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Press Release 08-076
Platypus Genome Decoded

Genome may yield clues about evolution and disease prevention

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A platypus shown in three ways with a snake, a bird and a gorilla shown to match its attributes.

New genome research proves platypus DNA is an equally cobbled-together array of avian, reptilian and mammalian lineages that may hold clues for human disease prevention. The male platypus has venomous spurs on his hind feet with poison very similar to that of reptiles. The female lays eggs like birds and lactates to feed their young just like mammals.

Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation


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Mark Batzer of LSU explains how the curious makeup of platypus DNA lends insights into its origins and offers further understanding of genomic information.

Credit: Still images: Gerry Pearce, australian-wildlife.com; Healesville Sanctuary, Victoria, Australia; Gerry Pearce, australian-wildlife.com; striatic, http://www.flickr.com/photos/striatic/17367; video, National Science Foundation

 

Photo of platypus swimming.

The platypus, found in eastern Australia, including Tasmania, is comfortable on both land and in water. It is one of the five species of mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young. The four species of echidna are the other mamimals that share this distinction.

Credit: Gerry Pearce, australian-wildlife.com


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Photo of baby platypus born at Healesville Sanctuary, Victoria, Australia.

The ancient, patchworked platypus is a relatively unchanged animal that may be a scientific boon for researchers, who are learning a lot from its recently decoded genome about mammalian gene regulation and immune systems, which could have huge implications for human disease susceptibility research.

Credit: Healesville Sanctuary, Victoria, Australia (This image may be reproduced by news media and educational institutions with appropriate acknowledgement of Healesville Sanctuary. However, this does not include permission for reproduction for retail commercial purposes.)


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