May 26, 2024

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The long-beaked echidna named after Attenborough was discovered in Indonesia

The long-beaked echidna named after Attenborough was discovered in Indonesia


A team led by scientists from the University of Oxford recently captured the first-ever photographic evidence of Attenborough’s long-billed echidna, an ancient alien mammal that has not been seen by bees since 1961.

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For more than 60 years, many biologists have been wondering whether a strange egg-laying mammal named after British naturalist David Attenborough might ever be seen again.

Signs of the mysterious creature known as the long-billed echidna Attenborough (Zaglossus attenboroughi) have appeared here and there in the Indonesian mountains where it was known to roam: holes made by its long snout in the ground; Witness reports from local village members.

But taking a look at this elusive nocturnal creature to prove that it is not extinct has become almost impossible.

That is, until a team led by scientists from the University of Oxford recently captured the first-ever photographic evidence confirming the survival of an ancient echidna species.

This almost didn’t happen.

The team spent almost all The four-week expedition To the Giant Mountains in Indonesia, where they installed surveillance cameras that captured no sign of the echidna – until the last day. Photographic evidence which the team eagerly shared Press release on the Oxford website This is the first time since 1961 that this type of echidna has been seen, according to researchers.

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What is an echidna?

To the untrained eye, echidnas may look like a hedgehog or a platypus, which is not surprising:

James ComptonThe Oxford University biologist who led the multinational team on the month-long expedition described the animals as having “hedgehog spines, an anteater snout, and mole feet.” On the mission’s website.

It is this hybrid appearance that gives the echidna its name, Compton said, which is derived from a Greek mythological creature that is half woman and half snake.

As one of five species of monotremes, echidnas are part of a strange group of primitive mammals similar to the platypus that can lay eggs. Monotremes diverged from the common ancestors of other mammals about 200 million years ago.

The species of long-snouted echidna named after Attenborough is different from another species of short-billed echidna found throughout Australia and the lowlands of New Guinea. Unlike its counterpart, this species of echidna has long been feared extinct.

Until now, the only evidence of the existence of this species was a scientific recording by a Dutch botanist in 1961, According to the conservation group The edge of existence.

Even with the recent discovery, Kempton said very few people have seen the animals, and little is known about their ecology or behavior.

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Shrimp out of water

The team said that during the expedition they also discovered several new species, including tree-dwelling shrimp and two new species of frogs.

Dr. Leonidas Romanos Davranoglou, the expedition’s lead entomologist, described the shrimp discovery as a “marked departure from the typical coastal habitat of these animals.”

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“We believe that the high level of rainfall in the Giant Mountains means that the moisture is great enough for these creatures to survive entirely on land,” he added.

A perilous journey to find the echidna in the Giant Mountains

In June and July, Kempton led a team traversing unexplored expanses of the Giant Mountains, a treacherous mountain range on the island of New Guinea.

The remote terrain of Papua Province in northeastern Indonesia has yielded many new discoveries as well as evidence of the presence of the echidna, but the results have not been easy.

Kempton said the team spent years building a relationship with the local community in Yeongsu Sapari, a village on the northern coast of the Cyclops Mountains. Under the guidance of the Indonesian non-profit organization Papua Nenda Service Foundation (Yabinda), the team ventured to the top of the mountain through inhospitable terrain.

Along the way, they encountered venomous snakes and spiders, as well as exhausting heat.

But those risks were perhaps the least of their problems.

During one trip to a previously unknown cave system, a sudden earthquake forced the team to evacuate. One team member broke his arm in two places, another contracted malaria, and a third had a leech stuck in his eye for a day and a half before it was finally removed at the hospital.

Yet, despite the difficulties, Kempton couldn’t help but romanticize the rainforest habitat.

“I think the landscape is magical, magical and dangerous at the same time, like something out of a Tolkien book,” Kempton said in a statement. “In this environment, the camaraderie among the expedition members was fantastic, with everyone helping to maintain morale.”

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Along the way, the team deployed more than 80 cameras to record signs of echidnas, animals that are difficult to find because they are nocturnal and live in burrows. However, it wasn’t until the final day, when the last images on the final memory card showed three images of the elusive mammal.

The results were uploaded to bioRxiv before being submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.

Eric Lagata covers breaking and trending news for USA TODAY. Contact him at [email protected]