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More Mammals with Venom

by John Wible

The duck-billed platypus, Ornithorhynchus anatinus, is no doubt one of the world’s oddest mammals, with a suite of adaptations to its life in streams in eastern Australia and Tasmania. Its suede-like bill is packed with electro- and mechanoreceptors, which help the platypus find small invertebrates and fish in murky waters. It has webbed forefeet and hind feet and a hairy, beaver-shaped tail, all great for swimming and diving, and a lush, thick coat for insulation on cold mornings.

As with other mammals, the female platypus produces milk to nurture its young. However, its young are hatched from leathery eggs! Along with the echidna or spiny anteater from Australia and New Guinea, the platypus is one of the two types of living monotremes or egg-laying mammals. This is in contrast to the other groups of extant mammals, marsupials, and placentals, which have live births.

Along with egg-laying, the skeleton of the platypus is a throwback to its mammal-like reptile origin. The bones in its arms and legs, the humerus and femur, are set perpendicular to the trunk, giving the platypus a sprawling posture and a waddling gait on land. Marsupials and placentals have more upright postures with less waddling.

But where is the venom? If you look closely at the ankle of the male platypus, you will see a deadly looking weapon made of keratin, just like your fingernails. This tarsal spur sticks out from the body and sits on a small, flat bone—the os calcaris. The spur is hollow and connected to a gland below the knee that produces venom during the platypus breeding season. Because of this seasonal activity, the venom is thought to be used in male-male competition for females. 

For humans that make the mistake of picking up male platypuses at the wrong time of year, the venom is not deadly, but it is excruciatingly painful. One unfortunate soldier said it is worse than shrapnel! A small remnant of the spur is retained in juvenile female platypuses for only a few months after hatching, and the supporting bone, the os calcaris, without a spur occurs in the echidna. In recent years, tarsal spurs and support bones have been found in the fossil record for numerous groups of extinct primitive mammals that lived during the Age of Dinosaurs. Rather than being unique to the male platypus, venom manufactured in the leg may have been a widespread component of early mammalian weaponry for survival in the hostile Mesozoic landscape. Why this apparatus was lost in early marsupials and placentals is a mystery. One group, the bats, have reinvented a tarsal spur, where it is used in support of the wing membrane.


John Wible, PhD, is the curator of the Section of Mammals at Carnegie Museum of Natural History. John’s research is focused on the tree of life of mammals, understanding the evolutionary relationships between living and extinct taxa, and how the mammalian fauna on Earth got to be the way it is today. He uses his expertise on the anatomy of living mammals to reconstruct the lifeways of extinct mammals. John lives with his wife and two sons in a house full of cats and rabbits in Ross Township.

[TRANS] ‘WINGS: YOU NEVER WALK ALONE’ - Jimin Thanks To

In this album released at the time of the new year, I want to ask for your support this year too.

First of all, my family
I miss you, I’m sorry that I can’t stay beside to take care of you even if I want too. My beloved family, please don’t forget that I always love you.
I’m always grateful to you guys.

Our members, Namjoonie-hyung, Seokjinie-hyung, Hoseokie-hyung, Yoongi-hyung, Taehyungie, Jungkookie
Thinking of it, we have reached our 5th year.
I always feel this but, it seems like I can gain strength from looking at you guys, who are always by my side. We used to not match well but now I think we’re really like brothers.
I always want to say thank you to you guys who make me enjoy everything I do even more.
I love you.

Bang Shihyuk PD-nim, Vice President Yoojung, Director Shinkyu, Director Seokjoon, Director Chaeeun, Director Lee Hyuk
Hobeomie-hyung, Sungseokie-hyung, Sejinie-hyung, Jungilie-hyung, Yoonjae-hyung, Sunhakie-hyung, Kwangtaekie-hyung
Pdogg PD-nim, Dohyungie-hyung, Donghyukie-hyung, Junsangie
Teacher Sungdeuk,  Sunghyunie-hyung, Hyunjoo-noona, Sunkyung-noona, Gabriel-hyung, Gaheonie
Jooyoungie-hyung, Changwonie-hyung, Bosungie-hyung, Wooyoungie-hyung, team leader Jaedong
Woojung-noona, Hayan-noona, Surin-noona, Hyunji-noona, Bunhong-noona, Hyeyoung-noona
Team leader Heesun, Seuli-noona, Nayeob-noona, Seolhee-noona, Jinah-noona, Kyungjin-noona, Yoori-noona, Onnuri-noona
Sungho-hyungnim, Hyojin-noona, Sunjung-noona, Mijung-noona, Yeonhee-noona, Seungwoo-hyungnim, Hyewon-nim, Yeji-nim
Hyukki-hyung, Eunjung-noona, Eunsang-hyungnim, Junho-hyungnim
Jungwook-hyungnim, Junsu-hyungnim, Hyunmin-hyungnim
Joowon-nim, Jooyeon-nim, Daito-sensei

