Scientists have rediscovered a long-lost species of mammal — that was thought to be extinct — on trail camera footage.
The long-beaked echidna — a strange and ancient mammal named after British naturalist David Attenborough — had not been seen alive since 1961.
However, Reuters reports that a team led by Oxford University scientists managed to capture photographic evidence of the long-lost creature on a trail camera on the last day of a four-week expedition in the Cyclops Mountains of Indonesia.
The remarkable trail camera footage shows the first sighting long-beaked echidna for the first time in over 60 years.
The echidna has only ever been seen in the Cyclops Mountains and was assumed to have been “lost” due to being shy, nocturnal burrow-dwellers who are extremely difficult to find.
Discovered on the Last Memory Card
According to Reuters, expedition lead and University of Oxford biologist Dr. James Kempton discovered the images of the small creature walking through the forest undergrowth on the last memory card retrieved from more than 80 remote cameras at the end of the trip.
“There was a great sense of euphoria, and also relief having spent so long in the field with no reward until the very final day,” Kempton says of the moment he first saw the footage with collaborators from Indonesian conservation group YAPPENDA.
Echidnas are part of a group of primitive mammals similar to the platypus that can lay eggs. Monotremes diverged from the common ancestors of other mammals around 200 million years ago.
“Attenborough’s long-beaked echidna has the spines of a hedgehog, the snout of an anteater, and the feet of a mole,” Kempton explains.
“Because of its hybrid appearance, it shares its name with a creature of Greek mythology that is half human, half serpent.”
“It appears so unlike other mammals because it is a member of the monotremes — an egg-laying group that separated from the rest of the mammal tree-of-life about 200 million years ago.”
During the expedition, the team of scientists also discovered several new species, including a tree-dwelling shrimp and two new species of frog.