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How did the platypus get its name?


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In the early days of European settlement in Australia, the platypus was known as a water-mole. British scientist, Dr George Shaw, was the first European to examine the platypus. It is well-known that he believed the creature to be a hoax, made up of various other creatures. Once Shaw had established that the pelt was real, he named it Platypus anatinus, from Greek and Latin words meaning "flat-footed, duck-like". This was published in "The Naturalist's Miscellany" in 1799.

After realising that the name "platypus" had already been given to a group of beetles, Shaw assigned it the scientific name of Ornithorhynchus anatinus, the first word of which means "bird-like snout". However, the original name of platypus was adopted as the common name, over the word "duckbill", which had also begun to be used.

The word platypus is from the Greek platypous, meaning "flat-footed": from platys "broad, flat" + pous "foot."