Doctoral candidate Rebecca Pian at Columbia University and the American Museum of Natural History and Dr. Suzanne Hand of the University of New South Wales in Australia announced the discovery of the largest and only known toothed platypus fossil ever found in the Nov. 4, 2013, edition of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
The new species was named Obdurodon tharalkooschild. The fossil remains of the animal were a single tooth found in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area of northwest Queensland.
The animal was a little over three feet in length and ate freshwater crustaceans, lungfish, frogs, and small turtles based on the fossils found in the vicinity of the platypus tooth. The fossil is between 15 and five million years old. Modern platypi do not have teeth.
The find is also unique because it proves that more than one platypus species existed at the same time in Australia. The oldest known platypus was discovered in southern South America and dates to 61 million years ago.
Biologists and paleontologists considered platypus evolution to be linear with one species developing directly from the previous species due to adaptive necessity. This new find proves that platypus lineage had side branches for the first time.
The platypus is one of the most unique animals on Earth. This discovery adds to the evolutionary tree of the species.