Scientists solve the platypus

11 May 2008


A large international scientific effort has completed a preliminary version of the platypus DNA sequence.  The draft DNA code, published this week in Nature, provides valuable insights into the evolutionary origins of what's been dubbed the "world's wierdest animal".

PlatypusWhen specimens of the animal were first shipped to Britain years ago researchers thought the creature was a practical joke, assembled using random parts from a collection of other species.  That, obviously, isn't the case, but genetically speaking it might as well be, because the platypus shares genes with humans and birds and has even re-invented the genetic wheel in one instance, by independently evolving the same cocktail of toxins used by reptiles.

As one commentator points out, the results show that this animal inhabits a lonely twig at the end of a sparse branch of the vertebrate evolutionary tree.  But most importantly, the genomic insights from this work will almost certainly aid in the conservation of one of Nature's strangest and enigmatic creations.


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