UK-based researchers at the Medical Research Council Functional Genomics Unit in Oxford and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory’s European Bioinformatics Institute in Cambridge have revealed the genetic makeup of the one of the world’s strangest mammals.
from the UK and Australia. The analysis is published in the 8 May issue of Nature.
The platypus is thought to have diverged from a common ancestor shared with humans approximately 170 million years ago. The species has many features that are unique to mammals; for example it has fur and rears its young on milk.
However, it also shows reptile-like characteristics; the females lay eggs and the males produce venom. Some features, such as a specialised system in the platypus bill that uses electricity to detect food under water (electro-reception), are unique to monotremes. The researchers found that these diverse characteristics are mirrored by a patchwork of genes resembling those from reptiles, birds and other mammals.
Lead researcher Chris Ponting from the MRC Functional Genomics Unit at the University of Oxford said “The platypus genome is extremely important because it is the missing link in our understanding of how we and other mammals first evolved.
This is our ticket back in time to when all mammals laid eggs while suckling their young on milk. It also provides an essential background to future advances in understanding mammalian biology and evolution.”
The researchers searched the genome for DNA sequences that are unique to the monotremes, as well as those known to be involved in venom production, electro-reception and milk production in other species. They discovered that platypus venom is a cocktail of proteins that originally had very different functions. Amazingly, the same proteins are found in reptile venom even though platypus and snake venom evolved independently. They also found that the platypus has many more sex chromosomes – the organised structures into which DNA is packed that determine sex – than do humans.
The platypus has ten sex chromosomes, compared with our two. Furthermore, the gene sequences responsible for determining sex are more similar to those in birds than in mammals. Ewan Birney, who led the genome analysis performed at the European Bioinformatics Institute, commented “The platypus looks like such a strange blend of mammalian, bird-like and reptilian features and now we know that the genome is an equally bizarre mix of all of these. It’s much more of a mélange than anyone expected.”
Anna-Lynn Wegener | EMBL
Bolstering fat cells offers potential new leukemia treatment
17.10.2017 | McMaster University
Ocean atmosphere rife with microbes
17.10.2017 | King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST)
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
17.10.2017 | Life Sciences
17.10.2017 | Life Sciences
17.10.2017 | Earth Sciences