Platypuses emerged 120 mln-year-ago during Early Cretaceous era

Washington, Oct 23 : The duck-billed, otter-feet, platypus first emerged 120 million years ago during the Early Cretaceous Era, or possibly even earlier, a new study by University of Texas at Austin vertebrate palaeontologist has revealed.

The Early Cretaceous is associated with the first appearance and prominence of numerous dinosaur groups.

Timothy Rowe announced at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology annual meeting in Austin, Texas that the key to the platypus puzzle was an ancient egg-laying mammal relative called Teinolophos trusleri, whose fossils have been collected over the past decade.

“It suggests that both the platypus and echidna lineages were distinct by 120 million years ago, and that the platypus, at least, has occupied its stable niche as an electro-receptive aquatic predator ever since,” said Rowe.

Rowe and his team used a high-resolution X-ray CT scanner to examine the remains of the Teinolophos trusleri, a close relative of the semi-aquatic platypus, and found a large internal canal located in the animal's lower jaw.

Platypuses have this canal even this day, which is involved in electrical signal detection. Around 40,000 neurons, present in the platypus duckbill, pick up signals that prey, such as tadpoles, shellfish and bugs, emit as they swim.

The neurons exist in thick, cable-like fibres that leave large canals in the platypus's lower and upper jawbones.

As no other mammal, including echidnas, can surpass the electro detection abilities of the platypus, researchers thought this was a relatively new, “high-tech" skill that the animal evolved.

They were, however, surprised to discover that the ancient close relative of platypuses had the ability too.

Kenneth Angielczyk, assistant curator of paleomammalogy at The Field Museum in Chicago, also announced their research along with colleagues Steven Wang and Peter Roopnarine at this week's SVP meeting, reports Discovery News. (ANI)