It is true that a baby platypus is called a puggle, but the popular photograph shared on Reddit shows a young echidna, a close relative to the egg-laying mammal that is also called a puggle.
We've seen our fair share of so-called baby platypuses circulate online over the years, from that adorable, palm-sized sculpture that the internet mistook for a beady-eyed living animal to a fluffy doll that social media users thought was an authentic platypus baby.
Though adorable and reminiscent of one of the world's only egg-laying mammal, a popular photograph shared to Reddit does not show a baby platypus, but rather a young echidna, which is also known as a "puggle."
The above post was shared on May 10, 2022, and had garnered more than 44,000 upvotes since its publication, but it's not the first time the internet has seen this "puggle." A reverse image search took us to a Pinterest post that described the hand-held animal as an echidna puggle named Beau, who was housed at the Taronga Wildlife Hospital in Sydney, Australia. Beau, an orphaned echidna puggle, first played on the internet's heartstrings nearly a decade ago in November 2012, with the publication of zoo photographs of the spineless juvenile echidna.
We then searched the archives of the Taronga Conservation Society of Australia website and found a blog post from Oct. 23, 2012, that noted Beau was around a month old at the time of his rescue and was found by hikers in New South Wales. A veterinarian nurse and "surrogate mum" to Beau said that she had not seen a puggle at such a young age in over 15 years due to the unique lifecycle of echidnas. Newborn echidnas will spend the first part of their life in their mother's pouch, and after a few weeks will then be kept in a burrow for several months with the mother returning every few days to nurse, notes Taronga.
Like platypuses, echidnas are known as monotremes that both lay eggs and nurse their young. There are only five known monotremes: four echidna species, and one platypus species, notes the San Diego Zoo. Monotremes have patches that excrete milk for their young to "lap up" rather than nurse directly from teats. Beau can be seen lapping milk from the palm of his caretaker's hand in the video below:
By February 2013, the "frail puggle" that had once been Beau grew into a fully spiked and brave echidna.
"Beau's become adventurous and now climbs out of the travelling box. When disturbed, the young echidna will flinch, curl up or dig into the dirt, which is exactly what echidnas do," said echidna caretake Annabelle Sehlmeier in a blog post at the time. "Beau is very used to people and so will be staying at the Taronga Education Centre to meet visitors and students and help educate them about the wonders of our unique wildlife."
The wildlife hospital took care of another echidna puggle in November 2021 that was found alone and abandoned on a property, also in New South Wales. When Weja arrived, its eyes weren't yet fully opened and its ears were still closed, according to another blog post published by the center.
"Beau the Puggle." Beau the Puggle | Taronga Conservation Society Australia, https://www.taronga.org.au/news/2018-07-11/beau-puggle. Accessed 16 May 2022.
"Beau's Spiky Transformation." Beau's Spiky Transformation | Taronga Conservation Society Australia, https://taronga.org.au/news/2018-07-11/beaus-spiky-transformation. Accessed 16 May 2022.
"Does a Viral Photo Show a Real Baby Platypus?" Snopes.Com, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/baby-platypus-photograph/. Accessed 16 May 2022.
Echidna | San Diego Zoo Animals & Plants. https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/echidna. Accessed 16 May 2022.
Echidna Puggle at Taronga Zoo - YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGleaTJoy1U. Accessed 16 May 2022.
"Log into Facebook." Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/login/?next=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Ftarongazoo%2Fphotos%2Fa.438818372847726%2F438819199514310%2F. Accessed 16 May 2022.
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"Orphaned Puggle at Taronga Wildlife Hospital." Orphaned Puggle at Taronga Wildlife Hospital | Taronga Conservation Society Australia, https://www.taronga.org.au/media-release/2021-11-17/orphaned-puggle-taronga-wildlife-hospital. Accessed 16 May 2022.
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"Taronga Cares for Tiny Echidna Puggle." Taronga Cares for Tiny Echidna Puggle | Taronga Conservation Society Australia, https://www.taronga.org.au/news/2018-07-11/taronga-cares-tiny-echidna-puggle. Accessed 16 May 2022.
"That's Not a Baby Platypus, This Is a Baby Platypus." Australian Geographic, 15 June 2021, https://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/wildlife/2021/06/thats-not-a-baby-platypus-this-is-a-baby-platypus/.
white_bread. "TIL a Baby Platypus Is Called a Puggle." R/Aww, 10 May 2022, www.reddit.com/r/aww/comments/umvymw/til_a_baby_platypus_is_called_a_puggle/.