The discovery of the new species’ tooth in a limestone deposit was made by Rebecca Pian, a PhD candidate at Columbia University and former UNSW Honours student, and Professor Mike Archer and Associate Professor Suzanne Hand, of the UNSW School of Biological Earth and Environmental Sciences.
“A new platypus species, even one that is highly incomplete, is a very important aid in developing understanding about these fascinating mammals,” says Rebecca Pian.
It is believed that, like other platypuses, it was probably a mostly aquatic mammal, and would have lived in and around the freshwater pools in the forests that covered the Riversleigh area millions of years ago.
“Discovery of this new species was a shock to us because prior to this, the fossil record suggested that the evolutionary tree of platypuses was a relatively linear one,” says Mike Archer. “Now we realize that there were unanticipated side branches on this tree, some of which became gigantic.”
The name Obdurodon tharalkooschild derives from the Greek for "lasting tooth" and an Australian folk story about the genus' origin that features a strong-willed female duck who ignored her parents' warnings and was set upon by Bigoon, a water-rat, leading to unusual-looking offspring.