Life, Hope & Truth

The Duck-Billed Platypus: A Wonder of God’s Creation

This little creature has a unique combination of characteristics that has baffled evolutionists. Studying this amazing animal points to a Creator!

In 1798 early Australian explorer and governor John Hunter watched an indigenous Australian spear a small amphibious animal that looked like nothing he had ever seen before. Later, two specimens were sent to England. This creature was a puzzle to the scientists of that time. It seemed like a combination of a bird, amphibian and a quadruped mammal. It suckled its young and had fur like a beaver, yet it laid eggs like a bird.

The world had discovered the duck-billed platypus.

An elaborate hoax?

The platypus is a wonder of God’s creation, and it continues to baffle naturalists because it is so difficult to classify. It was so unusual that at first scientists thought it was a prank. When zoologist George Shaw examined one in 1799, “his initial reaction to the first specimen was that it was an elaborate hoax. It was not uncommon at the time for exotic forgeries … to be brought back to Europe from far-flung parts of the world” (platypus.asn.au/home/naming/).

Dr. Shaw gave it the name Platypus anatinus, meaning flat-footed and ducklike. This animal was an enigma because it was so different from any other animal in the world. In fact, it was so difficult to explain that Professor Johann Blumenbach (a comparative anatomist) first gave it the scientific name Ornithorhynchus paradoxus (Latin for bird snout, paradoxical or uncharacteristic). The name duck-billed platypus is the common name used today.

Complexity and Creator

The platypus is such a paradox because it has so many features that are similar to completely different animal species.

National Geographic says, “The platypus is among nature’s most unlikely animals. In fact, the first scientists to examine a specimen believed they were the victims of a hoax. The animal is best described as a hodgepodge of more familiar species: the duck (bill and webbed feet), beaver (tail), and otter (body and fur). Males are also venomous. They have sharp stingers on the heels of their rear feet and can use them to deliver a strong toxic blow to any foe.”

They also suckle their young and reproduce by laying eggs. National Geographic adds, “Platypus reproduction is nearly unique. It is one of only two mammals (the echidna is the other) that lay eggs. Females seal themselves inside one of the burrow’s chambers to lay their eggs. A mother typically produces one or two eggs and keeps them warm by holding them between her body and her tail. The eggs hatch in about ten days, but platypus infants are the size of lima beans and totally helpless. Females nurse their young for three to four months until the babies can swim on their own.”

They also find their food by using “electrical signals” to locate objects in deep and dark water. They are truly a wonder of God’s creation and strong evidence of intelligent design.

The Bible reveals that God is the Creator of the world and the creatures in it. The incredible complexity of any living animal points to a Creator who has an intellect that far exceeds all human beings. “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day” (Exodus 20:11).

All the living creatures on the earth were designed by God. He says in Isaiah 46:5, “To whom will you liken Me, and make Me equal and compare Me, that we should be alike?” The ability of God to create is far beyond any human mind or computer that we have today.

Paradox or intelligent design?

In her book Platypus: The Extraordinary Story of How a Curious Creature Baffled the World, Ann Moyal writes, “In every way a paradox, the [platypus] raised a host of questions. Was it, as its brown pelt suggested, a mammal? (for possessing a covering of fur or hair was a defining characteristic of the mammalian class). Or was it a reptile (among which amphibian animals were then grouped)?” (2004, p. 9).

The scientists were so puzzled they started seeing a parallel to a mythological beast called a “griffin.” But the platypus was no myth.

The Bible reveals that God is the Creator of the universe and every animal on earth, including the duck-billed platypus. His designs have amazing variety, but also some consistent themes.The Bible reveals that God is the Creator of the universe and every animal on earth, including the duck-billed platypus. His designs have amazing variety, but also some consistent themes.

Think of it this way: If you were building two different machines, you might often use similar parts. Take, for example, a car. If you were building an automobile, you would use tires, bolts, metal, steering wheel and electronic parts. Then if you were building an airplane, you would also use similar parts. Of course, an airplane operates differently than a car. But it still uses some similar parts.

Darwin’s tree of life?

Evolutionists try to explain how all animals came from a single source—a single living cell that later evolved into all the other more complex creatures. They have constructed “trees of life” to explain how this happened. However, the duck-billed platypus poses a great problem. Which branch does it really fit on? For example, it cannot have come from the same evolutionary line as beavers, because it lays eggs.

Now evolutionists are abandoning Darwin’s tree of life. Why? Because it was wrong.

A New Scientist feature article in 2009, titled “Why Darwin Was Wrong About the Tree of Life,” starts by pointing out the importance of the idea to the development of Darwin’s theory of evolution:

“The tree-of-life concept was absolutely central to Darwin’s thinking, equal in importance to natural selection, according to biologist W. Ford Doolittle of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Without it the theory of evolution would never have happened. The tree also helped carry the day for evolution. Darwin argued successfully that the tree of life was a fact of nature, plain for all to see though in need of explanation. The explanation he came up with was evolution by natural selection.

“Ever since Darwin the tree has been the unifying principle for understanding the history of life on Earth. At its base is LUCA, the Last Universal Common Ancestor.”

Yet the magazine reported biologists are moving away from this key concept.

One problem with using Darwin’s explanation is this: If everything is created by chance, why do similar structures appear in different animals that supposedly evolved on different continents (what has been called “convergent” evolution)?

The site biology-online.org explains: “Convergent evolution refers to the kind of evolution wherein organisms evolve (analogous) structures or functions in spite of their evolutionary ancestors being very dissimilar or unrelated. Analogous structures pertain to those structures of unrelated (different) organisms having the same function but differing anatomical features. Because analogous structures differ in anatomy as well as developmental origin they do not implicate a common ancestral origin. The features or traits common in them evolve independently.”

If evolution depends on the miniscule probabilities of random mutations producing positive changes, the idea of convergent evolution only increases the astronomical odds against evolution. The improbable had to happen again and again, yet in strangely similar ways.

A few of the examples of convergent evolution given in the biology-online.org article include:

  • The wings of bats, birds and insects.
  • The complex eyes of vertebrates, cephalopods, cubozoan jellyfish and arthropods.
  • The smelling organs of the terrestrial coconut crab and insects.

There are many more examples. However, common sense tells us that we would not expect such similarities among unrelated creatures if everything evolved completely by random chance. On the other hand, this is exactly what you would expect of creatures designed by a supernatural Creator of great power. The “tree of life” in that case would have every type of creature going back directly to the Creator.

Notice the problem for the evolutionists. Birds and mammals are on different branches of the evolutionary tree of life. Yet the duck-billed platypus includes features of a bird and a mammal. This creature gives strong evidence indeed that life did not evolve, but was designed. The Creator used similar parts for different animals just as manufacturers today use similar parts for airplanes and cars. Convergent evolution does not make any sense, and the underlying evidence actually implies design.

The correct “tree of life” should look like an orchard, with diversity coming over time within the original created kinds.

The origin of every species is God! This is what convergence really implies—that a Creator designed all animal life.

Intelligent design

The Bible clearly claims that God is the Creator of the universe and the life-forms we find on the earth. Evolutionary explanations for the origin of life do not make sense. The little duck-billed platypus is still an enigma to evolutionists. The existence of the platypus points to design by a superintelligent being—God!

Read more in our article “Intelligent Design: Can Science Answer the Question, Does God Exist?

About the Author

Bill Jahns

Bill Jahns

Bill Jahns graduated from Ambassador College in 1969, and he has worked full time in the ministry since then. Presently, he serves with the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, pastoring congregations in Morgantown, West Virginia, and Athens-Parkersburg, Ohio.

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