The fossilized remains of a prehistoric marine reptile shows that it closely resembles the modern-day duck-billed platypus. It lived about 250 million years ago in what is now known as China.
There are a lot of rather strange-looking animals today, but perhaps the duck-billed platypus is one of the stranger ones. A semi-aquatic, egg-laying mammal with venomous stingers, they are surely one of nature’s rarities.
A team of scientists now describe the discovery of a prehistoric marine reptile that closely resembles the duck-billed platypus. Found at a fossil lagoon in China, the Wuhan Centre of China Geological Survey discovered two specimens of the Eretmorhipis carrolldongi, one of which was a nearly complete specimen apart from some parts of the limbs. Previous specimens have all been headless.
The Eretmorhipis was found to be 70 cm long with a long, a rigid body, four flippers for swimming and steering, a small head with unusually small eyes, bony plates running down its back, and a platypus-like bill. Unlike the platypus, however, the Eretmorhipis is a marine reptile.
'Very Strange Animal'
According to scientists, the area in which the specimens were found used to be a shallow sea about 250 million years ago. Evidently, the prehistoric creature’s rigid body suggests that it was a poor swimmer, but still survived because it had no rivals since it evolved during a time that was devastated by a mass extinction event.
“It wouldn’t survive in the modern world, but it didn’t have any rivals at the time,” said Professor Ryosuke Motani of the University of California, Davis, co-author of the study.
Just like the duck-billed platypus, the Eretmorhipis has a large hole in the middle of bones in the bill. In modern-day platypuses, these bills are actually filled with receptors that help them to hunt by touch in muddy waters. Although there were no fossils that show that the Eretmorhipis ate, it’s likely that it consumed shrimp and small invertebrates.
”This is a very strange animal,” said Motani.
The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.