email - March 2016

The Platypus Problem

Mixed Traits present a problem for evolutionists.

In last month’s email column, Michael recommended two YouTube videos produced by evolutionists. We addressed one in detail. We ignored the other, partly because there wasn’t much of significance in it, and partly because our “six-page newsletter” was already eight pages long. We strive to keep the newsletter short and to the point, but it is hard because there is so much science against evolution.

Mixed Traits

There was one point in the second video worth attention. VoysovReason argued that different categories of animals (and plants) have particular distinguishing characteristics because they inherited them from the common ancestor of that category. 1 Creatures in other categories don’t have these traits because they evolved from a different ancestor.

Once these major types of changes develop, they tend to remain unchanged in all the descendants for millions of years, even as they branch out into subgroups and species. And significantly, we don’t see a mixing of these traits with animals outside the major group. There are no reptiles with fur, or birds that give birth to live young. 2

Because traits don’t mix, there aren’t any venomous mammals that lay eggs and have a bird’s beak. If such an animal existed, it would be unexplainable from an evolutionary point of view.

The Mythical Platypus

Apparently, the duck-billed platypus must be a myth! But if the platypus doesn’t exist, how could scientists have decoded its genome and reported it in the professional literature?

Abstract
We present a draft genome sequence of the platypus, Ornithorhynchus anatinus. This monotreme exhibits a fascinating combination of reptilian and mammalian characters. For example, platypuses have a coat of fur adapted to an aquatic lifestyle; platypus females lactate, yet lay eggs; and males are equipped with venom similar to that of reptiles. 3

How do evolutionists try to explain where the venom came from?

Analysis of the first monotreme genome aligned these features with genetic innovations. We find that reptile and platypus venom proteins have been co-opted independently from the same gene families; milk protein genes are conserved despite platypuses laying eggs; and immune gene family expansions are directly related to platypus biology. 4

The same miraculous accident happened twice. And there’s more!

Other special features of the platypus are its gastrointestinal system, neuroanatomy (electro-reception) and a venom delivery system, unique among mammals. Platypus is an obligate aquatic feeder that relies on its thick pelage to maintain its low (31–32 °C) body temperature during feeding in often icy waters. With its eyes, ears and nostrils closed while foraging underwater, it uses an electro-sensory system in the bill to help locate aquatic invertebrates and other prey. Interestingly, adult monotremes lack teeth. 5

From what bird or reptile did they inherit the electro-sensory system?

Initially, it was hard to believe they lay eggs.

The most extraordinary and controversial aspect of platypus biology was initially whether or not they lay eggs like birds and reptiles. In 1884, William Caldwell's concise telegram to the British Association announced "Monotremes oviparous, ovum meroblastic", not holoblastic as in the other two mammalian groups. The egg is laid in an earthen nesting burrow after about 21 days and hatches 11 days later. For about 4 months, when most organ systems differentiate, the young depend on milk sucked directly from the abdominal skin, as females lack nipples. Platypus milk changes in protein composition during lactation (as it does in marsupials, but not in most eutherians). 6

Remember, traits don’t mix. They have to be inherited from an ancestor. Living things aren’t like a Baja Bug, made from a mixture of diverse custom parts on a Volkswagen frame.

The anatomy of the monotreme reproductive system reflects its reptilian origins, but shows features typical of mammals, as well as unique specialized characteristics. Spermatozoa are filiform, like those of birds and reptiles, but, uniquely among amniotes, form bundles of 100 during passage through the epididymis. Chromosomes are arranged in defined order in sperm as they are in therians, but not birds. The testes synthesize testosterone and dihydrotestosterone, as in therians, but there is no scrotum and testes are abdominal. 7

That brings us to the good stuff—sex!

The platypus karyotype comprises 52 chromosomes in both sexes, with a few large and many small chromosomes, reminiscent of reptilian macro- and microchromosomes. Platypuses have multiple sex chromosomes with some homology to the bird Z chromosome. Males have five X and five Y chromosomes, which form a chain at meiosis and segregate into 5X and 5Y sperm. Sex determination and sex chromosome dosage compensation remain unclear. 8

Let’s face it. The platypus looks like a steampunk animal constructed by a mad scientist, not the product of evolution from a common ancestor.

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Footnotes:

1 VoysovReason, “The Evidence for Evolution Made Easy”, 11 minutes and 30 seconds into the video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jw0MLJJJbqc
2 Nature, 8 May 2008, “Genome analysis of the platypus reveals unique signatures of evolution”, pp. 175-183, http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v453/n7192/full/nature06936.html
3 ibid.
4 ibid.
5 ibid.
6 ibid.
7 ibid.