The platypus is infamous, not just for being odd-looking, but for being one of the overall weirdest creatures in modern times. It has the torso and tail resembling those of a beaver, the beak and webbed feet of a duck, and it can produce venom!
What type of animal is a platypus?
(Photo : Photo by Meg Jerrard)
Its ancestors gave the world “wild” a whole new meaning. Nature might have one heck of a time during its conception.
The duck-billed platypus is genuinely one of the most bizarre creatures on Earth. Even on Australian wildlife standards.
Along with the Echidna, a close second on the weird animal scale, the two Australian mammals belong to the unique mammal subgroup known as monotremes. Monotremes are mammals (because of their mammary glands) that can also lay eggs to give birth.
And, just when you thought that they could not get any weirder, you have never been so wrong in your entire life. The complete genome map of this creature with ten sex chromosomes might just prove just how crazy the whole concept of this animal really is.
According to a genome analysis done to know more about them, the platypus seems to have been looking like the way it currently is for a relatively long time. It did not find the need to adapt and evolve to fit its present ecosystem.
However, that is not the craziest part of the entire genetic study for the platypus. After years of studying, it has been discovered that the animal that looked like a Hodgepodge hybrid of many different animals is actually a Hodgepodge hybrid of many different animals-genetically speaking.
The genes of the platypus revealed a bizarre mix of DNA from different animal classes. Not just species, classes. Aside from its mammal genes, it also showed traces of birds and reptiles in its system.
Though weird, the platypus’s unique roots might actually reveal the scientific hypothesis that many creatures share the same ancestry despite evolving into totally different species. Scientists even went as far as claiming that the platypus might hold the key in discovering the secrets of our very own evolution. This particular species might be able to provide answers for the age-old scientific question that is, “how did our distant mammalian ancestors go from egg-laying to giving birth?”
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In modern times, scientists divide mammals into three specific subclasses based on their reproduction techniques, the eutherians (also known as placentals), the marsupials, and the monotremes.
Humans, along with the majority of the mammals, belong to the subclass eutherians.
Considered as therian mammals, the eutherians and marsupials give birth to their offspring through live birth while the odd one out, the monotremes, choose to lay eggs.
Up until today, it is still murky at best for the scientific world when it comes to studying the specific point that the three subclasses decided to go off their different ways-the point in time when they developed unique reproductive techniques. Researchers are also trying to figure out why only one of the three classes kept the egg-laying method.
Why are scientists spending precious time and resources on studying mammalian ancestry?
Researchers continue to study ancestry and genetics because of one end goal, the total understanding of how life works. Genetic studies can provide insights into the future of many areas, including enhancing the medical field. Knowledge learned from the research can help modern and future research into the possibility of solving many medical issues and concerns.
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