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Researchers Publish Genome Sequence for Duck-Billed Platypus
Date:5/7/2008

One of the few mammals that lays eggs offers clues to evolution of all mammalian genes

WEDNESDAY, May 7 (HealthDay News) -- An international team of scientists has published the first analysis of the genome sequence of the duck-billed platypus, one of the few mammals that lays eggs.

The research offers clues about how genomes were organized during the early evolution of mammals.

"At first glance, the platypus appears as if it was the result of an evolutionary accident. But as weird as this animal looks, its genome sequence is priceless for understanding how fundamental mammalian biological processes have evolved. Comparisons of the platypus genome to those of other mammals will provide new insights into the history, structure and function of our own genome," Francis S. Collins, director of the U.S. National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), said in a prepared statement.

The NHGRI helped fund the analysis of the genome sequence of the platypus, which is native to Australia and has many unique characteristics. Along with being one of the few mammals that lays eggs, the platypus has a duck-like bill, an electrosensory system it uses to forage for food underwater, and a thick fur coat adapted for icy waters. Males have hind leg spurs that can deliver venom that causes excruciating pain.

The researchers found that the platypus genome contains about the same number of protein-coding genes as other mammals (approximately 18,500) and also shares more than 80 percent of its genes with other mammals whose genomes have been sequenced.

The scientists then looked for unique parts of the platypus genome that have been lost from mammalian genomes, as well as genetic features associated with reptiles.

"The mix of reptilian, mammalian, and unique characteristics of the platypus genome provides many clues to the function and evolution of all mammalian genomes," study senior author Richard K. W
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