I Have Your Transitional Species Right Here

8 05 2008

When the British naturalist George Shaw first saw the platypus in 1799 he thought it was a hoax.

Now a team of scientists has finally determined the platypus’s entire genetic code and its DNA is as odd as the animal’s exterior bearing genetic modules that are in turn mammalian, reptilian and avian.

The animal’s reptilian roots provide the genes for egg laying and for making snake venom (which the animal stores in its legs) but its mammalian genes provide for making milk (despite not having nipples).

Then there are the ten sex-determining chromosomes that scientists still don’t know what to make of. Most mammals have two sex chromosomes, X and Y but not only do platypuses have 10 instead of two, but some of those resemble the Z and W chromosomes of birds.

“It’s such a wacky organism,” said Richard Wilson, director of the genome center at Washington University in St. Louis, who led the two-year international effort, described online Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Yet in its wackiness, Wilson said, the platypus genome offers an unprecedented glimpse of how evolution made its first stabs at producing mammals. It tells the tale of how early mammals learned to nurse their young; how they matched poisonous snakes at their own venomous game; and how they struggled to build a system of fertilization and gestation that would give rise to the first humans.

Update: There is a very informative video here from the journal Nature about this new finding.

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8 responses

8 05 2008
Chris

All that proves is God has a wonderful sense of humor.

8 05 2008
SuperJesus

Oh yes, God is quite the silly prankster isn’t he? One day he makes a platypus and the next day he’s gleefully killing thousands of people with a cyclone in Myanmar. He’s such a crazy comedian that one!

9 05 2008
Chris

You just have to understand the context of the Myanmar joke.

9 05 2008
SuperJesus

Good point. I must have missed the setup.

9 05 2008
Chris

Which brings me to my biggest beef. How is it God is responsible for the creation of the universe but not responsible for horrific weather conditions? Seems an intelligently designed world would have less severe weather patterns for the children he loves.
I mean, I love my kids, but I’m not going to install a whirlpool machine in the swimming pool to teach them a lesson.

9 05 2008
SuperJesus

You’re a wuss. I leave electrical appliances around the perimeter of the pool just to keep my kids on their toes and to thin out the ones who aren’t paying attention. Then of course there is the unplugged curling iron that’s always in the bottom of the deep end. I flick that one on without warning when I don’t think they’re worshiping me enough…or if I’m just feeling malicious.

16 09 2008
jacob1207

I think the platypus is a shoe-in to win the Most Bizzare Animal Contest again this year. A venemous, egg-laying mammal with ten sex chromosomes? Seriously, is there another animal anywhere near as mixed up as this one? If there is, I’d love to know about it!

12 02 2009
Darwin Birthday Tribute « The Gospel of Super Jesus

[…] I Have Your Transitional Species Right Here […]

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