Thursday, May 8, 2008

1/2 Bird! 1/2 Mammal! 1/2 Lizard! Er...

The European Bioinformatics Institute have finally succeeded in mapping the genome of the world's weirdest animal: the duck-billed Platypus. Unsurprisingly, it turned into the world's weirdest genome.

The mapping showed that this native animal of Australia and Tasmania is part mammal (it's covered in fur and lactates, although it doesn't have boobies, so the young suckle the milk through the skin of the platypus' abdomen), part bird (see duck bill and webbed feet) and part lizard (it lays eggs and the males have a venomous spine behind its back feet).

When this weirdo animal was first brought back to Europe, people thought it was a taxidermist's hoax: that it was made up of the leftover bits of different animals. Well, it seems the taxidermist didn't have to, because nature did it for them.

I'm still having a hard time wrapping my mind around the whole lactating through the abdomen thing; do the mommas leave a slimy milk trail after them when they crawl across land? How do the young latch on to the abdomen with those funky bills?

Anyhoo...I thought it was interesting. Read the article on Discovery News.