Buried in all the cool news about the Platypus last week was a little item that struck me. It seems that we do not look at the Platypus just for its DNA, but for another three letters as well. The Platypus dreams; it has REM sleep.
Jerry Siegel, a neuroscientist at UCLA, says he became interested in the platypus because he believed it would help explain how sleep evolved in humans. One theory is that rapid eye movement (REM) sleep evolved recently in humans as our brains got bigger and more complex. It was initially thought that the platypus didn’t have REM sleep cycles, so Siegel went to Australia with modern technology to do more testing.
“And what we saw is that in the platypus, the REM sleep is absolutely unequivocal,” he says.
So, this one is for my dear friends in the land of Oz…
The Platypus lives in the rivers and streams
On the Easternmost edge of Down Under.
Now scientists tell us these critters have dreams–
But what do they dream of, I wonder?
The Platypus dreamtime is strange and bizarre,
We can tell by the R.E.M. sleep.
But of course, we can’t tell what their thoughts really are
From electrodes, and things that go “beep”.
Perhaps it’s a world where a stick that gets thrown
Doesn’t swing back and aim at your head;
Or a place where some nine out of ten snakes aren’t known
To be experts at making you dead.
Or maybe they dream of a spot on the shore
Where it’s sunny, with plenty of worms,
Where it’s nice and it’s cozy, and who could want more
Than a picnic that wriggles and squirms?
A platypus nightmare, I cannot conceive,
From my opposite side of the Earth–
“It was horrible, really! You wouldn’t believe
What came out of me when I gave birth!”
“Not the leathery shell of my nice, normal eggs
But a monster, all hairless and pink!
It was wiggling, and moving, and kicking its legs–
Could it get any grosser, you think?”
Australia, of course, is already so weird;
When a Platypus goes for a snooze,
When the strange world Down Under has all disappeared,
What alternate world would you choose?