Europeans and the platypus:
Some of the first impressions on the platypus, as seen by Europeans who first encountered and fought over just how to classify it. It was first assumed to be similar to the Feejee Mermaid,
a fake creature stitched together, but observations by naturalists soon confirmed there was an apparently beaked mammal, dubbed the 'duck bill mole' by colonists, living in Australia. The biggest argument was over exactly how the animal reproduced. I was observed a having a reproductive track similar to a bird, but females were reported to produce milk. It was not until eggs were found in the uterus of a female specimen sent to Richard Owen in 1832 that it was begrudgingly accepted the platypus did in fact lay eggs. Accounts had been given of female platypuses producing milk, but this was not accepted until Owen studied platypus neonates in 1834. Owen found not only that the babies' mouths were, unlike adults, shaped to allow suckling, but milk was present in their stomachs.
Some observations by Europeans:
"Of all the Mammalia yet known, it seems the most extraordinary in it's conformation; Exhibiting the perfect resemblance of the beak of a duck engrafted on the head of a quadruped." "I almost doubted the testimony of my own eyes with respect to the structure of this animal's beak.."-Dr George Shaw, Naturalist, with regards to specimen obtained in 1799.
It was Shaw who gave the platypus it's first Linnean name, Platypus anatinus
. It was alsmot simultaneuosly named Ornithorhyncus paradoxus
by comparitive anatomist Johann Blumenbach. The two names were used side by side, until it was discovered the genus platypus had already been given to a beetle in 1793, and the two were combined to the modern Ornithorhyncus anatinus
"[the platypus] seems to be an animal sui generis
; it appears to posses a three fold nature, that of a fish, a bird, and a quadruped,and is related to nothing that we have hitherto seen."-Thomas Bewick, England, 1800, in General History of Quadrupeds
"Earlier in the evening, I had been lying on a sunny bank & reflecting on the strange character of the animals in the country as compared ot the rest of the world. A disbeliever in everything beyond his own reason, might exclaim, 'Surely two distinct Creators must have been at work.'"-Charles Darwin, Diary at Wallerawang, 1830's.
Source and good book on humanity's attempt to understand the platypus:Platypus: The Extraordinary Story of How a Curious Creature Baffled the World"
By Ann Moyal.... and there's always room for more theories.