Godzilla Platypus Discovered – or at Least Its Tooth – in Australia

Wednesday, 06 Nov 2013 06:16 AM

By Michael Mullins

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A "Godzilla platypus," as it's been labeled by scientists, has been discovered in Australia – all based on finding a fossil tooth of the extinct "monster."

The long-gone duck-billed species is believed to have been twice the size of today's platypus and had large, powerful teeth, according to the scientists who used the discovery of a single tooth to identify the new species which they named Obdurodon tharalkooschild.

"It pretty well blew our minds," University of New South Wales professor Mike Archer told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Archer estimated that the "Godzilla" platypus was about twice the size of the modern platypus.

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"And then bang out of the blue drops this monster. Platypus Godzilla," Archer added.

The announcement was made on Tuesday after the scientists were able to identify the highly distinctive tooth they had previously recovered in Queensland, Australia, a northeastern region known for being rich in fossil deposits, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. noted.

The study and initial discovery was made by a Columbia University PhD candidate Rebecca Pian, who is the lead author of the research published in the US-based Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology.

The "Godzilla" platypus was considered to be a mostly aquatic animal that lived millions of years ago in freshwater pools within the forests, where its diet likely consisted of freshwater crustaceans such as crayfish as well as frogs, turtles and other small vertebrates.

Scientists do not believe the "Platypus Godzilla" is an ancestor of today's platypus, a nocturnal, timid animal that is only found in eastern Australia and the island of Tasmania. The platypus is unique for being the only mammal that has both reptile and bird features, with its flat tail, broad thick-haired body, webbed feet, and rubbery duck-billed beak.

The recent discovery contradicts a theory previously held by most scientists, who believed the mammal had gradually lost its teeth and become smaller over millions of years.

"We didn't expect this. It's a huge platypus at the wrong time. But there it was," Archer told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

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"Discovery of this new species was a shock to us because prior to this, the fossil record suggested that the evolutionary tree of platypuses was a relatively linear one," Archer explained. "Now we realize that there were unanticipated side branches on this tree, some of which became gigantic."

"We know it's a platypus, we also know it's very different from any other toothed platypus we've seen before," Archer added.

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