Echidnas are prehistoric mammals with many reptilian and other
unusual features. There are two living genera: the
Short-beaked and the Long-beaked, both native to Australia
and New Guinea. Despite appearances, the species shown on
this page is actually the Short-beaked, which is smaller in
size and has longer hair and spines. Also called the Spiny
Anteaters, Echidnas are not directly related to the South
American anteaters nor to spiny porcupines or hedgehogs.
relative is the even more unusual Duck-billed Platypus.
The snout has no teeth but a long and sticky tongue.
Diet is ants and termites with some small beetle
"He went that way"
Echidnas, like the Platypus and many reptiles, lay leathery
eggs instead of live young. After an amazing courtship
ritual whereby a "train" of males follow the female for
several days and some unusual mating aspects, a single,
grape-sized egg is laid and kept in a marsupial-like pouch.
When this egg hatches, the young, called a "puggle" is fed
milk through special patches on the mothers' skin inside the
pouch. The puggle is evicted and moved to a burrow when the
spines begin to grow but is fed for a few more months (if
not predated) until it leaves home. Outside of the mating
season, Echidnas are solitary.
Short-beaked Echidnas live in many types of habitat and
altitude, wherever there are ants/termites. They are diurnal
in mild weather but crepuscular or nocturnal in extreme heat
and will hibernate in cold weather. They have matted fur
under the spines and strong claws for digging. They will dig
to escape predators, leaving a spiny back exposed, or will
roll into a spiny ball. They can also swim well, with the
snout above water like a snorkel. The young puggles,
however, are extremely vulnerable to predators (native and
introduced) and the adults are hunted for meat.