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Biotech Science

Platypus Genome Decoded 133

Posted by samzenpus
from the a-little-bit-of-everything dept.
TaeKwonDood writes "Is it reptile, bird or mammal? Some of each. Does it have venom, lay eggs and lactate? Yes. Upon discovery in 1798, fellow scientists thought it was for an episode of 'Thou hast been Punk'd,' but this Australia native, on home on land and in water, is real and, finally, it gets its own decoded genome. It's no surprise the DNA is as messed up as the critter itself."
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Platypus Genome Decoded

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  • another link (Score:5, Interesting)

    by H0D_G (894033) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @09:47PM (#23332582)
    also reported by the ABC http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/05/08/2238461.htm [abc.net.au] on a personal note, a platypus is really interesting to watch in the wild. it's movement is quite lizardlike.
    • Re:another link (Score:4, Informative)

      by antic (29198) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @04:25AM (#23334860)
      Quick fact for those who weren't aware: the platypus, along with the echidna (kinda like an Australian version of a porcupine or hedgehog?), is a 'monotreme'. Essentially, a mammal that lays eggs.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by erroneus (253617)
      "On a personal note"???

      Either "I don't think that means what you think that means" or "How personal, exactly, are you with a platypus?" You may not actually want to answer the latter question because it is illegal in many places.
      • You may not actually want to answer the latter question because it is illegal in many places.
        Not to mention dangerous. The platypus has sharp claws.
        • Re:another link (Score:5, Interesting)

          by donscarletti (569232) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @08:26AM (#23335868)

          The male platypus actually has venomous [wikipedia.org] spurs on the back of its hind legs, it hasn't been known to kill humans but can cause local paralysis and greater amounts of pain than the bites of many venomous snakes. There are pretty much no other example of anything like what the male platypus has, the sexual dimorphism of the trait, the fact that it's a spine like a poisonous fish not a tooth like all other venomous terrestrial creatures and of course the fact that it is a mammal (or close to it) of which there are very few examples of venom production(more info here [wikipedia.org]) all make it unique.

          The issue with them is that when people are lucky enough to find one (they are surprisingly common but also very secretive) they generally won't associate them with venom, even if they were taught about it before. They look comical and harmless so they handle them and get stung which I guess is fair enough. Ironically, a wild echidna [wikipedia.org] (a spiky monotreme) is quite safe to touch (you still shouldn't do it, though I admit that I once couldn't resist the temptation during a trip through Tasmania).

  • by daeley (126313)
    Everybody thinks it's just ducky until they get the bill.
  • by SpeedyDX (1014595) <speedyphoenix@gmaiELIOTl.com minus poet> on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @09:49PM (#23332592)
    Calling the Platypus a "messed up" animal is one thing, but comparing it to an Ashton Kutcher show is just uncalled for.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      but comparing it to an Ashton Kutcher show is just uncalled for.

      I dunno. I think it's make a great show:

      "Coming up on Thou Has Been Punk'd, we fool village know-it-all Moses into thinking God is speaking to him! Watch out, burning bush is in the hizzy!"
    • by Thornae (53316)
      Given the title, "Thou Hast Been Punk'd" had been running for a century or two by 1798.

      Seriously, does anyone think that Captain James Cook said "hast" instead of "have"?
  • National Geographic most likely.
  • THCTHCTHC (Score:5, Funny)

    by coren2000 (788204) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @10:01PM (#23332662) Journal
    Strangely, the DNA strands seem to spell out THCTHCTHCTHCTHC repeated a hundred million times.
    • Re:THCTHCTHC (Score:4, Informative)

      by bh_doc (930270) <blhiggins.gmail@com> on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @11:35PM (#23333348) Homepage
      H isn't a nucleobase. Your choices are C, G, A, T (in DNA), and U (in RNA).

