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Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Amazing Platypus

 



Platypuses are weird creatures. They are so unusual that it took taxonomists more than eighty years to determine what they are.

An international team of researchers, led by University of Copenhagen biologists, has mapped a complete platypus genome. The study is published in the scientific journal, Nature.

"Australia's beaver-like, duck-billed platypus exhibits an array of bizarre characteristics: it lays eggs instead of giving birth to live babies, sweats milk, has venomous spurs and is even equipped with 10 sex chromosomes. Now, researchers have conducted a unique mapping of the platypus genome and found answers regarding the origins of a few of its stranger features."

One of the platypus' most unusual characteristics is that, while it lays eggs, it also has mammary glands used to feed its babies, not through nipples, but by milk -- which is sweat from its body.

The complete genome has provided us with the answers to how a few of the platypus' bizarre features emerged. At the same time, decoding the genome for platypus is important for improving our understanding of how other mammals evolved -- including us humans. It holds the key as to why we and other eutheria mammals evolved to become animals that give birth to live young instead of egg-laying animals," explains Professor Guojie Zhang of the Department of Biology.

"The platypus belongs to an ancient group of mammals -- monotremes -- which existed millions of years prior to the emergence of any modern-day mammal."


Read more here and here.