Phantom platypuses are out-of-place animals resembling larger versions of the Australian platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus), reported mainly from boreal and mountain lakes in Canada and the United States, as well as the coastal marine waters of Alaska. In Canada, such cryptids are known by various Amerindian names translating as duck beaver and duck mole. Although platypuses are not known to have ever inhabited North America, such animals have also been reported from Tierra del Fuego, in Argentina and Chile, where fossils of the Palaeocene platypus Monotrematum have been discovered.
The existence of platypuses in the lakes of Colorado's Sangre de Cristo Mountains has been rumoured since the 1920s. A national park ranger who worked in the region mentioned the matter in an official report during the very early 1920s; a fellow ranger named Paul Gilbert told him that "from two to four or five 'Duck-bills'" had been found in Lily Lake, in the southern Blanca district. The author of the report later found that several people in the district knew of the animals, and had made attempts to trap specimens. These platypus-hunters included Gilbert himself, who spent years searching for the animals, but discovered only web-footed tracks in wet mud. Christopher O'Brien later wrote in his book The Mysterious Valley (1996) that platypuses were again reported from an unnamed mountain lake in Blanca Peaks during the 1960s.
Canadian cryptozoologist John Warms has collected several sightings of platypus-like animals from lakes in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Based on several sightings, including alleged cases in which specimens were killed or captured, Warms describes this cryptid as resembling the American beaver (Castor canadensis) in size and general appearance, but sporting a duck-like beak. One informant claimed to have captured such an animal inside a beaver lodge. According to Warms, the animal is known to various local Amerindian peoples under names which are translated as "duck beaver," "beaver duck," and "duck mole".
A man identified as Mike F., a businessman resident in Ketchikan, Alaska, told Rob Alley that he had once observed "an animal ... that simply resembled a giant platypus" in the sea near Mountain Point, south of Ketchikan. He claimed to have watched the animal from the shore for a minute.
BBC producer Michael Andrews, who had worked on documentaries such as Natural World, The Making of a Continent, Nature, and The World About Us during the 1970s and 1980s, told J. Richard Greenwell that an amateur naturalist had reported seeing "a platypus or platypus form" on an island in Tierra del Fuego, an archipelago off the southern tip of South America, during the 1970s. Greenwell found the account convincing, and planned an expedition to the island. John Colarusso had predicted the existence of this cryptid some years before, while writing on the waitoreke.
Platypuses, represented by the sole living species Ornithorhynchus anatinus, are currently confined to Australia, and monotremes as a whole to Oceania. However, one platypus, Monotrematum (~64–61 MYA), has been discovered in Argentina's Salamanca Formation, which dates to the Middle Palaeocene. Greenwell associated Monotrematum with the platypus reportedly seen in Tierra del Fuego.
Karl Shuker speculates that the Canadian duck beaver could be "a developmentally aberrant, teratological version of the normal beaver," particularly given the discovery of a specimen in a beaver lodge. Michael F. was certain that the animal reported by him from near Mountain Point was not any species of seal, and Shuker suggests that it could have been an otter, but he notes that such an identity could not explain the supposed bill described by the witness.
Notes and references
- Shuker, Karl P. N. (29 March 2017) A Couple of Crypto-Platypuses From North America karlshuker.blogspot.com [Accessed 20 July 2021]
- Arment, Chad "Marine 'Platypus'," North American BioFortean Review, No. 3 (2000)
- Warms, Jonathan (2015) Strange Creatures Seldom Seen: Giant Beavers, Sasquatch, Manipogos, and Other Mystery Animals in Manitoba and Beyond, Coachwhip Publications, ISBN 978-1616462888
- Greenwell, J. Richard "Searching for a Living Form of Platypus in South America," Spirit of Enterprise: The 1993 Rolex Awards (1993)
- Wolf, Tom & Sparks, Barbara (1995) Colorado's Sangre de Cristo Mountains
- Michael Andrews - IMDb imdb.com [Accessed 20 July 2021]