The Echidna Strikes Back: Egg-Laying Mammal Finally Returns

One long-beaked, egg-laying mammal trundled in front of a wildlife camera placed in a remote area of Indonesia.

And confirmed its long-doubted existence on Planet Earth.

Attenborough’s long-beaked echidna (yep, that Attenborough) finally re-appeared after a 60-year absence when general consensus held that it was extinct.

Researchers in Indonesia’s Cyclops Mountains discovered this bizarre creature on late-night footage.

No one had reported seeing a Zaglossus attenboroughi — a nocturnal, egg-laying mammal — since 1961. Scientists named the exceedingly rare animal after the famous nature documentarian after spotting only one of its kind on the initial discovery.

Its Nov. 10 rediscovery was not an accident. The project came together thanks to the efforts of an Indonesian conservation group, aided by local villagers. The team obtained access to some lands that, in their estimation, no human had ever set foot on.

“The discovery is the result of a lot of hard work and over three-and-a-half years of planning,” study leader and Oxford University biologist James Kempton said in a press release.

Hardships were plentiful. According to ScienceAlert, Kempton’s team weathered an earthquake, malaria, and an incident where a leech attached to a team member’s eyeball.

A Tolkien landscape

“Though some might describe the Cyclops as a ‘Green Hell,’ I think the landscape is magical, at once enchanting and dangerous, like something out of a Tolkien book,” Kempton said.

The team deployed over 80 trail cameras, ascended multiple mountains, and climbed more than 11,000 meters (more than the height of Mount Everest).

Long-beaked echidnas have “the spines of a hedgehog, the snout of an anteater, and the feet of a mole,” explained Kempton. It looks so striking because it’s evolutionarily distinct.

Only several mammals that lay eggs (instead of giving live birth) exist on Earth. The long-beaked echidna joins three other species of echidna and the duck-billed platypus in the category.

They’re called monotremes, and scientists estimate they separated from the rest of mammal evolution about 200 million years ago.

Rumors among local hunters sparked the research, which the team now hopes will support ongoing conservation in the Cyclops Mountains area. They continue to analyze their findings, in hopes of discovering “even more new species.”

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson takes any writing assignments he can talk his way into while intermittently traveling the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas — er, adventure. He parlayed a decade of roving trade work into a life of fair-weather rock climbing and truck dwelling before (to his parents’ evident relief) finding a way to put his BA in English to use. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, campfire refreshments and a good story.