(ORDO NEWS) — 150-year-old specimens of platypus and echidna were found in the storerooms of the Museum of Zoology at Cambridge University, which at one time served as proof for British naturalists that some mammals do indeed lay eggs.
This fact then turned a lot in the science of the 19th century and served as one of the most important arguments in favor of the theory of evolution, writes the Phys.org portal.
This unique collection has not been cataloged by the museum, so until recently, ordinary employees simply did not know about its existence.
The unusual find was made when Jack Ashby, assistant director of the museum, was studying the collection while writing a new book on Australian mammals.
“It is one thing to read articles from the 19th century that platypuses and echidnas actually lay eggs. But to have physical objects in front of our eyes that connect us with this discovery, made almost 150 years ago, is quite amazing, ”says Ashby.
Europeans first encountered platypuses and echidnas in the 1790s, until then they were sure that all mammals gave birth to live young. The question of whether some mammals lay eggs was then one of the great questions of 19th-century zoology and sparked heated discussions in scientific circles.
The recently discovered collection of small jars is the result of an important expedition to solve this mystery. With the financial support of the University of Cambridge, the Royal Society and the British government, William Caldwell was sent to Australia in 1883.
With the help of a large group of Australian Aboriginals, he collected about 1,400 specimens relevant to the subject of the proceedings, and in 1884 his group eventually found a echidna with an egg in its pouch and a platypus with one egg in the nest and another,
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