The long-beaked echidna has spines and mole feet. The strange and shy animal is now being seen again by a research team after 60 years.
Oxford – British wildlife filmmaker David Attenborough is known for his award-winning documentaries. The Brit is almost a hundred years old and is considered an icon in his field. A very special and, according to research, also “iconic” mammal bears his name: the shy Attenborough long-beaked echidna (Zaglossus attenboroughi). The prickly fellow was considered nearly extinct.
Spine, snout and lays eggs: this is what is known about Attenborough’s long-beaked echidna
According to scientists, it is one of the most unusual mammals in the world. Attenborough’s long-beaked echidna, now rediscovered in the Indonesian province of Papua, has hedgehog spines, an anteater’s snout and mole’s feet, said James Kempton of the University of Oxford, who led the international expedition in Indonesia. The animal was last scientifically documented in 1961 and was never seen again, which is why it was placed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.
The contemporary also seems so strange because it belongs to an order of animals whose evolutionary line separated from that of other mammals about 200 million years ago. Another well-known representative of these so-called monotremes is the platypus, which has fur and a beak and also lays eggs. The long-beaked echidna is nocturnal, particularly shy and lives in caves, so it is difficult to find.
Expedition in Indonesia: researchers climbed 11,000 meters and installed 80 cameras
It took a lot of effort to discover the strange creature. James Kempton’s research team traveled to the extremely remote Cyclops Mountains in Indonesia’s Papua province, deployed 80 surveillance cameras and climbed the mountains several times. According to scientists, the four weeks of the expedition covered 11,000 meters of altitude – more than climbing Mount Everest. It was only on the last day of the four-week research trip that Attenborgouh’s long-beaked echidna approached the lens for a few moments.
A great success for the researchers: “I shouted to my colleagues, ‘We found it, we found it,’ and then I ran from the table to the room and hugged the boys,” Kempton reported at the time. of discovery. Kempton emphasized that collaboration with locals was crucial to success. Local communities not only helped with orientation, but also provided access to areas “that had never been accessed by humans before,” continued the research team leader.
A custom of the region’s indigenous population is apparently as strange as the animal itself: if there is a dispute within the group, one of the conflicting parties is sent to find the long-beaked echidna in the forest. The other has to look for a marlin in the sea. Both animals are equally difficult to find, and the search for them can take years or even generations, according to local tribal elders. Mirror reported. When the animals are found, they seal the end of the conflict – peace reigns again in the tribe. The long-beaked echidna thus becomes a peacemaker.
Researchers have also discovered shrimp living in unknown trees and cave systems.
The unusual mammal wasn’t the only find: Scientists also discovered Mayr’s honey-eating bird, as well as a completely new genus of tree-dwelling shrimp and numerous new species of insects. The research report published on Friday (November 10) almost sounded like it was written by Indiana Jones. They said they encountered a previously unknown cave system when a team member fell through the moss-covered entrance.
And this “despite the difficulties that the extremely inhospitable terrain brought with it, including poisonous animals, bloodsucking leeches, malaria, earthquakes and extreme heat”. in the eye before it could be removed by a doctor, they say. Last year, US researchers also made a rare discovery and discovered a species that was believed to be extinct.