The Platypus Species Could be Older than we Think

The platypus has fascinated researchers since the species was discovered back in the day.

New discoveries suggest that the first individuals of the species may have looked radically different in comparison to the duckbilled platypus which we know and love.

A similar creature was swimming to the shallow waters of what will become modern China. This marine ancestor seems to have been more closely related with the reptiles. In order to navigate through the water it used a cartilaginous bill. Dubbed Eretmorhipis carrolldongi, the species lived in the lower Triassic period.

According to the researchers the creature had a length of approximately 70 cm. Its body was quite rigid and it featured a small head with tiny eyes. Four flippers helped the Eretmorhipis to swim and steer through the water. The back of the creature is particularly well-built and small bony plates may have served as protection against a variety of threats, including hungry predators. An earlier fossil was discovered in the past but it was incomplete. The new one is comprised of a whole body with all the parts present.

One of the lead researchers has been puzzled by the strange look and constitution of the animal. The heads present on both fossils feature bones that should have supported a cartilaginous beak. One trait that is shared with the modern platypus has been identified in the form of a small hole that is placed on the middle of the bill. In the case of the modern equivalent the bill is filled with a variety of sensors that allow the platypus to hunt its prey.

During the Triassic period the zones where the fossils were found were covered by a shallow sea that had a depth of 1 meter. The water was spread over a large carbonate platform. It is likely that the diet of the Eretmorhipis included shrimp, worms and other small invertebrates. The researchers noted that the creature may have been a poor swimmer.

More information is available in the form of an article published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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