      Yeah, yeah, "Whooosh!" I know.
      • Re:THCTHCTHC (Score:5, Informative)

        by shawb (16347) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @01:19AM (#23334052)
        Hypoxanthine [wikipedia.org]. That may seem like a bit of a stretch, but this is the platypus we're talking about.
      • by patio11 (857072) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @07:17AM (#23335536)
        And mammals don't lay eggs or come with poison spines, but when has that ever stopped the platypus before?

        I could never decide as a kid whether the platypus disproved intelligent design (I mean, come on, look at it) or whether it was just God's grand joke. "Suck on this, natural selection. I wonder how I can make something LESS plausible. Oh, needs more poison spines... and a beaver tail. Oh, and just to top it off, I'm going to stealth mod them with electrolocation so after the humans can actually detect that they'll just go 'Oh WTF no you didn't'. Its good being omnipotent."
        • by grahamd0 (1129971)

          I could never decide as a kid whether the platypus disproved intelligent design (I mean, come on, look at it) or whether it was just God's grand joke.

          Well, really, it's the misshapen chimera all of the anti-evolution people demand to see, but it's too cute and mild-mannered to want to upset anyone's world view.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Bob-taro (996889)

            Well, really, it's the misshapen chimera all of the anti-evolution people demand to see, but it's too cute and mild-mannered to want to upset anyone's world view.

            Well, that's the funny thing about a world view, isn't it? The same facts can be considered "evidence" of 2 different views. An evolutionist might say, "look! a transitional species! a product of geographical isolation and unique environmental pressures!". A creationist might say, "look, a totally unique creation that defies your attempts at taxonomy!". It is what it is, but how you think it got here is probably going to be determined by how you already think everything else got here.

  • lactation (Score:5, Funny)

    by caramello (1227828) <berlin1977NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @10:04PM (#23332688)
    why can't i buy platypus cheese?
    • For the same reason you can't buy human cheese (I think that french website is a hoax). It's just weird.
    • by jonadab (583620)
      > why can't i buy platypus cheese?

      It wouldn't be safe to eat. Platypus milk is from Australia, so of course it's poisonous.
      • by YttriumOxide (837412) <yttriumox@@@gmail...com> on Thursday May 08, 2008 @02:15AM (#23334344) Homepage Journal

        Australia: The Confusing Country

        Australia is a very confusing place, taking up a large amount of the bottom half of the planet. It is recognizable from orbit because of many unusual features, including what at first looks like an enormous bite taken out of it's southern edge; a wall of sheer cliffs which plunge deep into the girting sea. Geologists assure us that this is simply an accident of geomorphology and plate tectonics, but they still call it the "Great Australian Bight" proving that not only are they covering up a more frightening theory, but they can't spell either.

        The first of the confusing things about Australia is the status of the place. Where other land masses and sovereign lands are classified as either continent, island, or country, Australia is considered all three. Typically, it is unique in this.

        The second confusing thing about Australia are the animals. They can be divided into three categories. Poisonous, Odd, and Sheep. It is true that of the 10 most poisonous arachnids on the planet, Australia has 9 of them. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that of the 9 most poisonous arachnids, Australia has all of them. Though, there are curiously few snakes, possibly because the spiders have killed them all. Even the spiders won't go near the sea. Any visitors should be careful to check inside boots (before putting them on) under toilet seats (before sitting down) and generally everywhere else. A stick is very useful for this task.

        Strangely, it tends to be the second class of animals (the Odd) that are more dangerous. The creature that kills the most people each year is the common Wombat. It is nearly as ridiculous as it's name, and spends it's life digging holes in the ground, in which it hides. During the night it comes out to eat worms and grubs. The wombat kills people in two ways: First, the animal is indestructible. Digging holes in the hard Australian clay builds muscles that outclass Olympic weightlifters. At night, they often wander the roads. Semi-trailers (Road Trains) have hit them at high speed, with all 9 wheels on one side, and this merely makes them very annoyed. They express this by snorting, glaring, and walking away. Alas, to smaller cars, the wombat becomes an asymmetrical high-speed launching pad, with results that can be imagined.

