Exactly Why Is the Platypus So Weird? Researchers Are Now Much Closer to Finding Out

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Venomous spurs, retractable webbing, biofluorescent fur and milky sweat? It sounds like a roster of the inelegant powers of one of the most ungainly superheroes imaginable, but they’re actually characteristics of a creature that’s been puzzling scientists for years. One of the most famously weird animals in the world, Australia’s duckbilled platypus, has evolved with these and other strange features and as a result is thought to be one of the oldest mammals existing today.

At first glance, it looks like the platypus was cobbled together from leftover parts of beavers, ducks and even snakes — but why? Recently, researchers from the University of Copenhagen performed a unique genome-mapping technique to better understand the platypus' genetic structure, with the ultimate goal of figuring out how and why it evolved the way it did. This process has gotten scientists a few steps closer in discovering the origin of some of the creature’s unique characteristics. So what exactly have they learned?