Researchers discover an extremely rare mammal

Researchers discover an extremely rare mammal

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Indonesia Long-beaked echidna Cyclops Province Papua Attenborough
Indonesia, Papua: An Attenborough’s long-beaked echidna in the Cyclops Mountains of Papua Province, Indonesia. © Cyclops Expedition/dpa

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 director David Attenborough is known for his award-winning documentaries. The Englishman is now almost a hundred years old and is considered an icon in his field. A very special and, according to research, also “iconic” mammal is named after him: the shy Attenborough’s long-beaked echidna (Zaglossus attenboroughi). The spiny type was considered almost extinct.

Spines, snout and egg-laying: this is what we know 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 the spines of a hedgehog, the snout of an anteater and the feet of a mole, said James Kempton of Oxford University, who led the expedition international in Indonesia. The animal was last scientifically documented in 1961 and has never been seen again, which is why it was placed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Endangered Species.

The contemporary seems so strange also 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, which is why it is difficult to find.

Expedition to 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 remote Cyclops Mountains in Indonesia’s Papua province, installed 80 surveillance cameras and climbed the mountains several times. According to scientists, in the four weeks of the expedition the expedition covered 11,000 meters of altitude, more than that achieved during the ascent of Everest. Only on the last day of the four-week research trip did Attenborgouh’s long-beaked echidna pause for a few moments in front of the camera.

A huge success for the researchers: “I shouted to my colleagues: ‘We found it, we found it,’ and then I ran from the desk into the living room and hugged the kids,” Kempton reported at the time. of discovery. Kempton stressed that collaboration with locals was key to success. Local communities not only helped with orientation, but also provided access to areas “that humans had never had access to before,” the research team leader continued.

It seems that a custom of the indigenous people of the region is as strange as the animal itself: if there is a dispute in the group, one of the conflicting parties is sent to look for 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, according to local tribal elders, searching for them can take years or even generations Mirror reported. When the animals are found, it marks the end of the conflict: peace reigns again in the tribe. The long-beaked echidna thus becomes a peacemaker.

The researchers also discovered shrimp living in trees and in unknown cave systems

The unusual mammal wasn’t the only find: Scientists also discovered Mayr’s honey-eating bird, a completely new genus of tree-dwelling shrimp and countless new species of insects. The research report released Friday (Nov. 10) almost read like it was written by Indiana Jones. They said they stumbled upon 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 has brought with it, including poisonous animals, blood-sucking leeches, malaria, earthquakes and extreme heat”. on the eye before it can be removed by a doctor, they say. Last year, US researchers also made a rare discovery and discovered a species that was thought to be extinct.

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