Sylvain CORDIER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
ANIMALS – If you’ve ever wondered which animal family the platypus belong to, here are some tips. A scientific study giving the results of the first complete mapping of the genome of the species has been published in Nature, report ScienceDaily January 6th. This oddest creature on the planet, discovered in the 18th century, is believed to have genes belonging to several classes of vertebrate animals including birds, mammals and reptiles.
And, it’s not so surprising from a creature with, among other things, a pair of poisonous spurs located at the ankles, a fluorescent fur coat as well as skin that sweats milk. For the first time, therefore, researchers have managed to reconstruct its entire genome, which would explain the strange characteristics of the platypus.
Determination of the sex of the animal
Specialists are particularly interested in the sex chromosomes of the animal. The latter has ten, five male chromosomes and five other female. However, this is unique since all other earthlings have two, the X and Y chromosomes determining the nature of their sex. In addition, this particularity would represent “an ancestral form of chromosome which no longer exists in animals but has been observed in plants” according to Futura Sciences.
After comparing the platypus’s sex chromosomes to those of other animals such as hen, oposum or lizard, the researchers pointed out that they were closer to those of birds than those of mammals.
Other unique characteristics
To feed her young, the female platypus literally sweats milk through her fur. But, the study of the genes of the animal would have concluded that this milk differs from that of cows or humans.
In addition, the female lays eggs in a different way from birds or reptiles, which in turn need three genes to form the proteins that make up the egg. However, in the mapping of the platypus genome, only one remains functional.
The platypus is also unique because unlike the vast majority of mammals, it is toothless. The modern platypus has two horn plates for crushing food. The study reveals that the platypus would have lost its teeth around 120 million years ago.
Also, this particular creature is poisonous unlike the vast majority of other mammals. From the tip of its beak to the details of its genome, the platypus is definitely strange, but thanks to these findings, researchers have a better understanding of why. “The new genomes of the two species will allow us to better understand (…) the evolution of these extraordinary oviparous mammals”, they conclude in their study.
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