drama from those arguments, but this well-meaning author has not yet found it.
Sarah
May 30, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: animal lovers
Shelves: nonfiction, animals
This book chronicles the discovery of the Platypus in Australia, and how for years top biologists believed it to be a "hoax" on the scientific community. It's a neat read if you are into that kind of thing. : )
Elyse
Dec 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
"The Extraordinary Story of How a Curious Creature Baffled the World" The Australian author shows great affection for this skittish, shy mammal who has fur, lays eggs, nurses its young and has a bill like a duck. Darwin figured it out.
Brianna
Jan 22, 2009 rated it liked it
This is a book I used to read to gain a resource for one of my school projects that was called, Extended Analysis Project. My subject was the platypus and how they're important to the environment.
Jana
May 02, 2016 rated it it was ok
Unfortunately, I found this very long-winded and the title was very misleading, as large parts of the book didn't even seem to deal with platypuses.
Colleen
Dec 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-nature
A great book, l only wish it were longer. It is more of a survey of platypus research than an in depth study, but it definitely whetted my appetite
Amy L.
Mar 19, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nobody unless you really like taxonomy and platypi
This book was really hard to follow. As much as I love platypi, all this talked about was who found them and how they became popular.
Caro
Jul 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Any animal lover with a passing interest in science will adore this book. Wonderfully written with a keen sense of humour, it's fun, funny, informative, and endearing.
Eva La Mar
Jan 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Our family enjoyed reading this book. It's a sad commentary on how humans almost wiped out the platypus while trying to make a name for themselves while proving if it was a mammal or not.
Arvin
Oct 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Ann Mozley Moyal is Australian.