Weird Mammal Thought To Be Extinct In Australia May Not Be

A critically endangered mammal thought to be extinct in Australia since the last ice age may still exist there, a new study suggests.

That speculation comes from the discovery that at least one long-beaked echidna, an egg-laying mammal thought to exist only in New Guinea, was found in Australia in 1901 and that native Aborigine populations reported seeing the animal more recently. The 1901 specimen, described in the Dec. 28 issue of the journal Zookeys, had been shot and stuffed and was lying in a drawer, long forgotten, in the Natural History Museum in London.

A long-beaked echidna shot in 1901 was stuffed and
eventually arrived at the Natural History Museum of
 London, where it was forgotten for a century.

"What's amazing about this study is it all hinges on a single specimen, and it's a very well-documented specimen that was collected in 1901 in Australia," said study co-author Kristofer Helgen, a zoologist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. "It's taken until 2013 for myself and the team to really unbury the specimen from the cabinets of the Natural History Museum of London."

Monotremes, which include bizarre little mammals like the duckbill platypus, lay eggs like reptiles but feed their babies milk. They may have diverged from all other mammals as far back as the Triassic Period, which lasted from about 248 million to 206 million years ago. 

- Huffingtonpost.com


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