SYDNEY – A giant extinct species of platypus with powerful teeth has been discovered in Australia, with a scientist on Tuesday describing the duck-billed water animal as a “Godzilla”-like monster.
The new species, named Obdurodon tharalkooschild, was identified by a single but highly distinctive tooth found in Riversleigh in the northeastern Australian state of Queensland — a World Heritage site rich in fossil deposits.
“It pretty well blew our minds,” University of New South Wales professor Mike Archer told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. of the animal, which is estimated to be about twice the size of the modern platypus.
Scientists had thought that the platypus, which combines bird, mammal and reptile characteristics, had gradually lost its teeth and become smaller over millions of years, but the latest find contradicts that theory.
“We didn’t expect this. It’s a huge platypus at the wrong time. But there it was,” said Archer of the 1-meter species.
The modern platypus, a timid and nocturnal animal that lives in deep waterside burrows and is found only in eastern Australia, lacks any teeth as an adult and the scientists do not believe the new extinct species was an immediate ancestor.
“Discovery of this new species was a shock to us because prior to this, the fossil record suggested that the evolutionary tree of platypuses was a relatively linear one,” Archer explained in a statement.
“Now we realize that there were unanticipated side branches on this tree, some of which became gigantic.”
Archer said he was confident that the single tooth, which was discovered by Rebecca Pian, a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University in the United States, was sufficient evidence of a new species.