        The second way the wombat kills people relates to it's burrowing behavior. If a person happens to put their hand down a Wombat hole, the Wombat will feel the disturbance and think "Ho! My hole is collapsing!" at which it will brace its muscled legs and push up against the roof of it's burrow, with incredible force, to prevent it's collapse. Any unfortunate hand will be crushed, and attempts to withdraw will cause the Wombat to simply bear down harder. The unfortunate will then bleed to death through their crushed hand as the wombat prevents him from seeking assistance. This is considered the third most embarrassing known way to die, and Australians don't talk about it much.

        At this point, we would like to mention the Platypus, estranged relative of the mammal, which has a duck-bill, otter's tail, webbed feet, lays eggs, detects it's aquatic prey in the same way as the electric eel, and has venemous barbs attached to its hind legs, thus combining all 'typical' Australian attributes into a single improbable creature.

        The last confusing thing about Australia is the inhabitants. First, a short history: Some time around 40,000 years ago, some people arrived in boats from the north. They ate all the available food, and lot of them died. The ones that survived learned respect for the balance of nature, man's proper place in the scheme of things, and spiders. They settled in, and spent a lot of the intervening time making up strange stories.

        Then, around 200 years ago, Europeans arrived in boats from the north. More accurately, European convicts were sent, with a few deranged and stupid people in charge. They tried to plant their crops in Autumn (failing to take

        • If that's not from _A Sunburned Country_, it sounds just like it. Great book!

          Lived in Melbourne as a kid. Great people, beautiful country.
        • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Godzone is New Zealand, you insensitive clod!
          • Godzone is New Zealand, you insensitive clod!

            Hah, as a native born Kiwi, I'm WELL aware of that... the Aussies still call Australia "Godzone" as well though.

            And also in my defence, I'm not the original author of that rather humorous piece - I just posted it for the funny mods (and managed to pick up an "Informative" and "Insightful" somehow as well it seems, but that wasn't my intention!).

    • by forkazoo (138186)

      why can't i buy platypus cheese?

      Because you don't shop at finer cheese shops. (Mmmm... Venezuelan Beaver Cheese!)
  • Poisonous (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EdIII (1114411) * on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @10:14PM (#23332760)
    I had just recently learned that they also had poisonous barbs on their back feet. What is surprising that it is one of the most painful venoms on the planet. A gentleman that had been stuck by a platypus had also been struck by shrapnel in World War II.

    He said if he had to choose between the two, it would be the grenade.

    So the cute little bastards are also very dangerous. I still want to pick one up and hug them though.
    • Re:Poisonous (Score:5, Informative)

      by aerthling (796790) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @10:23PM (#23332802)
      You can pick a female up and hug it - only adult males have the spur, iirc.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by NoobixCube (1133473)
      I wonder; if Steve Irwin had a choice, would he have picked the platypus barb, or the sting ray barb? Sure, he'd be alive today if he got stung by the platypus, but it would have really hurt like hell. I'm going to be modded down by all the Crocodile Hunter fans now...
    • He said if he had to choose between the two, it would be the grenade.


      Hmmm... I wonder what would happen if....

      "Awww what a cute little platy- AAAAAAAAAAARGH GET HIM OFF ME GET HIM OFF ME SON OF A -*starts swearing in pain*"
    • by gstoddart (321705)

      I had just recently learned that they also had poisonous barbs on their back feet. What is surprising that it is one of the most painful venoms on the planet.

      I heard that a few months ago. It completely boggled my mind -- a venomous back toe on top of everything actually left me so utterly stunned it wasn't funny.

      We're talking a damned strange critter! I mean, "cobbled-together array of avian, reptilian and mammalian lineages" -- you couldn't make this thing up and get half of what it actually is.

      Cheers

    • I had just recently learned that they also had poisonous barbs on their back feet.

      Are you also aware of their electrolocation feature? That's pretty cool and weird at the same time also.

      • by Scaba (183684)

        Are you also aware of their electrolocation feature? That's pretty cool and weird at the same time also.

        That's colloquially known as "GPS."

