Animal -zilla

A story that combines libfixes, extraordinary animals, and science reporting. From Stan Carey yesterday, a pointer to this BBC News science story, ” ‘Platypus-zilla’ fossil unearthed in Australia” by Rebecca Morelle:

Part of a giant platypus fossil has been unearthed in Queensland, Australia. Scientists have dubbed the beast “platypus-zilla” and believe it would have measured more than 1m long (3ft).

Writing in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, the researchers say the creature lived between five and 15 million years ago.

… Today, all that survives of this platypus is a single fossilised tooth, which was unearthed in the Riversleigh fossil beds in northwest Queensland.

Based on its size, the researchers have estimated that the new species (Obdurodon tharalkooschild) would have been at least twice as large as today’s platypus.

Bumps on its teeth and other fossil finds nearby suggest that the creature feasted on crustaceans, turtles, frogs and fish.

Science reporting in BBC News is notoriously unreliable (as Language Log writers repeatedly point out), but let’s take this story as basically faithful to the academic sources (while noting the playful name platypus-zilla rather than the expected common name Giant Platypus and observing that the historical creature is reconstructed from a single tooth).

On the common or garden platypus, from Wikipedia:

The platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is a semiaquatic mammal endemic to eastern Australia, including Tasmania. Together with the four species of echidna, it is one of the five extant species of monotremes, the only mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth.

… The unusual appearance of this egg-laying, duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed mammal baffled European naturalists when they first encountered it, with some considering it an elaborate fraud. It is one of the few venomous mammals, the male platypus having a spur on the hind foot that delivers a venom capable of causing severe pain to humans.

… The common name “platypus” is the latinisation of the Greek word πλατύπους (platupous), “flat-footed”, from πλατύς (platus), “broad, wide, flat” and πούς (pous), “foot”.

(As a flat-footed person, I admire the name platypus.)

Then there’s the name platypus-zilla. Words in –zilla have come up here several times; this posting has links to earlier stuff. Almost all X-zilla words have monosyllabic X; from my files:

X = snow, Glenn, mum, plan, prom, bride, beard, fly, cock, black, white

with the notable exceptions panty-hose-zilla and godcomplexzilla, both with trisyllabic X. To which we can now add the trisyllabic (but similarly front-accented) X platypus. A bit on the awkward side, but serviceable.


2 Responses to “Animal -zilla”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Victor Steinbok on Google+:

    Actually, the fact that platypus is not monosyllabic may be the reason why some publications go with “Godzilla platypus” rather than platypus-zilla.

    Nice point.

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    On Google+, Tim Evanson suggests plat-zilla, which is where I would have gone.

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