Platypus and echidnas are the only two mammals that lay eggs
Monotremes are mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young like marsupials (Metatheria) and placental mammals (Eutheria). The only surviving examples of monotremes are all indigenous to Australia and New Guinea, although there is evidence that they were once more widespread. Among living mammals they include the platypus and four species of echidnas (or spiny anteaters).
Like other mammals, monotremes are warm-blooded with a high metabolic rate (though not as high as other mammals), have hair on their bodies, produce milk through mammary glands to feed their young, have a single bone in their lower jaw and have three middle-ear bones.
Examples of monotremes
Monotremes were very poorly understood for many years, and to this day, some of the 19th century myths that grew up around them endure. It is still sometimes thought, for example, that the monotremes are “inferior” or quasi-reptilian, and that they are a distant ancestor of the “superior” placental mammals. It now seems clear that modern monotremes are the survivors of an early branching of the mammal tree; a later branching is thought to have led to the marsupial and placental groups.
Monotremes lay eggs. However, the egg is retained for some time within the mother, who actively provides the egg with nutrients. Monotremes also lactate, but have no defined nipples, excreting the milk from their mammary glands via openings in their skin. All species are long-lived, with low rates of reproduction and relatively prolonged parental care of infants.