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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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ScienceShot: Meet the Giant Platypus
4 November 2013 3:00 pm
An indigenous Australian legend has it that the first platypus was the odd offspring of a duck named Tharalkoo and a rat. In a nod to the tale, researchers have named a newly identified ancient giant platypus species Obdurodon tharalkooschild. All that was found of the creature was a single tooth at a site in Queensland, estimated to be between 5 million and 15 million years old. The molar (above, right) shows wear that indicates that the platypus probably crushed hard-shelled prey, like turtles (above, left), also found fossilized at the site. Modern adult platypuses do not have teeth, but their ancestors did. Based on a comparison of the size of the molar to the teeth of other extinct platypuses, the team reports today in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology that O. tharalkooschild was probably about a meter long—bigger than any other platypus and twice the size of the species alive today. Finding a new species of platypus was a surprise: Previously, researchers thought that the creatures had a single branch on their family tree, with no more than one distinct species alive at any time. Despite its origin-story namesake, the new platypus is a cousin of the lineage of relatively small platypuses that led to the duck-mammal mash-up of today—probably one of several in a now-extinct side branch of giant platypuses.