Platypus Genome is Key to Understanding Human Evolution

May 08, 2008 02:16 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
by Isabel Cowles
A recently published mapping of the platypus genome will help scientists bridge the gap between reptile and mammalian evolution.

30-Second Summary

A newly released study illuminates the genetic makeup of one of the strangest animals on Earth: the duckbilled platypus.

The platypus is so physically unique that when scientists first examined it in 1798, they thought the discovery was a hoax, refusing to believe that a “duck-billed, egg-laying, otter-footed, beaver-tailed, venomous” animal could actually exist.

It’s not surprising that genome of the platypus is also unusual, and of great scientific value. Jenny Graves, a scientist at Australian National University called new research on the platypus DNA “the most eagerly awaited genome since the chimp genome because platypuses are so weird.”

Because the platypus shares characteristics with both reptiles and mammals, its genome represents a key link in the evolution of mammals. According to Oxford University scientist Chris Ponting, “This is our ticket back in time to when all mammals laid eggs while suckling their young on milk.”

Headline Link: ‘Platypus Genome As Weird As Platypus’

Opinion and Analysis: Platypus genome key to understanding human evolution

Key Player: The platypus

Related Topic: Animal oddballs


Most Recent Beyond The Headlines