BATON ROUGE Theres no doubt about it ... the platypus is one odd duck-billed, egg-laying, lactating mammal. With adaptations like webbed feet to fit its aquatic lifestyle and the poison spurs that decorate males, the platypus represents for many a patchwork of evolutionary development. But LSUs Mark Batzer, along with an international consortium of scientists led by Wes Warren at Washington University in Saint Louis, Mo., has taken this theory to an entirely new level, proving that platypus looks arent only skin-deep their DNA is an equally cobbled-together array of bird, reptile and mammalian lineages.
The consortium conducted the first analysis of platypus DNA in what was the largest platypus population genetics study to date.
Their genomic organization was strange and a little unexpected, said Batzer, Andrew C. Pereboom Alumni Departmental Professor of Biological Sciences at LSU and one of the principle investigators of the project. It appeared much more bird- and reptile-like than mammalian, even though it is indeed classified as a mammal. Its an ancient animal, too, and it has remained relatively primitive and unchanged, both in physical appearance and genetically.
What does this discovery mean for the public? The very real potential for advances in human disease prevention and a better understanding of mammalian evolution.
This is a huge genetic step, said Batzer. Understanding is key. Were learning a lot about mammalian gene regulation and immune systems, which has huge implications for disease susceptibility research. We hope to, in time, identify the underlying causes and methods of disease prevention in humans.
The platypus was chosen as the subject of this study in large part due to its strange appearance, but other selection factors include the species endangered status in its only indigenous habitat, Australia. Platypuses are extremely shy by nature and there has been little success in breeding t
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Louisiana State University