There are so many animals on our planet thatscientists still do not know their exact number. New species of living creatures are discovered every year and our regular readers are well aware of this. Sometimes animals previously unknown to science turn out to be so strange in appearance that scientists at first cannot believe their eyes. They had approximately the same reaction to the detection of platypuses and echidnas. Not only are these creatures very strange looking, but they are also the only known mammals to lay eggs. Scientists could not explain this phenomenon for a long time, but recently they were able to understand how nature made such a mistake. As part of this article, I invite you to take a closer look at these creatures and find out what happened to them during evolution.
Who are platypuses?
Platypuses were first described by scientists in the XVIIIcentury. In one of the documents of 1802, this animal is referred to as an amphibious creature that looks like a mole. One of its unusual qualities was that instead of its usual mouth, it had a beak, just like a ducks. Already in those days, scientists realized that this feature helps them to feed in water, like birds. These creatures live in large numbers in Australia and are nocturnal. They spend most of their time in shallow burrows on the banks of water bodies. They feed on small aquatic animals like molluscs and insect larvae.
The body length of platypuses is approximately 40centimeters, and the tail length reaches 15 centimeters. Body weight usually does not exceed 2 kilograms. Their legs are very short, and their tail is almost the same as that of beavers. Instead of a mouth, they have a beak, but it is not as hard as that of birds. There are bags in the mouth that collect food. It is also worth mentioning that the beak is covered with skin with many nerve endings. With the help of them, platypuses notice electrical impulses that occur when some crustaceans move. This helps them catch their prey.
Interesting fact: Platypus skin was first brought to England in 1797. At that time, this animal was not yet discovered and people believed that some hunter simply sewed a duck beak to a beaver's skin.
Who are the vipers?
Like platypuses, echidnas have been scientifically described inXVIII century. They live in Australia and New Guinea. Although echidnas belong to the same order as platypuses, outwardly they look more like porcupines. Their bodies are covered with coarse hair with an abundance of sharp spines. The body length usually does not exceed 30 centimeters, and the mass is usually 2-3 kilograms. They have a small mouth without teeth and predominantly feed on ants. They use their sticky tongue to catch insects. Their paws are also short, but they have powerful claws that help them to dig the ground.
See also: What animals can drink alcohol and not get drunk?
The strangest animals in the world
Scientists could not understand for a long time hownature was able to create such strange animals. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, platypuses and echidnas are the only mammals known to science that lay eggs. To find out why exactly these mammals are creatures reproduce in such an unusual way for themselves, scientists decided to study their genes. The results of their scientific work were published in the scientific journal Nature.
Researchers already knew that commonthe ancestor of modern mammals and birds had three genes responsible for the production of vitellogenin. This is the name of the predecessor of egg yolk. During evolution, birds have retained all three genes and therefore reproduce by laying eggs. And mammals, including humans, have completely lost this gene and therefore there can be no question of laying eggs. But platypuses and echidnas did not lose all their genes, therefore they retained the ability to lay eggs.
Some of the lost genes have been replaced with the abilityproduce the protein casein, which is part of milk. Because of this, it turned out that platypuses and echidnas can lay eggs and give milk. True, they do not have nipples and milk is produced by glands, which are very similar to sweat. It turns out that these creatures "sweat" with milk. These are really, really, very strange and amazing animals.
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However, on our planet and without platypuses is fullunusual animals. Take, for example, armadillos, which are the world's most toothy creatures. Their mouths have 80 to 100 teeth, which are used to eat ants and other small insects. You can read more about these peace-loving creatures in this material.