Cloaca may be one of the prettiest sounding words in the English language, but it is one that few people are offhandedly familiar with. It is derived from the Latin “cluo,” which means “sewer,” which is highly appropriate, as a cloaca is a catch-all orifice through which urine, feces, and eggs pass. This biological feature is present in all species of birds, but is not found in mammals, save for one unique exception — the monotremes.
Monotremata (from the Greek for singular and hole) is an order of mammals that possess a cloaca, which means not only are these mammals pissing and shitting out of the same hole, but they are also laying eggs. There are only two animals in the entire world that are part of this order – the platypus and the echidna.
Found only in Australia, they are the weird leftovers of an evolutionary path less traveled. While they are considered mammals, they are the only ones that don’t give live birth to their young, instead hatching them out of eggs that pass through their cloaca.
Aside from this, platypi and echidnas are just plain funny looking, something which better comedy writers than I have been hammering on for decades. The late great Robin Williams once opined that god was stoned when he made the platypus, and Kevin Smith wrote in the opening to Dogma that the platypus was proof god had a sense of humor.
In addition to being hilarious looking creatures, these animals also possess another unique ability among mammals – electroreception. The platypus and echidna can both perceive electrical stimuli, which they take advantage in order to locate and hunt prey by honing in on the small electrical fields produced by those organisms.
Boy, those monotremes sure are wacky. Now that we’ve peppered your brain with factoids about these unique and fascinating creatures, I suppose it would be time to take a look at some. Unfortunately, the wildlife photographer we keep on staff is going through a rough divorce right now and won’t answer his emails, but we did round up some pictures of monotreme tattoos.
A platypus or echidna definitely makes for a tattoo as interesting and unique as the creatures’ own status in the mammalian world. Let us all give thanks to these odd mammals, because if God hadn’t learned from the mistakes made in their creation, we could all be going through life shitting and pissing out of the same hole we occasionally lay eggs from.