Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Long-beaked echidna may call Australia home

An exciting discovery in the dusty bowels of one of the world's most foremost museums may mean the critically endangered Long-beaked Echidna, long thought only to exist in New Guinea, did in fact one call Australia home - and may well still!

Our thanks to CFZ Australia reader Brad Wolfe for bringing this news to our attention.

A team of researchers recently discovered the specimen of the long-beaked echidna, an egg-laying mammal previously thought to exist only in New Guinea, laying in a drawer, long forgotten.

The 1901 specimen, described in the Dec. 28 issue of the journal Zookeys, had been shot and stuffed by an Australian naturalist named John Tunney, who came across the echidna on Mount Anderson, a mountain in a vast, arid and sparsely populated region of northwest Australia, while on an expedition for a British collector. Tunney, who was trained in taxidermy, stuffed and delivered the specimen, which was later bequeathed to the Natural History Museum.

Once they realized the echidna had been spotted in recent history, the team went back to Aboriginal communities in the West Kimberley region and found some women remembered watching their parents hunt long-beaked echidnas.

"They remembered that there used to be an echidna in the area that was much larger, and they pointed to pictures of the modern long-beaked echidna from New Guinea," Helgen told LiveScience.

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