The duck-billed platypus and short-beaked echidna are iconic species in Australia. Their morphology and physiology have puzzled scientists all over the world for more than 200 years. Recent genetic studies, particularly the platypus whole-genome sequencing project, have revealed the molecular basis of some of the extraordinary characteristics of monotremes. This and other works demonstrate the great value of research on our most distantly related mammalian relatives for comparative genomics and developmental biology. In this review we focus on the reproductive biology of monotremes and discuss works that unravel genes involved in lactation, testicular descent, gamete biology and fertilization, and early development. In addition we discuss works on the evolution of the complex sex chromosome system in platypus and echidna, which has also significant impact on our general understanding of mammalian sex chromosomes and sex determination.