A strange egg-laying mammal named after Sir David Attenborough has been rediscovered by Oxford University researchers after going missing for 62 years.

The long-beaked echidna was last recorded in 1961 and has now been photographed for the first time in history by a research team of biologists from the university, in collaboration with other academics from around the world.

And the expedition to the remote jungles on Indonesia's Papua Province also rediscovered a bird lost to science since 2008, Mayr's honeyeater and a shrimp that lives in trees.

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Oxford University researches joined forces with Indonesian NGO Yayasan Pelayanan Papua Nenda (YAPPENDA), Cenderawasih University (UNCEN), Papua BBKSDA, and the National Research and Innovation Agency of Indonesia (BRIN), Re:Wild.

Dr James Kempton, a biologist from the University of Oxford who conceived of and led the expedition, said: “Attenborough's long-beaked echidna has the spines of a hedgehog, the snout of an anteater, and the feet of a mole.

“Because of its hybrid appearance, it shares its name with a creature of Greek mythology that is half human, half serpent.

“The reason it appears so unlike other mammals is 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.

“The discovery is the result of a lot of hard work and over three and a half years of planning.”

The echidna has the spines of a hedgehog, snout of an anteater, the feet of a mole and the nickname Attenborough, after the British nature broadcaster.

It was discovered on the last day using the last image from their last memory card.

The mammal is a monotreme, a species of egg-laying mammals including the platypus. However, the “special” echidna is one of only five surviving monotreme species.

The Critically Endangered beasts are notoriously hard to find - they are nocturnal, live in burrows and are generally very shy.

To find the creature, members from several universities trekked across “one of the most unexplored regions in the world”, the Cyclops Mountains of Indonesia’s Papua Province.

They deployed over 80 trail cameras, ascended multiple mountains and climbed a total of over 11,000 metres - higher than Everest.

Dr Leonidas-Romanos Davranoglou lead entomologist for the expedition, from Oxford University, said: “We were quite shocked to discover this shrimp in the heart of the forest, because it is a remarkable departure from the typical seaside habitat for these animals.

“We believe that the high level of rainfall in the Cyclops Mountains means the humidity is great enough for these creatures to live entirely on land.

“Tropical rainforests are among the most important and most threatened terrestrial ecosystems.

“It is our duty to support our colleagues on the frontline through exchanging knowledge, skills, and equipment.”


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This story was written by Matthew Norman, he joined the team in 2022 as a Facebook community reporter.

Matthew covers Bicester and focuses on finding stories from diverse communities.

Get in touch with him by emailing: Matthew.norman@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @OxMailMattN1