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jimmux (1096839)
      Not only is it painful, it has the curious effect that morphine is completely ineffective against it. I wonder if that had anything to do with this gentleman's preference for the grenade.
  • QED (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FlyByPC (841016) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @10:24PM (#23332820) Homepage
    Intelligent Design, meet Platypus.
    ...
    Platypus, meet Intelligent Design.

    Maybe there is a God, maybe not -- but would any sane being *design* something like this??
    • I would! (Score:4, Funny)

      by Greyfox (87712) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @10:32PM (#23332882) Homepage Journal
      I would totally design something like... oh... wait...
      • The flying spaghetti monster?

        Always thought the concept of intelligent design was a bit of a joke. I'm not saying that there is or isn't some sort of greater being out there but seriously... a platypus, giant flaming balls of gas for light and heat, George W. Bush (had to get the political joke in)... we couldn't call whatever created this earth intelligent if we tried.
        • by Greyfox (87712)
          Meh. That's how I'd do it. Set up a system with parameters for whatever I was looking for and let evolution do my job for me. I think I'd start with more than just bunch of hydrogen hoping it'd form the right conditions but if you believe in that sort of thing you really don't know what the original designer was looking for. Could be he was just looking for a reasonably efficient (if slow) method of turning hydrogen into plutonium and everything else is just a side effect.

          For all we know, all those squish

        • George W. Bush (had to get the political joke in)
          Well, you managed to fit his name in anyway. (I don't think /. posts will hold a Max Headroom or Tron type of download.)

          BTW, the ID people never claimed that everything designed would itself be intelligent.

      • Then again, the same thing could be said for natural selection. I know *I* would naturally select something like that but....
    • by frovingslosh (582462) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @11:27PM (#23333300)
      I believe that Jesus's side kick was a platypus. Two thousand years ago, the Europeans were unfamiliar with the platypus. So a symbol of Easter became an Easter Bunny. But one that brought eggs. And occasionally the bunny was replaced by a duckling, a creature with a duckbill and webbed feet. Had the early Europeans known about this strange Australian mammal, they would have recognized Jesus's sidekick for what he was, and the incorrectly interpreted story of the Easter Bunny would not have spread through the world.

      This is, of course, all just theory.

      • by famebait (450028)

        [mixed up stuff about easter bunnies and platypuses]
        Dude, Australia is an easter egg.
    • Re:QED (Score:4, Funny)

      by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @11:37PM (#23333354) Journal
      Maybe there's an insane God?

      That's probably the single item that religious people seem least able to argue about. Even if they can convince me there is a God, now they have to convince me that it's a good God.
    • -- but would any sane being *design* something like this??


      Spore, heavenly version? [vgcats.com]
    • Maybe there is a God, maybe not -- but would any sane being *design* something like this??

      I think Robin Williams said that the Platypus was proof that even God likes to get high.

    • by karmer (1269290)
      Would any sane being design humans??
    • Deterrent. The Platypus is Mother Nature's way of keeping us in line. She's saying "look at what I made from all the left over bits...and it will still f*ck you up."
    • by melikamp (631205)
      God designed platypus right after he put the finishing touches on cannabis.
    • by famebait (450028)
      Yeah, the aborigines were right with their cute little little euphemism: Australia really was created in "the dreamtime".

      God gave us the mind and all the clues.
      The bible is just there to test our faith. In ourselves.
      Australia is probably there just to mess with our heads.
    • by sveard (1076275)
      They will say it was designed from the leftovers
    • by LS (57954)
      Just as those who believe in intelligent design can't get over their misconceptions about the nature of reality and supposed evidence for divine involvement in its design, you are making the same mistake in assuming what a so-called designer's criteria would be. Who is to say that a creator couldn't have a sense of humor or that the platypus is somehow poorly designed?

      disclaimer: I do not believe in a creator or intelligent design (and it's ok to be gay, and I have black friends, etc.)

