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“There is nothing quite as enigmatic as a platypus”
May 8, 2008 9:09 PM   Subscribe

It turns out if it looks like a duck it's partly a duck. A bunch of scientist got together and set about to decode the platypus genome, and guess what!?! "What we found was the genome, just like the animal, is an amazing amalgam of reptilian and mammal characteristics with quite a few unique platypus characteristics as well". “You have got these reptilian repeat patterns and these more recently evolved milk genes and independent evolution of the venom. It all points to how idiosyncratic evolution is.” “We have microRNAs that are shared with chickens and not mammals as well as ones that are shared with mammals, but not chickens.” Also, apparently, male platypi have venomous spikes on their heels that can kill dogs!

For those who can't access this really really awesome Nature write up here's a really cool factoid: every sperm gets a set of all Xs or all Ys. Despite the similar designations, none of the platypus X chromosomes resembles the human, dog or mouse X. “The sex chromosomes are absolutely, completely different from all other mammals. We had not expected that”
posted by Large Marge (46 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
male platypi have venomous spikes on their heels that can kill dogs!

Another thing I share with the platypus.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:17 PM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Not 'platypi', 'platipuses'. The word is English via Greek, not Latin.

OK that aside: yeah, they're bloody weird things eh?
posted by pompomtom at 9:19 PM on May 8, 2008


of course I mean 'platypuses'....
posted by pompomtom at 9:20 PM on May 8, 2008


It's like God just took all the spare parts and made a new animal!
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:25 PM on May 8, 2008


When I was a kid, I thought platypuses were cool. But it's taken me several decades to appreciate just how incredibly weird they are.

They produce milk, but they don't have nipples. The young suckle it through the skin on their mother's belly.

Evolution is cool.
posted by rtha at 9:46 PM on May 8, 2008


It's like evolution just took a path that resulted in a creature with mammalian and reptilian traits!
posted by Mister Cheese at 9:47 PM on May 8, 2008


Wouldn't that make it "platypodes"?
posted by darksasami at 9:50 PM on May 8, 2008


posted by Mister Cheese It's like evolution just took a path that resulted in a creature with mammalian and reptilian traits!

And that creature is called Hans Reiser.
posted by optovox at 9:53 PM on May 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


Great trivia question...What is the only mammal that lays eggs?
posted by JujuB at 10:06 PM on May 8, 2008


Great trivia question...What is the only mammal that lays eggs?

Is that a trick question?
posted by bunglin jones at 10:12 PM on May 8, 2008


[sigh] I was really excited by these links, only to have it ruined by the second comment of the Nature article:
" Could it be that the reason it doesn't quite fit the rules is that it's genetic code is unique using the basic building blocks in a different combination assigned at it's inception? Rather than a series of mutations which are incapable of supplying useful variation, all the genes were planned assemblies through the the cellular growth, division & recombination. Rather than an accident, could the Duck Bill Platypus be on Purpose?"

Do these people just sit there, scouring the web for "evolution" keywords to put their propaganda into?
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:19 PM on May 8, 2008


"platypus venom" is not a concept previously known to me
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:41 PM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't think it should take that much technology to discover that platapuses are weird.
posted by jewzilla at 10:50 PM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Venom? PLATYPUSES HAVE VENOM?!

I'm so angry at the world for not telling me this before.
posted by spiderskull at 11:03 PM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


I have wished for a tiny supply of platypus venom with which to disable my enemies ever since I read this:
Spicer (1876) cites a case where "The pain was intense and almost paralysing. But for the administration of small doses of brandy, he would have fainted on the spot: as it was, it was half and hour before he could stand without support: by that time the arm was swollen to the shoulder, and quite useless, and the pain in the hand very severe".
Pain that requires a nerve block to stop. Respect. Unlike their neighbors the koalas, platypuses are hard.
posted by hades at 11:16 PM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Missing from the AP report and Nature article but written in the Sydney Morning Herald was - "What we've found is really interesting, because the platypus is born without an immune system at all, unlike humans," Dr Belov told AAP.
"So we went looking for molecules that would produce immunity. What we found is molecules that develop into their own microbials (broad spectrum antibiotics)."

posted by tellurian at 11:19 PM on May 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


The young [platypuses] suckle it through the skin on their mother's belly.

While for humans, it only seems that way.
posted by padraigin at 11:21 PM on May 8, 2008


"Monotremes oviparous, ovum meroblastic"
posted by Ritchie at 11:25 PM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Do these people just sit there, scouring the web for "evolution" keywords to put their propaganda into?

Apparently.

The forums to which anti-evolutionists post can be seen as a sort of ecosystem, in which the spurious arguments they post live. In some forums, arguments find more receptive readers, or are couched in a way that makes it more difficult to see the error, and those arguments are reinforced and prosper. In others, the arguments are quickly shot down, or deleted outright, and as such have little chance to affect the discourse of the forum.

Over time, those arguments that succeed, or at least fail more slowly, become primary anti-evolutionist talking points, and those that fail quickly, or lead to obvious contradictions with stronger arguments, become extinct and in time anti-evolutionists will deny that anyone ever said them, or that those who did say them, aren't in any way the same anti-evolutionists that are currently active; they will claim that those arguments were more like primitive precursors to the more sophisticated rhetoric they currently purvey.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:26 PM on May 8, 2008 [39 favorites]


Ok all the other things I could sorta shrug of and say 'yea, heh, it is kinda weird huh?' But no friggin immune system?!
posted by Catfry at 11:31 PM on May 8, 2008


Unlike their neighbors the koalas, platypuses are hard.

