The platypus could be a lifesaver

Scientists have found a secret property in the mammal’s milk

Looking like a cross between a duck and a beaver, the platypus is one of the strangest animals in the world. Its bizarreness doesn’t just stop at with its appearance though; it’s an egg-laying mammal, and males have spurs on their heels that can be used to inject venom into an opponent during a fight.

In 2016, this venom was found to contain a hormone that could lead to the development of new treatments for diabetes. Now scientists have discovered another potential life-saver in the platypus’s strange little body.

Researchers have uncovered a new protein with a unique structure that gives the monotreme’s milk antibacterial properties. They think it might have evolved because female platypuses express milk onto a pad on their tummy rather than feeding their young through teats.

Nutrient-rich milk would benefit organisms other than platypuses, so the antimicrobial qualities could be a defense against bacteria attracted to the food source. The newly-discovered protein helps to keep offspring healthy, and in the future it could be replicated and developed for human medication.



Feature image: Klaus/flickr