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Rare early C18th engraving of the newly discovered Platypus based on Governor John Hunter’s drawing which was sent London to be engraved.. The first description and known sighting was from a captured animal in November 1797 by David Collins on … Read Full Description
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Rare early C18th engraving of the newly discovered Platypus based on Governor John Hunter’s drawing which was sent London to be engraved..
The first description and known sighting was from a captured animal in November 1797 by David Collins on the Hawkesbury River. When the first skin sent by John Hunter, reached Europe it was thought to be a hoax and during the nineteenth century is was suspected that it lay eggs, but it was not until 1884 that final proof was obtained.
1797 First sighting and capture November
‘….. made up the whole catalogue of animals that were known at this time, with the exception which must now be made of an amphibious animal, of the mole species, one of which had been lately found on the banks of a lake near the Hawkesbury.
1798 First published account Blumenbach
Bertuch in volume 3 of his Bilder Buch fer Kinder published in 1798, contained an illustration of the Platypus, (Plate LXIV) and inluded a description and used the classified name given by the German naturalist, Johann Blumenbach’s, which had not been published by Blumenbach at that time. Blumenbach had classified the Platypus as Ornithorhynchus paradoxus and published his description and illustration in his Abbildungen naturhistorischer Gegenstande, v.5, no.41 in 1800 two years later than Bertuch’s. Blumenbach had been unaware that George Shaw had already given it the name Platypus anatinus. However, Platypus had already been shown to be used for the scientific name for a genus of Ambrosia beetles so Blumenbach’s scientific name for the genus was used.
1799 Shaw’s description
‘…Of all the Mammalia yet known it seems the most extraordinary in its conformation, exhibiting the perfect resemblance of the beak of a Duck engrafted on the head of a quadraped. So accurate is the similitude, that, at first view, it naturually excites the idea of some deceptive preparation by artificial means… Shaw’s description was considered until recently to be the first.
1800 Not a Hoax
Of this most extraordinary genus the first description appeared in the Naturalist’s Miscellany; but as the individual there described was the only one which had been seen…… Two more specimens, however, having been very lately sent over from New Holland, by Governor Hunter, to Sir Joseph Banks, the suspicions before mentioned are now completely dissipated.
Common names: Platypus, duck-billed Platypus
Binomial name: Ornithorhynchus anatinus
First described: Shaw 1799
Distribution: SA, VIC, TAS, NSW & QLD
References: The Mammals of Australia, Strahan, 2nd edition. p.36-38 ill.36,38
John Hunter (1737 - 1821)
Hunter was an admiral and the second governor of New South Wales. In May 1754 he became captain's servant to Thomas Knackston in H.M.S. Grampus. In 1755 he was enrolled as an able seaman in the Centaur, after fifteen months became a midshipman, transferred to the Union and then to the Neptune, successive flagships of Vice-Admiral Charles Knowles, and in 1757 took part in the unsuccessful assault on Rochefort. In 1759, still in the Neptune, in which John Jervis, later Earl St Vincent, was serving as a lieutenant, he was present at the reduction of Quebec. In February 1760 Hunter passed examinations in navigation and astronomy and qualified for promotion as a lieutenant, but he remained without a commission until 1780. Hunter obtained his first commission in 1780 as lieutenant in the Berwick through Admiral Rodney. When the arrangements which resulted in the sending of the First Fleet to Australia were being made in 1786, H.M.S. Sirius was detailed to convoy it. Hunter was appointed second captain of the vessel under Governor Arthur Phillip with the naval rank of captain. He was also granted a dormant commission as successor to Phillip in the case of his death or absence. In Phillip's instructions, 25 April 1787, it was hoped that when the settlement was in order it might be possible to send the Sirius back to England under Hunter's command. On the outward journey, soon after leaving the Cape of Good Hope, Phillip transferred to the tender Supply, hoping to make an advance survey of their destination at Botany Bay; he placed Hunter in the Sirius in command of the main convoy, though in the result the entire fleet of eleven ships made Botany Bay within the three days 18 to 20 January 1788. When Phillip felt doubtful about Botany Bay as the site of the first settlement, he took Hunter with him on the survey which decided that the landing should be on the shores of Port Jackson. Hunter was chiefly employed on surveying and other seaman's business, as well as sitting both in the Court of Criminal Judicature, which met for the first time on 11 February, and as a justice of the peace, the oaths of which office he took on 12 February.
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