Health

How Earth’s Oddest Mammal Got to Be so Bizarre

It lays eggs, but nurses, it is toothless, has a venomous spur, has webbed feet, fur that glows and has 10 sex chromosomes.

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Ever since Europeans discovered the platypus in Australia during the late 1700’s, the quirky, duck-billed, semiaquatic creature has baffled scientific researchers.

Modern day researchers are still trying to understand how the platypus — often considered to be the world's oddest mammal — got to be so unique. Their understandings have now advanced, to a great degree. For the first time, an international team of researchers, led by University of Copenhagen biologists, has mapped a complete platypus genome. The study has been published in the scientific journal, Nature.

"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.

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