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The natural world around us does not conform to the rules we make for it. In this article, we will learn about the contradiction that is the echidna. Echidnas, which are also called spiny anteaters, are mammals that belong to the family Tachyglossidae. The contradiction that they embody is that they are mammals that lay eggs. Along with the platypus, the echidna is the only animal that is both a mammal and has the ability to lay eggs. Echidna's pronunciation may seem difficult at first owing to its spelling but it is pronounced as ' uh-kid-nuh'. Another quirk about the shiny anteater is that while they are called anteaters they aren't even closely related to true anteaters. Fossils as early as 17 million years ago give us information about the specialized echidna skeleton, their toothless skull, claws, and how they have evolved over time. Echidna mythology facts are quite interesting to learn about. Their name derives from the creature echidna in Greek mythology, which was half-snake and half-woman. Being imagined as part reptile and mammal, the echidna was named appropriately.
Read until the very end of this article to learn some crazy true facts about the echidna. You may also find fun echidna facts for kids here.
Echidnas can be described as egg-laying mammals.
Echidnas belong to the class Mammalia. This can come as a shock to some as this animal looks a lot like a reptile in some ways and is among the list of egg-laying mammals. But being warm-blooded and producing milk for their young makes them appropriately categorized as mammals.
No exact number is available to determine their population.
Echidnas can be found in large numbers in New Guinea, Tasmania, and the Australian mainland.
Echidnas live and can mainly be found in forests, shrublands, grasslands, and woodlands. They can also commonly be found living in caves and hollow logs if they find adequate space.
Echidnas are primarily known to be solitary animals that live by themselves. At the same time, they are not very territorial and wouldn't mind sharing space with other echidnas.
Echidnas have a long life and can live up to 45 years of age. One captive echidna reached the age of 50 years old before finally passing away. At 50 years, its lifespan is among the longest.
During the breeding season, the female echidna lays a single leathery egg. This leathery egg gets deposited in her pouch 22 days past the day mating has occurred. The echidna baby would use its egg tooth to break out of the echidna eggshell after a period of 10 days of gestation. After the initial 10 days, the puggle (baby echidna) remains in the care of the mother's pouch for over 45 days drinking milk until it develops a spine. The mother would then put the puggle in a burrow, where she will visit every five days or so to suckle the puggle till it has weaned at about seven months' time.
The two kinds of echidnas species have quite different conservation statuses. The short-beaked echidna, Tachyglossus aculeatus, is pretty common in most of Australia and even lowland New Guinea and is thus not listed as endangered. The long-beaked echidna (Zaglossus) on the other hand are endemic to just New Guinea. Long-beaked echidnas have been considered Critically Endangered since 1998. Further studies are required to access the number of genetically distinct populations present.
Echidnas are medium-sized animals that have a stark resemblance to the anteaters of South America and even porcupines and hedgehogs. Echidna's have a long, sticky, worm-like tongue and a body that is covered in coarse hair and spines that serve as a defense mechanism against potential threats and predators. Their brown or black body is paired with their long and slender mouth which is both the echidna's nose and mouth. Their claws help them become powerful diggers. Echidna ears cannot be easily distinguished as their ears appear as slits in their body. Long-beaked echidnas (Zaglossus) have a shorter and straighter beak in comparison to the short-beaked echidna.
The echidna, especially the baby echidna called a puggle, is adorably cute. Their small face and short legs negate the intimidation of their sharp spines and appear to be quite cute.
The echidnas are generally quiet animals. One way in which we are aware, the male echidna communicates is through the substance released by its spurs. This waxy milky substance is not a poison but instead acts as a means of communication through scent during the breeding season.
The echidna's height can range between 14 and 30 inches (36-76 cm). Their weight may be between the range of 9.9 and 13 lb (4.5-6 kg). Their spines can notably grow up to 2 in (5 cm). Sex too plays a role in deciding the echidna size with the male on average being 25% larger than the female.
The echidna animal is not very fast, and can at best manage a speed of 1.5 mph (2.4 kph).
The adult male echidna can weigh about 13 lb (6 kg) while the female can weigh around 9.9 lb (4.5 kg).
There are no unique names for the two sexes of echidna species.
A baby echidna is called a puggle.
The short-beaked echidna Tachyglossus aculeatus relies largely on consuming ants or termites. The long-beaked echidna on the other hand prefers to prey on worms and insects. The short-beaked echidnas catch their prey such as ants and other invertebrates with their long sticky tongue and use their beak to break their other, soft-bodied prey.
The short-beaked echidnas and long-beaked echidnas are not poisonous species. This does not necessarily mean that their sharp spines are completely harmless. Interestingly, the male echidnas do produce a waxy substance at their hind feet spurs but the substance is not venomous in nature.
Although they are adorable it's not the smartest idea to have a spiny anteater as a pet. They can be dangerous to humans. Echidna pet would require highly specific knowledge of their diet and health on behalf of the pet owner. Additionally, the long-beaked echidna is endemic to the island of New Guinea, and thus housing it as a pet outside its habitat is a risky proposition.
Echidnas are very hard to research for scientists. They make very little noise and actively avoid humans. Even in captivity, echidnas show little interest in mating which makes studying these cute creatures a real challenge.
The echidnas have electro sensors on the tip of their snout. This adaptation helps them detect and sense earthworms, ants, and termites.
Similar to platypus, echidnas cannot withstand extreme heat beyond their body temperature. Echidna's body temperature is usually low around 84–90 °F.
Long-beaked echidna's tongue is covered with backward-pointing barbs which assists them to prey on earthworms.
Echidnas can be easily distinguished from similar-looking animals by the length of their beak and the number of claws present on their feet.
There are quite a few interesting facts about echidna. Echidnas are unique in many different ways, laying echidna eggs as mammals is just one of those.
The long-beaked echidna's beak is used to explore the leaf litter lying on the forest floor.
While they are not dangerous per se but they roll up into a small ball exposing just their sharp spines when they feel threatened. This makes them not ideal to have as pets. In fact, if you have a dog too they probably won't along with an echidna and at worse can get hurt by the long or short-beaked echidna.
You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one of our Echidna coloring pages.
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