Sunday, February 20, 2005

The Platypus: Is it a Bird?
Thursday, 17 February 2005
Presenter: Jodie Van De Wetering

It has a leathery bill and lays eggs, and the first European naturalists to see the platypus thought it was some kind of hoax from the colonies.

And the latest genetic research indicates there might be more 'duck' in the duck-billed platypus than we've previously thought.

Humans, like all mammals, have two bits of DNA called chromosomes that determine whether we're male(XY) or female (XX).

But the platypus has not two, but ten sex-determining chromosomes, so a male platypus is an XXXXXXXXXX, while his mate is an XYXYXYXYXY.

This structure is unique to the swimming, breathing contradiction we call the platypus - although it bears a passing simmilarity to the genetic structure of modern birds!

Scott Burnett from the Wildlife Preservation Society says we know much more about the platypus than we did a few years ago, but information is still sketchy on the elusive aquatic animal.

That's thanks to the efforts of those geneticists who've charted the DNA of the platypus, but also a dedicated team of volunteer platy-spotters across the state.

These volunteers record where platypus have been seen, and what they were doing.

Mr Burnett says the platypus is, despite its status as one of the world's strangest creatures, a remarkably resilient character.