Australia: Discovered prehistoric species

A set of Australian fossils offers a rare glimpse ancient relatives of the platypus and echidna Living with dinosaurs 100 million years ago.

Fossilized fragments of the animal’s jawbone have been found in opal fields in New South Wales, along with evidence of many other ancient and now extinct creatures. single holes (Monotremata), mammals that owe their name to a single opening (hole) through which the products of the genital, urinary and digestive systems exit.

The new species, officially named Opalios splendens, was nicknamed the “echidna” because of its resemblance to the platypus and the echidna. the only mammals in the world today that lay eggs. The team behind the study say their findings suggest that Australia once had an “Age of Monotheatrics” – a time when an incredibly rare species of animal was abundant and dominant.

“It’s like discovering a whole new culture,” said lead author Professor Tim Flannery. They donated samples – they guessed it is about 100 million years old– In the Australian Museum, they sat forgotten in a drawer until about two years ago.

Professor Flannery, a mammologist (study of mammals), says he came across them and immediately recognized them as ancient monotremes. Some of the bones belonged to the previously discovered Steropodon galmanii, a shorter, rougher and more toothed ancestor of the platypus.

But other fragments were unknown. Dr Flannery and his team discovered evidence of three species previously unknown to science, findings published Monday in Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Paleontology.
The creatures had a combination of characteristics that scientists had never encountered before living or fossil monophoraProfessor Chris Helgen, director of the Australian Institute of Museum Research, who also worked on the study, said.

“The general anatomy (Opalios splendens) is more platypus-like, but slightly more echidna-like with jaw and nasal features,” Professor Helgen said. All fossils in opal are rare –monoholes even more— but these examples are “a revelation,” Smith said.

They add to the total number of monotremes known to have once lived in the Lightning Range – which was one in ancient times a cold, wet forest bordering a vast inland sea – at six. “They show the world that long before Australia became a land of marsupials, marsupials, it was a land of fluffy egg layers,” he says.

“It seems that 100 million years agothe Lightning Range had more monoliths than anywhere else on Earth, past or present.” Other experts say it’s too early to say whether Australia was once home to many sloths, and more exploration is needed.

“It could be at least as diverse as the later Australian marsupial fauna … but I need more evidence,” Flinders University paleontologist Rod Wells told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The authors of the study hope that their work will encourage more funding for more targeted excavations at the site to support their findings.

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