1. Joined
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    09 May '08 14:02
    Published Thursday 8 May in ABC News:

    Scientists have for the first time unveiled the unusual genetic make-up of the Australian platypus.

    According to the study released this morning in the journal Nature, the semi-aquatic animal is a genetic potpourri - part bird, part reptile and part lactating mammal.

    The task of laying bare the platypus genome of 2.2 billion base pairs spread across 18,500 genes has taken several years, but will do far more than satisfy the curiosity of just biologists, say the researchers.

    "The platypus genome is extremely important, because it is the missing link in our understanding of how we and other mammals first evolved," explained Oxford University's Chris Ponting, one of the study's architects.

    "This is our ticket back in time to when all mammals laid eggs while suckling their young on milk."

    Native to eastern mainland Australia and Tasmania, the semi-aquatic platypus is thought to have split off from a common ancestor shared with humans approximately 170 million years ago.

    The creature is so strange that when the first stuffed specimens arrived in Europe at the end of the 18th century, biologists believed they were looking at a taxidermist's hoax, a composite stitched together from the body of a beaver and the snout of a giant duck.

    But the peculiar mix of body features are clearly reflected in the animal's DNA, the study found.

    The platypus is classified as a mammal because it produces milk and is covered in coat of thick fur, once prized by hunters.

    Lacking teats, the female nurses pups through the skin covering its abdomen.

    There are reptile-like attributes too; females lay eggs, and males can stab aggressors with a snake-like venom that flows from a spur tucked under its hind feet.

    The bird-like qualities implied by its Latin name, Ornithorhynchus anatinus, include webbed feet, a flat bill similar to a duck's, and the gene sequences that determine sex. Whereas humans have two sex chromosomes, platypuses have 10, the study showed.

    "It is much more of a melange than anyone expected," said Ewan Birney, who led the genome analysis at the European Bioinformatics Institute in Cambridge.

    The animal also possesses a feature unique to monotremes, an order including a handful of egg-laying mammals, called electroreception.

    With their eyes, ears and nostrils closed, platypuses rely on sensitive electrosensory receptors tucked inside their bills to track prey underwater, detecting electrical fields generated by muscular contraction.

    "By comparing the platypus genome to other mammalian genomes, we'll be able to study genes that have been conserved throughout evolution," said senior author Richard Wilson, a researcher at Washington University.

    In captivity, platypuses have lived up to 17 years of age.

    In the wild, they feed on worms, insect larvae, shrimps and crayfish, eating up to 20 per cent of their body weight everyday.

    Males grow to a length of 50 centimetres (20 inches) and weigh about two kilos, with females about 20 per cent shorter and lighter.

    The genome sequenced for the study belongs to a female specimen from New South Wales nicknamed Glennie and can be accessed at http://www.ncbi.nih.gov/Genbank.

    Jenny Graves from the Australian National University says by mapping the genome, the scientists also found the platypus has an unusual genetic sexual make up.

    "In fact the platypus does sex like a bird, we know that other mammals have an X and a Y chromosome and there's a gene on the Y chromosome that makes you male, that's SRY and we found there is no SRY in a platypus," she said.

    "In fact, the platypus sex chromosome is derived not from other mammal sex chromosomes but from bird sex chromosomes."

    The genome mapping also revealed the platypus venom produces some useful chemical compounds which may eventually help develop human medicines such as painkillers and potent antibiotics.
  2. Joined
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    10 May '08 15:37
    Yay science!
  3. weedhopper
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    10 May '08 15:55
    Originally posted by Retrovirus
    Yay science!
    I always thought that the platypus was proof that Darwin was full of doodoo.
  4. Subscribersonhouse
    Fast and Curious
    slatington, pa, usa
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    10 May '08 16:13
    Originally posted by PinkFloyd
    I always thought that the platypus was proof that Darwin was full of doodoo.
    Of course, with your pro-creationist or is it ID?, you would sieze on anything that bolsters your pathetic case.
  5. weedhopper
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    11 May '08 02:18
    Originally posted by sonhouse
    Of course, with your pro-creationist or is it ID?, you would sieze on anything that bolsters your pathetic case.
    I am neither pc or id; I simply noted what I was taught over the years of public schooling i was exposed to.
    Oh wait--you're that bullying buffoon.
  6. Standard memberNemesio
    Ursulakantor
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    11 May '08 18:57
    Originally posted by PinkFloyd
    I always thought that the platypus was proof that Darwin was full of doodoo.
    Why?
  7. weedhopper
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    11 May '08 19:55
    Originally posted by Nemesio
    Why?
    My 6th grade teacher claimed that by being a bird-like, retile-like, mamaalian, that Mr. Platypus violated all the evolutionary laws of Darwin, debunking his theory. As I said to Mr. Bullying Buffoon earlier, all views expressed at Southside Elementary School do not reflect mine. 🙂 And that wasn't the only public school teacher I had to express similar sentiments; as late as 11th grade I was taught that the Platypus was God's way of giving Darwin the "Bronx cheer".
  8. Standard memberNemesio
    Ursulakantor
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    11 May '08 23:30
    Originally posted by PinkFloyd
    My 6th grade teacher claimed that by being a bird-like, retile-like, mamaalian, that Mr. Platypus violated all the evolutionary laws of Darwin, debunking his theory. As I said to Mr. Bullying Buffoon earlier, all views expressed at Southside Elementary School do not reflect mine. 🙂 And that wasn't the only public school teacher I had to express simil ...[text shortened]... 11th grade I was taught that the Platypus was God's way of giving Darwin the "Bronx cheer".
    But, of course, you now recognize that the platypus actually affirms evolution. I think it would
    have been clearer if you had said 'I had thought that...' rather than 'I thought...' since the latter
    implies you thought it at the time you read the initial post.

