Twisted Tree of Life Award #9: Nature News on the "Marsupial" platypus

OK, though this is not as bad as printing the wrong form of DNA on the cover Nature has another faux pas. In a recent Nature News story discussing a recent paper on the characterization of venoms in the platypus, Ewen Callaway reports in Poisonous platypuses confirm convergent evolution : Nature News:

By some accounts, being poisoned by a platypus could qualify as punishment in one of Dante’s circles of hell. In one case report2, Australian doctors described their treatment of a 57-year-old man a few hours after he grabbed one of the small marsupials while fishing. The pain was “so bad I started to become incoherent” the man said, and far worse than the shrapnel wounds he took as a soldier. Ibuprofen and morphine provided no relief, and one finger was swollen and ached more than 4 months after the run-in.

The only problem with this is that the platypus is a monotreme, not a marsupial.


Fortunately Nature does get this correct on the headline for the story “Genome analysis shows that the monotremes and snakes have similar venoms” but the damage is done in the middle.

The mistake in the middle of the article may seem a very minor thing to most of you out there.  But @an_dre_a is calling for action on twitter from the monotreme antidefamation league.  And I am now posting here and giving Nature my coveted “Twisted Tree of Life Award” (the ninth) to bring attention to this horrendous horrendous offense to monotremes everywhere.

Hat tip to @recher_she on twitter who called my attention to the Nature article because it mentions the “venome” a really #badomics word that I will be writing about later. 

Author: Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. (see my lab site here). My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis

3 thoughts on “Twisted Tree of Life Award #9: Nature News on the "Marsupial" platypus”

  1. Thanks for pointing this out, Jonathan. It's something that I should have caught. I'm looking forward to the bad omics award, as well, but I don't think I can take sole credit for that one.


  2. The badomics award will go elsewhere – originally I was going to give the Twisted Tree of Life and Badomics award to Nature at the same time. But I found a 2005 paper referring to the venome – so Nature is not to blame for that one


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