Platypus Much Older Than Thought, Lived with Dinos
Australian Platypus Conservancy
The Diplomatic Platypus
The Enigma of the Echidna
A History of the Earth, and Animated Nature: The Platypus
When naturalists first encountered the platypus in the late 18th century, they were more than a bit perplexed but some of its features. When the first specimens were brought back from Australia to England, some thought it was a taxonomical practical joke. Was it a beaver with a duck's bill crudely attached? And you say it's a mammal that lays eggs? It was more than a bit odd, and this rather curious animal has been the study of much inquiry over the past several hundred years. The platypus's closest relative happens to be the echidna (or spiny anteater), which is yet another curious looking animal. Scientists had always been curious to know when the platypus's evolutionary path had begun to diverge from that of the echidna. This week Timothy Rowe of the University of Texas and his colleagues reported that they had evidence that indicated the platypus diverged from echidnas approximately 120 million years ago. Many in the scientific world were excited about the finding, but Matt Phillips of the Australian National University in Canberra commented that more evidence might be needed.
The first link leads to a news article on this recent discovery from this Tuesday's New York Times. The second link will take users to a piece from the National Geographic News site which provides a bit of additional background on the scientific research which contributed to this discovery. The third link will whisk users away to the homepage of the Australian Platypus Conservancy. Here visitors can read about how to spot a platypus and also current conservation initiatives designed to protect this unique creature. Moving on, the fourth link leads to the rather fine poem "The Diplomatic Platypus" by Patrick Barrington. The fifth link leads to a good piece from the National Wildlife Federation's magazine on the "unpredictable behavior" of the echidna. Finally, the last link leads to the "platypus" entry in Oliver Goldsmith's 1823 compendium, "A History of the Earth, And Animated Nature".