Platypuses – the bizarre looking semiaquatic egg-laying mammal - are not only unique creatures but also have exceptional scientific value as they are the only species within the monotreme family, ornithorhynchidae. However, Platypuses, like all other animals, are facing the brunt of environmental degradation, overpopulation and climate change.
The Red List of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has categorized the animal, which is endemic to eastern Australia, as 'Near Threatened'. Reduction of streams, droughts, dams and poor quality of water are currently threatening their existence.
Platypuses are unique in appearance as well as have some weird characteristics. They have traits of both reptiles and mammals. While they lay eggs, have venom and electroreception, they also lactate their offspring and have fur.
Even scientists, when they first encountered the animal in 1797 though it was an elaborate hoax.
Not only this, the animal sweats out milk. Yes, you heard that right. Milk pours out of skin pores of the animal, despite having mammary glands. And guess what? This milk has some incredible properties. Medical researchers have recently concluded that it can help fight drug-resistant superbugs.
Scientists at Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) said that the newly discovered protein in the milk is capable of combating the antibiotic-resistant superbugs and can save a lot of human lives.
It's not only the milk of the animal that has exceptional medical properties, its venom is also highly effective in treating acute diabetes, according to researchers at the University of Adelaide in South Australia.
"Our research team has discovered that monotremes (egg-laying mammals) - our iconic platypus and echidna - have evolved changes in the hormone GLP-1 that make it resistant to the rapid degradation normally seen in humans," said Professor Frank Grutzner, the head of the team that carried out the experiment.
The platypus venom has evolved to form a more stable form of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) - the hormone responsible for controlling the sugar level in blood.
A molecular biologist from CSIRO rightly said that Platypuses are such weird animals that it is actually normal for them to have weird biochemistry.