Sir David’s zaglossus is an endangered monotreme

Sir David’s zaglossus is also known as Attenborough’s long-beaked echidna or Attenborough’s zaglossus. It is a fascinating creature that belongs to the select group of monotreme mammals. Despite its uniqueness, this species is critically endangered.

Sir David's Zaglossus
Zagloso by Sir David – Image from Xataka
What are monotreme mammals?

Monotreme mammals are a unique group of mammals distinguished by several special characteristics.

  • They lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young. These eggs have calcareous shells and are incubated outside the mother’s body.
  • Monotremes do not have nipples. The young feed by licking milk secreted by primitive mammary glands found in the abdominal skin.
  • They have skulls that show reptilian characteristics, such as the presence of additional temporal openings.

Monotremes are represented by two main groups of animals: the platypus and the echidnas. Both groups are endemic to Australia and New Guinea.

Origin and characteristics of Sir David’s zaglossus

Sir David’s zaglossus is native to the Cyclops Mountains, located on the northern coast of the Papua province of Indonesia. Its habitat is a mountainous and wooded environment, where it can hide among dense vegetation and burrows.

It is the smallest species within the Zaglossus genus, its weight ranging between 1 and 3 kg. It has short, dense fur, and has some spines on its back, which are covered by hair. Its extremities culminate with five fingers on each one, with their respective nails. The hind legs show signs that they once had dewclaws.

Scientists thought it was extinct

For 61 years, they believed this species was extinct. However, in November 2023, a team from the University of Oxford managed to capture an image with an automatic camera of a specimen in the same mountains where they had lost track of it. This exciting rediscovery offers hope for the conservation of this unique creature.

Sir David’s zaglossus is a biological treasure. They consider it very unique for being one of the few mammals that lay eggs. Furthermore, its role in the ecosystem is crucial to maintaining natural balance. The inclusion in the CITES appendices affects all species of the genus Zaglossuswhich underlines the need to protect it and preserve its habitat.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international treaty that establishes regulations for global trade in endangered animal and plant species. Its main goal is to protect the survival of these species, ensuring that international trade does not threaten them.

Sir David’s zaglossus is a reminder of the astonishing diversity of life on our planet. Its rediscovery urges us to continue research and protect critically endangered species.

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