      LS
    • by ultracool (883965)
      Clearly it's a practical joke played on us by some aliens.
    • by wjsteele (255130)
      Dude, gods can get high, too!
  • ... and how do I compile it ?
    • I tried to compile it, and all I got was a segmentation fault.
      • That's because you tried to compile it with a jdk. For anything whose source code is this old, you'll be have better luck with FORTRAN
    • "make all" doesn't work with the default Makefile coming with the release. In order to compile, issue the command "make love", then link the resulting "egg.o" with libreptile.so, libbird.so, and libmammal.so.
      • by Megane (129182)
        I think the multiple inheritance involved here works best with Objective-C and its "protocols". So you'll have to use GCC. Visual Studio is right out.
    • The source code is shipped with every binary and in selected models you get a complete self-hosted build environment at no extra charge. The user interface is a bit rough, and compile time is pretty high, but it definitely complies with the GPL.
  • Living fossils (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Guppy (12314) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @10:37PM (#23332912)
    Interesting indeed... I vaguely recall some debate when sequencing the platypus was proposed, over whether or not it was a worthy use of funding and sequencer time, being that it was not considered a representative of any medically or commercially important organism, or one of the various "model" laboratory organisms.

    Anyway, saw a comment posted as a reply to a Nature article on it which also suggested we take a look at "other 'outlier' organisms, including the echidna, birds like the kiwi or tinamous, tuataras, nautilus, and similar organisms." Sounds like a good idea -- here's hoping we see sequence data from other living fossil [wikipedia.org] organisms.

    • Fortunately, the cost keeps dropping fast. A complete sequence is under $100,000. Last year it was a million. So that debate is largely over now.
  • See? (Score:3, Funny)

    by oracle128 (899787) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @10:40PM (#23332932)
    We told you it was real. Now we just have to decode the Bunyip genome.
    • Re:See? (Score:4, Funny)

      by Macgrrl (762836) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @12:22AM (#23333684)

      Should Bunyips be sequenced before or after Drop Bears?

      • I don't think it matters both are equally interesting and kill approximately the same number of people in Australia per year.
      • by Malekin (1079147)
        There's no way I'm getting close enough to a drop bear to gets its DNA. I hear those things are vicious.
      • by jimmux (1096839)

        Should Bunyips be sequenced before or after Drop Bears?

        Neither. Yowies should be sequenced first.

        They are far more elusive. There is still much debate about whether they even exist, whereas everyone has seen bunyips and dropbears.

      • by Megane (129182)
        Hey, where's the love for the humble Jackalope? Let's hear it for something above the equator!
    • by Wordplay (54438)
      That's so 1990s cryptozoology. The new hotness is Bunyipv6.
  • by Wylfing (144940) <brian AT wylfing DOT net> on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @10:41PM (#23332940) Homepage Journal

    Now that their DNA has been decoded, we will find out why platypuses are such powerful sorcerers.

  • In all honesty, that one isn't surprising. In Australia, if it doesn't have big serrated teeth, it can probably paralyze you with a single bite.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Thumper_SVX (239525)

      In Australia, if it doesn't have big serrated teeth, it can probably paralyze you with a single bite.
      And that's just the women...
  • All platypus jokes aside, I for one am surprised to see that the platypus genome was completed. Not long ago scientists were remarking at how difficult it would be, considering the platypus has something like 10 sex chromosomes.

    Add to that the fact that there aren't that many of them, in captivity or in the wild, and they generally prefer to stay away from us, and you get a rather difficult task just trying to get platypus DNA.

    And of course, that also leave the question of what to build the genome
    • And of course, that also leave the question of what to build the genome from. Generally, when new genomes are built, other genomes are used for scaffolding, as a sort of guide for where genes might fall, how large they might be, etc... But then what organisms should be used for scaffolding when assembling the genome of an egg-laying mammal?
      Look at it this way... they could use just about any organisms available and have some base sequences to build from :)
  • The 1999 Ford Taurus gets it's features from nature's platypus design. Thick in the middle, tapered on both ends, and (4) five spoke rubbery components for motion.

    Click for yourself:

    Platypus [creationscience.com]

    1999 Ford Taurus [showauto.com]

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