Seeing is believing

Look: Missing 19th century platypus and echidna specimens discovered in museum storage

150 years ago, these mammal specimens ignited a fierce evolutionary debate. A British museum just re-discovered them.

Originally Published: 
An echidna specimen preserved in a jar
Jacqueline Garget

No animal caused an academic kerfuffle among 19th-century European scientists quite like the platypus.

Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images News/Getty Images

British colonists living in New South Wales, Australia, sent specimens of the creature back to their homeland.

It looked like a hodgepodge of conflicting features to European naturalists; its duck-like beak, beaver-like tail, webbed feet, and fur puzzled them. Some even thought it was fake.