The discovery of the duck-billed platypus came as a shock to nineteenth century biologists - some people even claimed that it was a hoax, put together out of parts of other animals. In 'Platypus' Ann Moyal tells the story of the problems it caused in the developing science of taxonomy, of the rivalry between the British and the French over classification of newly discovered animals, and how the question was eventually settled. Moyal looks at how the scientists of the day, such as Charles Darwin, Richard Owen and Thomas Huxley, reacted to the platypus, and conversely the effect that dealing with this challenge had upon their careers.
Now it's a difficult task to present the history of taxonomy in an exciting way and I would say that Ann Moyal doesn't really succeed. The book isn't hard to read, but I felt that moving between the careers of different scientists meant that it lacked the central thread it needed. I finished the book feeling that I hadn't really learnt very much, and that those interested in the discovery of the creature would do better to read Stephen J Gould's short essay 'To be a platypus' in the book Bully for Brontosaurus.