From Cosmos magazine:
Evolution of platypus venom revealed
Wednesday, 4 July 2007
by Anya Weimann
SYDNEY: With a duck-like bill and a habit of laying eggs, the platypus is a strange mammal. Australian researchers have now uncovered the evolutionary basis of one of its most unusual features: its venom.
Both male and female platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) are born with hind leg spurs, but only males produce a cocktail of venom there, which helps them compete with other males for mates and defend themselves against predators. The venom is powerful enough to kill dogs and though it is not fatal to humans, it can cause pain so intense that the victim is debilitated for weeks. …
The platypus venom study has come out of efforts to sequence the entire genome of the species. As the platypus is a monotreme – a primitive group that branched off early on in the mammalian tree of life – new insights on its genetic make-up could help us better understand mammalian evolution.
Earlier this year, researchers published the genome of the South American opossum (Monodelphis domestica) the first marsupial to be sequenced. Other marsupial genome projects such as the Tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii), representing the kangaroo family, are also underway.
Platypus ancestry: here.
Pygmy-possum hibernation: here.
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