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Unformatted text preview: t; "very similar to that of a duck," with four short legs, "the forelegs ... shorter than those of the hind and their webs spread considerably beyond the claws." Bewick concluded "it resisted any attempt to arrange it in any of the useful modes of classification." It was about the size of a "small cat," with a bill Dr. George Shaw, a Fellow of the Royal Society and Assistant Keeper of Natural History at the British Museum, also obtained a dried specimen in 1799. He wondered if it was a hoax, an animal stitched together by clever Chinese or Japanese taxidermists to deceive credulous sailors. He wrote: "I almost doubted the testimony of my own eyes." But he could not find any deception. A specimen found its way into the hands of Professor Johann Blumenbach, a comparative anatomist of the University of Gttingen in Germany, who christened the creature Ornithorynchus paradoxous. It is in every way a paradox. Is it a mammal as its brown fur suggests? But where are its mammary glands? Where are its nipples? And how could a young animal suckle with that duckbill? Is it a reptile, among which amphibians were then grouped, for this beast was surely aquatic? Perhaps it is avian; its duck like bill indicates an affinity with warmblooded birds. I'm stumped
Ornithorychus doesn't fall into any of the major classes of vertebrates Not a mammal, fish, bird, or reptile. Other specimens were forwarded to the distinguished British anatomist Everard Home at the Royal College of Surgeons in London. The mystery deepened, for Home made a series of wonderful discoveries published in papers written from 18001802. The "duckbill" beak is an exploratory organ for touching and tasting the muddy bottom of rivers as the animal searched for its food, small crustaceans and insects underwater. The beak is not hard like that of a bird; rather it is moist, soft, and highly flexible. And the reproductive organs were a surprise! Questions: 1)Examine the drawings of the reproductive systems of the animals. Which seems most similar to Ornithorynchus ? 2) In what way are they similar? Which seems most similar to Ornithorynchus? A) Kangaroo B) Birds C) Dogs D) Lemurs E) Humans AN ANTIPODAL MYSTERY
Part III: "This Highly Interesting Novelty" Sir Joseph Banks, who had traveled with James Cook on his first voyage, ventured this in 1802: "Our greatest want here is to be acquainted with the manner in which the Duck Bill Animal [platypus] and the Porcupine Ant Eater [spiny echidna] which I think is of the same genus, breed." "Their internal structure is so very similar to that of Birds that I do not think it impossible that they should lay their Eggs or at least as Snakes and some Fish do Hatch Eggs in their Bellies." There were three central questions about Ornithorhyncus that emerged from these discussions: First, how can we fit this strange beast into the classification and taxonomic schemes that had worked so well in the Northern Hemisphere...
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- Spring '07