The echidna, also known as the spiny anteater, is native to Australia, Tasmania, and southern New Guinea.
The echidna, also known as the spiny anteater, is native to Australia, Tasmania, and southern New Guinea. The echidna is an egg-laying mammal. It looks like a hedgehog but is larger with a short, stubby, hairless tail. Porcupine-like spikes, which can grow to as much as two inches long (5 cm), cover its body. These spikes are yellow with a black tip, and hair grows between them. However, the animal’s belly is covered with brown fur.
An echidna has an excellent sense of hearing and smell, but poor eyesight. It runs and climbs well. It buries itself quickly if disturbed and, if the ground is too hard to dig, rolls up, exposing a mass of needlelike spikes. Some females and all males have spears on their ankles, and their feet have five toes.
The echidna lives between rocks and hollows, and feeds during the afternoon, searching for ants and termites. It is believed that the echidna uses its nose to pick up electrical signals from insects. It uses its long, sticky, six-inch (15 cm) tongue to trap its meals, and it has spines on the roof of the mouth to scrape the insects off the tongue. If it has to, an echidna can fast up to a month.
Female echidna usually lay one egg, but on rare occasions lay as many as three. The mother incubates her eggs in a temporary pouch for about ten days. Once the eggs hatch, the babies remain in the pouch until their spikes develop. The mother then places her babies in a burrow and nurses them for about three months. The baby echidna sucks milk, which contains a large amount of hemoglobin, from a tuft of hair on its mother’s stomach.
Echidnas have few natural enemies; however, the aborigines do eat them.
Monotremata • Tachglossidae • Tachyglossus aculeatus, T. setosus, Zaglossus bruijni
Weight: 6.5 to 14.5 pounds (3 to 6 kg)
Length: 3.5 to 17.5 inches (35 to 45 cm)
Life Span: 20 years
Special Design Feature: The echidna incubates their egg in a temporary pouch.
Did You Know? The echidna has a sticky six-inch (15 cm) tongue that traps insects. On the roof of their mouth there are spines that scrape off the insects.