Dear readers, consider the humble duck-billed platypus, also known as Ornithorhynchus anatinus.
It is one of the weirdest animals in the world.
In fact, it is so weird that it might just be the weirdest living thing in Australia, a country famous for its collection of weird wildlife.
The weird (and cute) little critter is essentially what you get when you take a duck and a mammal, and mix their DNA in a blender. (This is not real science. Please do not try this. Ever.)
It’s warm blooded and produces milk, like mammals do. (More specifically, it sweats it. This is a real fact. Look it up.)
The platypus also has a duck-like bill and webbed feet, which it uses to swim through the water or adorably waddle on land.
This is already quite strange but add to that the fact that these animals are what scientists call ‘monotremes’; the only mammals that lay eggs. Yes. Platypuses lays eggs.
They also have an extra sense called electrolocation, which helps them detect predators and prey using the electrical fields they produce. This is something sharks can do.
If that wasn’t enough, the males are also poisonous because of course they are.
All in all, one of the strangest animals around.
News involving our cute, weird little friends are usually of the ‘aww look at how cute they are’ or ‘aww look at this cute thing one of them did’ variety.
However, this story is a bit different.
An Australian researcher by the name of Professor Frank Grutzner, PhD, has spent many years studying these adorable little weirdos.
Recently, he seems to have discovered that these creatures produce a hormone that may help in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes.
He discovered the presence of the hormone, glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), while analyzing the venom male platypuses produce. The hormone, which stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin and lower blood glucose levels, is usually secreted in the guts of both humans and animals. However, in the humans’ case, it degrades within minutes.
You with us so far? Good.
The story goes that Dr. Grutzner and his team discovered that the hormone present in our weird little friends had a slight change in its structure, causing it to not get degraded so quickly.
“We’re hoping hundreds of millions of years of evolution has fine-tuned this molecule. What we’re hoping is it could be beneficial in the disease context,” said Dr. Grutzner.
To give you all a little background, type 2 diabetes is when the body does produce insulin but never enough to break down the sugar intake within the body.
According to the International Diabetes Federation, there were 3.4 million cases of diabetes in Malaysia in 2017 so it’s clearly a widespread issue.
Here’s hoping that the platypus can help those with type 2 diabetes deal with their condition better.
Thank you, platypus. You are the weirdest animal ever, but even you have something great hiding within you.
Header Image Source: National Geographic