Did Giant Platypuses Once Stalk Australia?

No, they didn’t. But scientists have dug up a tooth that they think belonged to a platypus that was at least pretty big (by platypus standards) at three feet long, according to the BBC. That’s twice the size of today’s platypuses (which sounds way better as platypi).

So, no, not giant. But it’s still worth knowing about just because researchers are referring to the fossil as “platypus-zilla,” and that conjures up all sorts of funny images.

The researchers say the bigger mammal probably lived between five and 15 million years ago.

From the BBC:

Prof Archer said that with just one tooth, it was difficult to work out exactly what this species would have looked like.

However other fossils suggest that it could have shared the same bizarre appearance as today’s platypuses, with their duck-like bills, large webbed feet and poisonous spurs. But this would have been on a much larger scale.

“I guess it probably would have looked like a platypus on steroids,” said Prof Archer.

Fossil platypus finds are in short supply, with just a few fragments found throughout the southern hemisphere.

As a result, there are many gaps in our understanding of the creature’s past.

Prof Archer said: “We have been naively led to suspect that maybe it was just one lineage of strange animals bumbling its way through time and space at least for the last 60 million years.

“The discovery of this new one was a bit of a shock to us. It was a wake-up call that the platypus’s story, the more we know about it, is increasingly more complicated than we thought.”

The researchers are now hoping to find more platypus fossils in the same area to try to shed more light these enigmatic Australian animals.

photo credit: Alan Couch, Creative Commons/flickr