Weird egg-laying mammals as soon as dominated Australia—then misplaced their tooth

A small animal with spiky fur and a long snout strides over grey soil.

Enlarge / The echidna, an egg-laying mammal, would not develop tooth. (credit score: Yvonne Van der Horst)

Outliers amongst mammals, monotremes lay eggs as an alternative of giving beginning to stay younger. Solely two forms of monotremes, the platypus and echidna, nonetheless exist, however extra monotreme species had been round a couple of hundred million years in the past. A few of them may probably be even weirder than their descendants.

Monotreme fossils present in refuse from the opal mines of Lightning Ridge, Australia, have now revealed the opalized jawbones of three beforehand unknown species that lived in the course of the Cenomanian age of the early Cretaceous. In contrast to fashionable monotremes, these species had tooth. In addition they embody a creature that seems to have been a mashup of a platypus and echidna—an “echidnapus.”

Fossil fragments of three recognized species from the identical period had been additionally discovered, which means that a minimum of six monotreme species coexisted in what’s now Lightning Ridge. In accordance with the researchers who unearthed these new species, the creatures might have as soon as been as frequent in Australia as marsupials are at present.

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