Australia was once home to egg-laying mammals

There was a time when Australia was full of monotremes, those rare mammals that still exist today.

A recent discovery in Australia led researchers to conclude that the giant of Oceania experienced what can be called an «era of monotremes,» a group of mammals that are quite unusual nowadays.

«It’s like finding a completely new civilization,» commented Professor Tim Flannery to the BBC, who led the study.

The fossils supporting this discovery were found about 25 years ago by paleontologist Elizabeth Smith and her daughter Clytie, while they were examining the waste from an opal mine in northern New South Wales.

Before the marsupials

For a long time, these remains went unnoticed in the Australian Museum, until Tim Flannery, an expert in mammals, decided to reexamine them. To his expert eye, these specimens were clearly monotremes.

After analyzing them, the scientist confirmed that they belonged to a previously undocumented species, which was named «Opalios splendens» due to its resemblance to the platypus and the echidna, the only mammals today that lay eggs.

This finding not only introduces a new species but also supports the idea that 100 million years ago, Australia went through an «era of monotremes,» according to Flannery and his team.

«Long before Australia became the land of marsupials, it was a place dominated by furry egg-layers, the monotremes,» said Elizabeth Smith.

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