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They were amazed by many of the animals that they saw, and a strange animal with fur, webbed feet and a beak was among the most puzzling Figure 1. People had already been living in Australia for almost 50 years, and different groups of these indigenous people had various names for this animal, such as dulawarrung. But the British arrivals were not satisfied with just giving the animal a name.
They wanted to classify it — to decide which group of animals it belonged in. And this was where the problem began. The animal had a beak and webbed feet, like a duck. It had fur, like a mole. No-one knew whether it laid eggs or gave birth to live young.
So was it a bird? Was it a mammal? No-one could decide. In , a dead specimen of this strange animal was taken to England, where it was studied by Dr George Shaw.
To begin with, he thought it was a hoax. He looked very carefully to see if someone had stitched the beak onto the head, but no — it was clearly a genuine part of the animal.
Dr Shaw gave the animal a Latin name, Platypus anatinus.
However, someone then pointed out that the name Platypus had already been taken, and belonged to a species of beetle. So another name was suggested by a German scientist, who gave it the name Ornithorhynchus paradoxus. This is the Latin name that is used for the animal today. Although the Latin name Platypus could not be used, people still called the animal a platypus.
In the following years, proof was found that platypuses lay eggs, rather than giving birth to live young.
However, they feed their young on milk, which is a characteristic feature of mammals. Scientists eventually decided to classify the platypus as a mammal, despite its odd beak and the fact that it lays eggs.
It was put into a new group of mammals, called monotremes, which also includes the echidnas spiny anteaters. Figure 1. Living organisms have seven features or characteristics which make them different from Growth All organisms begin small and get larger, by the growth of their cells and by adding new cells to their bodies.
Excretion All organisms produce unwanted or toxic waste products as a result of their metabolic reactions, and these must be removed from the body. The definitions of these characteristics are shown in the boxes below and on the opposite page.
You should learn these definitions now, but you will find out much more about each of them later in this book. Movement All organisms are able to move to some extent. Most animals can move their whole body from place to place, and plants can slowly move parts of themselves.
Reproduction Organisms are able to make new organisms of the same species as themselves. Sensitivity All organisms pick up information about changes in their environment, and react to the changes. Nutrition Organisms take substances from their environment and use them to provide energy or materials to make new cells. Respiration All organisms break down glucose and other substances inside their cells, to release energy that they can use.
When we study living organisms under a microscope, we can see that they are all made of cells. You can find out more about the structure of cells in Chapter 2. There are many possible ways in which we could group living organisms. For example, we could put all the organisms with legs into one group, and all those without legs into another.
Or we could put all red organisms into one group, and all blue ones into another.
The first of these ideas would be much more useful to biologists than the second. The main reason for classifying living things is to make it easier to study them. For example, we put humans, dogs, horses and mice into one group the mammals because they share certain features for example, having hair that are not found in other groups. We think that all mammals share these features because they have all descended from the same ancestor growth — a permanent increase in size and dry mass S by an increase in cell number or cell size or both excretion — removal from organisms of the waste products of metabolism chemical reactions in cells including respiration , toxic materials and substances in excess of requirements nutrition — taking in of materials for energy, growth and development; plants require light, carbon dioxide, water and ions; animals need organic compounds and ions and usually need water that lived long ago.
The ancestor that they all share is called a common ancestor. The common ancestor that gave rise to all the mammals lived more than million years ago. We would therefore expect all mammals to have bodies that have similar structures and that work in similar ways. If we find a new animal that has hair and suckles its young on milk, then we know that it belongs in the mammal group.
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