Sunday, 17 January 2010

Mystery of Duck-Billed Platypus Venom Being Solved

Australia is home to some of the most fascinating and unique animal species on the planet, including the duck-billed platypus.  The duck-billed platypus is one of only two monotremes in the world, the other being the echidna or spiny anteater.  A monotreme is a mammal that lays eggs, and the duck-billed platypus is found in the the rivers of Eastern Australia.  They dig burrows in the riverbank and and spend the hours of darkness swimming and diving for prey.

They have several peculiarities of appearance such as the 'duck-bill' and no visible ears, but one of the more surprising attribute of male platypuses is that they are venomous.  Both male and female platypuses have spurs on the ankle, but the male playpus's spur is capable of injecting a cocktail of venom composed of mainly defensin-like proteins.  Although the venom can kill smaller animals, it generally does not kill humans.  However, the pain that the venom causes is excruciating and can incapacitate it's victim.

Scientists are now reporting that for the first time they are beginning to unlock the mysteries of the chemical composition of the platypus venom by identifying a dozen protein building blocks.

To read the whole fascinating article click here

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