In the most recent issue of Nature, scientists announced the first look at the genome of the duck-billed platypus. Just as you’d expect from an animal that has the bill and webbed feet of a duck, lays eggs like a bird or reptile, and produces milk and has fur like a mammal – this hodgepodge of an animal has a mix of genes thought to be found in specific lineages throughout evolution.
The scientists found that its genome contains about 18,500 genes, similar to other vertebrates and about two-thirds the size of the human genome. The platypus shares 82 percent of its genes with the human, mouse, dog, opossum and chicken. (Strange side note – this animal also has venom sacks(!) and nurses through a pouch of skin on the abdomen that is not a nipple.)
This may seem like a strange animal to know the genomic sequence of, but it has the potential to be really cool. Hopefully we’ll be able to learn something about mammalian evolution, and the function of the conserved genes.