New insights into Australia's unique platypus

November 2, 2009
Image courtesy of CSIRO

( -- New insights into the biology of the platypus and echidna have been published, providing a collection of unique research data about the world's only monotremes.

University of Adelaide geneticist Dr Frank Grützner and his team have authored five of 28 papers which appear in two special issues of the Australian Journal of Zoology and Reproduction Fertility and Development.

The articles shed new light on the extraordinary complex system.

"For the first time we have looked at how the 10 sex chromosomes find each other during sperm development in platypus," Dr Grützner says.

"We discovered that a remarkably organised mechanism must exist in platypus, where sex chromosomes from one end pair first and then they go down the sex chromosome chain, just like a zipper. There is nothing random about it."

Dr Grützner and his colleagues also isolated and analysed for the first time the sequence of the male-specific Y chromosomes.

"Previously we knew nothing about the Y chromosomes because only the female platypus genome was sequenced. The data we found has given us valuable clues about the evolution of Y in all , including humans," Dr Grützner says.

All 28 published articles in the CSIRO journals have arisen from the Boden Research Conference, "Beyond the Platypus Genome", hosted by the University of Adelaide in November 2008, which attracted researchers from around the world.

The published papers represent a wide range of monotreme research, from to field biology, population genetics and captive breeding, evolution to immunology, venom, sperm and milk in both the platypus and echidna.

"I expect these results to make a major impact in the field of monotreme research and mammal evolution," Dr Grützner says.

"We have entered a new era in monotreme research, where we are seeing a more integrated approach using genomics, biochemistry and field biology to tackle important questions in monotreme biology. This knowledge will also help us conserve these iconic Australian mammals," he says.

Provided by University of Adelaide (news : web)

Explore further: Genetic riddle solved by kangaroo and platypus

Related Stories

Uni leads study on echidna sex life

August 22, 2007

A University of Adelaide-led project will study the genetic makeup of one of Australia's most iconic animals, the echidna, to give an unprecedented insight into their sex life and behaviour.

Platypus link to ovarian cancer

June 26, 2009

( -- Researchers from the Royal Adelaide Hospital and University of Adelaide believe our oldest mammalian relative may help us to better understand ovarian cancer.

Recommended for you

Winter season reverses outcome of fruit fly reproduction

November 24, 2015

Male fruit flies could find their chances of fathering offspring radically reduced if they are last in the queue to mate with promiscuous females before winter arrives, according to new University of Liverpool research.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.