Australia: Giant Platypus and a Lost Eden

Australia’s weirdest animal just got weirder. The platypus has long spiked curiosity among biologists and those interested in animals.

It just doesn’t seem logical that a mammal should exhibit the characteristics of a bird. But this egg-laying, duck-billed beauty plays by its own rules. In fact, there are four other mammals that lay eggs instead of having live births, including the echidna, which looks a lot like a hedgehog, but isn’t.

Beware, the cute and cuddly looking platypus is also venomous so don’t go picking one up should you happen to be cavorting around the wilds of Australia’s eastern and southeastern coastline. They have spurs on the backs of their legs that can administer a painful poison that is strong enough to kill a small dog.

A giant platypus would probably be able to kill a human with its venom. Luckily the giant variety died out millions of years ago. Fossil evidence of the giant platypus was recently discovered in northwest Queensland, Australia. The evidence, however, was nothing more than an unusually large tooth.

From the Register: The new species, named Obdurodon tharalkooschild, would have been over three feet long, twice the size of the modern platypus, and had the necessary sharp teeth to eat not just crayfish and other small crustaceans, but frogs and small turtles as well.

The meter-long long giant platypus would dwarf its modern cousin, which is only around the size of an average housecat. (Read more on the discovery of the giant platypus in National Geographic. While paleontologists were busy discovering long-extinct giant egg-laying mammals, other scientists were finding new living species in Australia’s own “lost world”. Cape Melville is home to an isolated ancient mountain rainforest, which is only reachable via helicopter.)

From the Telegraph: On the second day of a four-day trek to Cape Melville a team led by Dr Conrad Hoskin, from James Cook University, and Dr Tim Laman, from Harvard University, discovered three reptile species, including a “bizarre-looking” leaf-tailed gecko, a golden-colored skink and a boulder-dwelling frog — species that have been isolated from their closest cousins for millions of years.

How bizarre – another type of leaf-tailed gecko in northern NSW.

This hidden and little known Eden is like a natural time capsule from millions of years ago. So far the scientists have been mainly cataloging new reptile species, but they hope to return on other expeditions and find new species of plants, birds and even mammals.

(Graham Land blogs for Asian Correspondent, with which Asia Sentinel has a content sharing agreement)