Our family, including Bang Shihyuk PD-nim who thinks of us more than anybody else
Our beloved manager hyungs who stay up all night to stay with us and always go through so much, our PD-nims who always work hard to create good contents, our noonas and hyungs who work so hard from behind to make us become better idols… I’m really grateful to all of you, please don’t get hurt and I hope you will be happy like us, even happier than us.
And our Seolhee-noona, Bosungie-hyung who have worked really hard so far, please come visit often. You’re always welcomed.

Head of Department Dareum, Head of Department Naejoo, Head of Department Jihye, Jinyoungie-hyung, Hyunah-noona, Seolji-nim, Songhee-noona, Sohee-noona
Head of Department Hajung, Hyesoo-noona, Seoyeon-noona, Yeonhee-nim, Jieun-nim

I always feel uneasy that I can’t say thank you to you often. I should say more of those things to people who are close to us like family. Our hyungs, noonas who stay up all night with us, who go through a lot, who work hard to make us look better, I love you so so much and thank you.
I’ll do better~~ I love you.

Our family members including Director Lumpens, Director Hyunwoo, Director GDW, Writer Kim Hyungshik, Writer Kim Rinyong, Writer Jung Seok, Junsu-hyungnim, Writer Sung Goo, Plan A family including Sangwook PD-nim, Heena PD-nim, Hyunjung-seonsaengnim.

I think now we’ve become like a family just like our company members. I’m thankful for the wonderful contents that you always create for us, but more than that it’s thanks to you making us feel comfortable and enjoy on every set that we can do it more enjoyably. Please take care of us this year too.

Just Dance family, my friends, our Jinwoo-hyung

I wanted to say this but, I’m always thankful to you for staying by my side.

Hyungnims whom I adore and love, Timo-hyung, Sungwoon-hyung, Taeminie-hyung, Kwonho-hyung, Jonginie-hyung
I see you guys as much as our members so you may feel embarrassed reading these stuffs, but thanks to you I have fun everyday. Now please let the maknae treat once. I love you.

A.R.M.Ys

We have already reached our 5th year? Time flies so fast that even I wonder since when time goes by this.
Don’t worry, we still have so many things to show you guys, so with this album as the start, we’ll get to spend this year together too. Let’s kick off this album with fun and enjoy this year.
I hope you will all have a happy new year, don’t get hurt and be happy. I love you!

Those who always stay with us, I love you.

Sincerely, Jimin

Jin | Suga | J-hope | Rap Monster | Jimin | V | Jungkook

You’re in my arms and all the world is calm. The music playing on for only two.

A very rushed drawing for soriku day because to day was busy, but I desperately wanted to put something out today. I won’t let something as frivolous as an occupation get in the way of soriku day. nope.

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The new momcat and babies are So Good, so pure, so floof

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SUNDAY: Indigenous women poets, writers, and musicians explore the power of language, story, and song in today’s fight for environmental and cultural justice. With a focus on the Standing Rock Resistance, Words for Water is a call to action and awareness around protection of sacred sites, cultures and languages, and our water, air, and earth. Featuring Natalie Diaz, Jennifer Foerster, Joy Harjo, Toni Jensen, Layli Long Solider, Deborah Miranda, and Laura Ortman and contributions by Heid E. Erdrich and Louise Erdrich. Tickets at whitney.org. Can’t make it? We’ll be streaming the event live on our Facebook page.

[Photograph of Standing Rock by Natalie Diaz]