    Both your 6th-grade and 11th-grade teachers either misunderstood evolution and Darwin, or they
    were willfully ignoring the actual evidence.

    Nemesio
  9. Subscribersonhouse
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    12 May '08 03:08
    Originally posted by Nemesio
    But, of course, you now recognize that the platypus actually affirms evolution. I think it would
    have been clearer if you had said 'I had thought that...' rather than 'I thought...' since the latter
    implies you thought it at the time you read the initial post.

    Both your 6th-grade and 11th-grade teachers either misunderstood evolution and Darwin, or they
    were willfully ignoring the actual evidence.

    Nemesio
    Probably because they were ID'ers.
  10. Standard memberscottishinnz
    Kichigai!
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    12 May '08 04:10
    Originally posted by MissOleum
    Published Thursday 8 May in ABC News:

    Scientists have for the first time unveiled the unusual genetic make-up of the Australian platypus.

    According to the study released this morning in the journal Nature, the semi-aquatic animal is a genetic potpourri - part bird, part reptile and part lactating mammal.

    The task of laying bare the platypus genome ...[text shortened]... lly help develop human medicines such as painkillers and potent antibiotics.
    PZ Meyer's has a good article on his blog.

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/05/the_platypus_genome.php
  11. Cape Town
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    12 May '08 09:11
    Originally posted by MissOleum
    There are reptile-like attributes too; females lay eggs, and males can stab aggressors with a snake-like venom that flows from a spur tucked under its hind feet.

    The bird-like qualities implied by its Latin name, Ornithorhynchus anatinus, include webbed feet, a flat bill similar to a duck's, and the gene sequences that determine sex. Whereas humans have two sex chromosomes, platypuses have 10, the study showed.
    Those are just misleading. You might as well call a bird that can swim underwater fish-like and think it is some missing link.
    The egg laying is not unique to reptiles, neither is poison.
    Webbed feet is not unusual in aquatic mammals (whales, dolphins, etc.) even beavers (an aquatic rodent) have webbed feet. Non-aquatic birds mostly do not have webbed feet - so webbed feet clearly has to do with being aquatic not with being a bird. The same goes for the 'duck like' snout. One might as well say an ant-eaters snout looks like a stork.

    Yes I do know roughly where the platypus fits on the tree of life and it has never really been missing. I for one have known about it most of my life.
  12. Standard membershavixmir
    Guppy poo
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    12 May '08 20:45
    Does a platypus taste good?
  13. Joined
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    12 May '08 22:01
    Originally posted by shavixmir
    Does a platypus taste good?
    Now here is someone who is not afraid of asking the important questions!
  14. weedhopper
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    13 May '08 04:22
    Originally posted by Nemesio
    But, of course, you now recognize that the platypus actually affirms evolution. I think it would
    have been clearer if you had said 'I had thought that...' rather than 'I thought...' since the latter
    implies you thought it at the time you read the initial post.

    Both your 6th-grade and 11th-grade teachers either misunderstood evolution and Darwin, or they
    were willfully ignoring the actual evidence.

    Nemesio
    I tend to agree--if anything, the platypus affirms some facets of evolution rather than disproving it.
    My English grammar, however, was excellent, and having re-read my post, I believe "I thought" and "I had thought", I've determined that they are interchangeable and any implication is contrived.
    Also, sonhouse is probably right--they may have been IDers, but he's a bully and I do not address such scum.
  15. Joined
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    14 May '08 00:38
    In the late 1950s, a full half-century ago and long before genetics knew anything much at all, I was taught that the platypus supported the theory of evolution, because it showed that at one time all of the various threads - reptile, marsupial, mammal, bird - had had a common ancestor. At that time Christian religious instruction was a major part of the curriculum, but the story of creation was taught to us as a simplified explanation of the real thing (evolution).

    In the fifty years I have considered this topic I have found no reason to disagree with what I was taught then.
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