Karyotypic conservation in the mammalian order monotremata (subclass Prototheria) Academic Article uri icon


  • The order Monotremata, comprising the platypus and two species of echidna (Australian and Nuigini) is the only extant representative of the mammalian subclass Prototheria, which diverged from subclass Theria (marsupials and placental mammals) 150-200 million years ago. The 2n = 63 male, 64 female karyotype (newly described here) of the Nuigini echidna is almost identical in morphology and G-band pattern to that of the Australian echidna, from which it diverged about a million years ago. The karyotype of the platypus (2n = 52) has several features in common with those of the echidna species; six pairs of large autosomes, many pairs of small (but not micro-) chromosomes, and a series of small unpaired chromosomes which form a multivalent at meiosis. Comparison of the G-band patterns of platypus and echidna autosomes reveals considerable homology. Chromomycin banding demonstrates GC-rich heterochromatin at the centromeres of many platypus and echidna chromosomes, and at the nucleolar organizing regions; some of this heterochromatin C-bands weakly in platypus (but not echidna) spreads. Late replication banding patterns resemble G-banding patterns and confirm the homologies between the species. Striking heteromorphism between chromosomes of some of the large autosomal pairs can be accounted for in the echidna by differences in amount of chromomycin-bright, late replicating heterochromatin. The sex chromosomes in all three species also bear striking homology, despite the difference in sex determination mechanism between platypus (XX/XY) and the echidna species (X1X1X2X2/X1X2Y). The platypus X and echidna X1 each represent about 5.8% of haploid chromosome length, and are G-band identical. Y chromosomes are similar between species, and are largely homologous to the X (or X1).

publication date

  • March 1988