Monday, May 12, 2008

Placental, the sister of her brother Marsupial

Did you hear the exciting news about the mapping of the platypus genome, or have you been under a rock? Fascinating stuff:

A scientific team published the genetic makeup of the Australian animal in the scientific journal Nature on Thursday, confirming that its features -- which straddle multiple animal classes -- are reflected in its DNA.

The research could help explain how mammals, including humans, evolved from reptiles millions of years ago, they said.

"At first glance, the platypus appears as if it was the result of an evolutionary accident," said Francis S. Collins, director of the U.S. National Human Genome Research Institute, which funded the study.

"But as weird as this animal looks, its genome sequence is priceless for understanding how mammalian biological processes evolved," Collins said in a statement.

Jenny Graves, an Australian National University genomics expert who co-wrote the paper, said the gene sequencing shows the platypus has a mix that crosses different classifications of animals.

"What we found was the genome, just like the animal, is an amazing amalgam of reptilian and mammal characteristics with quite a few unique platypus characteristics as well," she told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

The platypus is classed as a mammal because it has fur and feeds its young with milk. But it also has bird and reptile features -- it lays eggs, has a duck-like bill and webbed feet, it and lives mostly underwater. Males also have spurs on their heels that inject pain-causing venom to ward off mating rivals.

Scientists believe the platypus and humans shared an evolutionary path until about 165 million years ago when the platypus branched off. Unlike other evolving mammals, the platypus retained characteristics of snakes and lizards, Graves said.
This is absolutely NOT a wildlife or zoology blog.


Salty Miss Jill said...

But will this be a platypus blog?
Please say yes! I love the platypus!

Huntington said...

But it could be a They Might Be Giants lyrics blog.