I’m pretty sure you’ve heard about cross-breed animals, like the maltese. But a mixture of animals… probably the platypus is the first of its class! Never heard of it before? One might recall the Sydney Olympic Games 2000, where an animal named Syd (obviously short for Sydney) was one of the 3 mascots for the event – and without a doubt that animal is a platypus. Or perhaps you’ll recognize it as the animal minted on the back of an Australian 20-cent coin.
http://asiaaudiovisualexc09marisamaliombo.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/mascot-olympic-games-2000.jpg (accessed on 3rd April 2010)
http://s1.hubimg.com/u/1533760_f260.jpg (accessed on 3rd April 2010)
http://www.learnanimals.com/platypus/pictures/platypus-03-swimming.JPG (accessed on 3rd April 2010)
Background on the platypus:
The platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is a venomous, egg-laying, duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed, semi-aquatic mammal. In fact they are the ONLY mammal known to lay eggs and the ONLY venomous mammal known to humans. They are the oldest surviving branch of mammals known to date. They are one of five extent species in the Monotremata order; others include four species of their cousin, the echidna. They can only be found only at two places on Earth – namely, Eastern Australia and Tasmania.
The first appearance of the platypus dumbfounded many people as they thought it was impossible to have the platypus’ phenotype. After some years of research and questions, scientists have confidently concluded that they have reptile and mammal traits. Examples include the coat of fur they have to help them adapt to an aquatic lifestyle; the fact that their females lactate and yet lay eggs; and how males have spurs on their hind legs containing venom similar to that of many reptiles.
Scientists have also discovered that the platypus’ beaks contains a lot of receptors, which are used when the platypus dives down into the water to forage for food (their diet include small invertebrate animals found at the bottom of rivers or lakes – as they have no teeth to chew) as they tend to close their eyes and their nose when doing so.
Both genders are born with venomous spurs located at their hind legs, but after being a few months old, the females’ spurs will drop off, while the males’ keep their spurs intact. These spurs will enable them to protect themselves against predators. During mating season, these spurs will come in handy when there are male-male battles for both territories and mates.
“Platypus”, by Wikipedia, 28th March 2010. URL : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platypus (accessed on 3rd April 2010)
“Platypus Genome Reveals Secrets of Mammal Evolution”, Scott Norris, National Geographic News, 7th May 2008. URL : http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/05/080507-platypus.html (accessed on 3rd April 2010)
“DPIW : Platypus : Introduction to an Iconic Mammal”, Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment in Tasmania, Australia, 26th November 2009. URL : http://www.dpiw.tas.gov.au/inter.nsf/WebPages/BHAN-53575?open
“Syd, Olly and Millie – Olimpiade Sydney 2000”, by Marissa on WordPress, July 16, 2009 : http://asiaaudiovisualexc09marisamaliombo.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/mascot-olympic-games-2000.jpg (accessed on 4th April 2010)
“The platypus featured on the Australian 20 cent coin”, on Hubpages : http://s1.hubimg.com/u/1533760_f260.jpg (accessed on 4th April 2010)
“Platypus swimming under water” on Learnanimals : http://www.learnanimals.com/platypus/pictures/platypus-03-swimming.JPG (accessed on 4th April 2010)
“Platypus Parts”, by National Geographic. Hosted on Youtube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNoQvjlmGdk&feature=fvw (accessed on 4th April 2010)
“Platypus Genome: by Nature Video”, by National Video Channel. Hosted on Youtube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MH8XgQzjEE fvw (accessed on 4th April 2010)
“Probing Platypus Evolution”, by National Geographic. Hosted on Youtube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVneqhu9oZk&feature=channel fvw (accessed on 4th April 2010)
“Genome analysis of the platypus reveals unique signatures of evolution”, by Wesley C. Warren and colleagues. Nature 453, 175-183 (8 May 2008) Retrieved from : http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v453/n7192/full/nature06936.html