Platypus and echidna: Beasts among beasts

27 06 2008

Okay, my slow yet triumphant return has meant I’m a little belated to comment on the recent emergence of the platypus genome.

I’m am very happy about the platypus genome. My Honours research was marsupial based, but if I hadn’t gone and retrieved some platypus genome database information (thanks WUST!), I would not have been able to do some exciting three way mammalian comparisons.

The platypus, and monotremes, in general are a source of further framing issues regarding evolution progression. I tried very carefully to avoid this in my thesis by emphasising that Marsupial/Monotremes weren’t primitive and have unique characteristics, while still offering a voyeur’s window in a world between birds and eutherians (the fancy term for placental mammals – whales, mice, and us).

One of these uniquely monotrematic traits was introduced to me by a young lass who worked with me at the resort. Yes, I knew she was an animal fanatic (after this I suspect could be closet furry), but this definitely required Google verification before I believed it. Brace yourself…

Echidnas (and I’m assuming platypi too) have a four headed penis. You can see a picture thanks to ABC. And even a video thanks to New Scientist.

One eager exhibitionist echidna had to be kicked out of the zoo for scaring the kiddies (or probably their red-faced parents) with this waz-dangle, I mean phallic appendage.

This [the echidna penis ejeculates with two heads at a time] resembles very much the way lizards and snakes ejaculate: they have a double penis (named hemipenis), but only one of the two penises is used during the copulation, while the other will effectuate the next copulation/ejaculation. Marsupials (another primitive group of mammals) are now in this matter something between monotremes and placental (evolved) mammals: they do not use half of the penis for mating, but still have a double headed penis, while the echidnas have a reptilian joined hemipenis, with each part of the penis in a marsupial-like fashion. – Softpedia

Apparently penises aren’t penises after all. I mean seriously, take pigs (further info: not for the faint at heart).

While we genetic scientists are focusing on the riddle of a sex determining gene(s) in monotremes, I wonder if any developmental biologists will be working out about their other sex bits?




3 responses

21 08 2008

nice pic. check out the post I wrote yesterday about echidnas. I am the missing link between Matthew McConaughey and koalas and I will be Down Under next week.

25 08 2010
Platypi Have The Most Amazing Penis In All Of Creation | thejamminjabber

[…] a video of a very similar penised animal.) Now that you are thoroughly repulsed, here’s the science behind the sex: This resembles very much the way lizards and snakes ejaculate: they have a double […]

26 08 2010

Platypus sexuality is crazy and complex. Thanks for the info. I borrowed some for my blog (but don’t worry, I linked back to here 🙂 )

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