I just read on ABC News Online that scientists have decoded the genetic make-up of the platypus. Very cool!
According to the study released this morning in the journal Nature, the semi-aquatic animal is a genetic potpourri – part bird, part reptile and part lactating mammal.
The task of laying bare the platypus genome of 2.2 billion base pairs spread across 18,500 genes has taken several years, but will do far more than satisfy the curiosity of just biologists, say the researchers.
The platypus is classified as a mammal because it produces milk and is covered in coat of thick fur, once prized by hunters.
Lacking teats, the female nurses pups through the skin covering its abdomen.
There are reptile-like attributes too; females lay eggs, and males can stab aggressors with a snake-like venom that flows from a spur tucked under its hind feet.
The bird-like qualities implied by its Latin name, Ornithorhynchus anatinus, include webbed feet, a flat bill similar to a duck’s, and the gene sequences that determine sex. Whereas humans have two sex chromosomes, platypuses have 10, the study showed.