They may not have venom, but Koalas are mean little bastards.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 11:33 PM on May 8, 2008 [13 favorites]


If Creationists are using the platypus as proof of intelligent design, then I guess we just have to disagree about the meaning of intelligent.
posted by one_bean at 11:51 PM on May 8, 2008 [4 favorites]


Those are some killer heels, right there.
posted by flippant at 11:53 PM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


One_bean, you just hit upon the idea behind Unintelligent Design.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 11:55 PM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ever tried to run with a koala's claws in your chest and thighs and its teeth in your crotch? It's not possible.

I'll keep that in mind.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:23 AM on May 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


The Platypus is the missing link between reptiles and mammals? BRILLIANT!!!! How fucking hillarious and oddly right is that?! Sometimes I love the universe...almost as much as I love Platypuses!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:18 AM on May 9, 2008


I'm not sure it's that weird that the sex chromosomes differ, this is also true of birds, no?

[...] Nice, U.D.N is great. lol But the FSM gets the press.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:41 AM on May 9, 2008


[insert clever name here], that koala link had me crying with laughter. Brilliant!
posted by Jakey at 1:55 AM on May 9, 2008


Platypussies make me very proud to be an Australian. Here, even sweet cuddly looking critters that look like they should be called Mittens or Rosiepetal are venemous pain machines.
posted by Jilder at 3:02 AM on May 9, 2008


What if God smoked cannabis?
Hit the bong like one of us?
He designed the platypus
So he must have been stoned...

posted by Faint of Butt at 3:20 AM on May 9, 2008


thanks for posting this, Large Marge - monotremes are just all kinds of interesting

I've always hoped that someone would write a good scifi story about monotremes evolving into some humanoid type form...

then again, if you've got a venomous heel spike & your body synthesizes readymade antibiotics, what other tools would you really need?
posted by jammy at 6:04 AM on May 9, 2008


Perhaps this is Kirk Cameron's much sought after CrocoDuck!
posted by dobbs at 6:50 AM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


> It's like evolution just took a path that resulted in a creature with mammalian and reptilian traits!
> posted by Mister Cheese at 12:47 AM on May 9 [+] [!]

Not just once or twice, either. The entire order Therapsida has generated decades of are-they-reptiles-are-they-mammals-are-they-in-between wrangling. I wish we had a few more examples of the order to sequence, to see if their genomes look at all platypus-like.
posted by jfuller at 6:51 AM on May 9, 2008


The Platypus is a strange and intriguing creature. Some of the odder things about it:

* They have ten sex chromosomes, out of a total of 52. Males are ‘XYXYXYXYXY.’
* They swim using only their two front legs, though the back two are also webbed.
* Only the left ovary of females is functional.
* They have no visible ears.
* They only use their eyes while above water.
* Underwater, they can detect electric fields generated by muscular contractions.
* They lose their three teeth before they first leave their mother’s burrow.
* They forage for twelve hours a day.
* They have a body temperature five degrees lower than most other placental mammals.
* Females lactate through pores in their skin. Milk pools in grooves located on their abdomens.
posted by sindark at 7:15 AM on May 9, 2008 [7 favorites]


then again, if you've got a venomous heel spike & your body synthesizes readymade antibiotics, what other tools would you really need?

Wings.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 7:35 AM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


darksasamiWouldn't that make it "platypodes"?
"Platypoda", I think. I've heard this argument regarding octopus -> octopoda, but my knowledge of Greek grammar is somewhat limited.

Okay, very limited.

posted by workerant at 8:28 AM on May 9, 2008


There is nothing quite as enigmatic as a platypus

Humans are pretty fucking weird, too.
posted by Tehanu at 8:34 AM on May 9, 2008


I would just like to state, in an apologized-for and partial derail, that the background to the Unintelligent Design site [insert clever name here] linked to is amazing.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 8:49 AM on May 9, 2008


I knew about the venomous spur thanks to the Patrick O'Brian "Master and Commander" books. The crew visits Australia at some point, where Maturin, following his scientific curiosity, gets spurred by a platypus.
posted by A dead Quaker at 8:52 AM on May 9, 2008


"platypus venom" is not a concept previously known to me

It should be the name of a potent vodka-based drink. Or maybe slang for some kind of street drug.

Or, better yet, the title of a speed-metal album.

Platypüs Venöm!
posted by quin at 9:07 AM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


dirigibleman: Not 'platypi', 'platypuses'. The word is English via Greek, not Latin.

Ah. Then you mean to say it's Platypoi.

Er, well, no, I guess. Platypoi is it. But *it's* Platypous. I always forget to decline correctly. At least I think it's second-declension; the Platypon species has a pretty obvious ending. Maybe we should ask one, though. Hey, you! Platype! Yeah, you over there sharpening your venomous heel-spikes! How exactly does one refer to Platypois?
posted by Viomeda at 9:08 AM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


The plural of pous is podes.

But that's Greek. English can do what it likes.

posted by nebulawindphone at 9:51 AM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have seen "octopodes" used to mean multiple species of octopus, as opposed to individual octopuses. But I think there is only one sort of platypus.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 12:30 PM on May 9, 2008


Jeff Burges: platy-whatever-they are (even their name is weird) are different than birds because they have 10 chromosomes. Birds are kinda like humans, except dudes carry ZZ chromosomes and ladies have a ZW pair. Here's an article from a while ago that explains it somewhat.
posted by Large Marge at 12:39 PM on May 9, 2008


Venomous? Venomously cute, maybe.
posted by lekvar at 1:04 AM on May 10, 2008


The Platypus is the missing link between reptiles and mammals? BRILLIANT!!!! How fucking hillarious and oddly right is that?! Sometimes I love the universe...almost as much as I love Platypuses!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:18 AM on May 9 [+] [!]


The link was never missing.
posted by cellphone at 6:33 AM on May 10, 2008


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