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The Echidna

Updated on January 26, 2017

Echidnas - An Australian Anteater

These fascinating little creatures are found in most parts of Australia. They are the short-beaked echidna, whilst the long-beaked echidna is found in Papua-New Guinea. Although the echidna eats termites and ants, it isn't really an anteater at all, being unrelated to that species.

The Latin name for echidnas is Tachyglossus aculeatus. Echidnas are an egg-laying monotreme, and are classified as a mammal. They are quite often seen foraging for food on the roadside, which is where we saw the echidna in the photo. It tried to hide itself from us in the leaves, so after taking the picture, we left it in peace.

Echidna hiding in leaf litter.
Echidna hiding in leaf litter. | Source

How The Echidna Got Its Name

The Greeks had a very rich mythology, and one of the monsters was called Echidna. She is reputed to be the mother of most other monsters. She was half woman and half snake.

I guess they thought that an animal which was an egg-laying mammal was also half and half!

The echidna is related to the platypus, which is also an egg-laying monotreme.

Echidna. | Source
Adult Echidna
Adult Echidna | Source

Echidna Information

The picture above was taken by benjamint444 and is on Wikimedia

Echidnas usually live alone, and they are not territorial. They live in many different types of habitat including forests, rainforest and drier areas.

Their diet is mainly ant and termites, but they do eat other things when available. These could include larvae, beetles, and even worms.

Echidnas are monotremes, which means they are egg-laying mammals. They usually breed in Spring, from June to September. The female develops a pouch during the breeding season, and the egg is laid in there. In approximately 10 days, the egg hatches, and a baby echidna emerges. Baby echidnas are called "puggles".

They are less than 2 cm long when hatched. The puggle will stay in the pouch, suckling, for up to three months. On occasions, the mother will leave the puggle in a burrow, while she goes out hunting for food.

Young echidnas usually stay with their mothers in the burrow for up to twelve months, during which time their spines develop fully. They may also still suckle a little.

When fully grown, an echidna may weigh up to 8 kilos, and they may be anything from 30 to 55 cm long. They probably live for about 10 years, although captive specimens may live for a few more years.

Echidna Poll

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Furry Echidna.   Image by Snakesmum
Furry Echidna. Image by Snakesmum

Tasmanian Echidna

We saw this young echidna on the roadside in Tasmania. It was probably looking for food, as it was in the drainage trench, a good place for ants, etc.

Tasmanian echidnas are furrier than the mainland animals, as it's a lot colder there than it is on the mainland. This one was quite small compared with others we've seen, so it's probably quite young. It's also a lot lighter than most adults we've seen.

Baby Echidna, or "puggle".
Baby Echidna, or "puggle". | Source

More About The Echidna

The image is of a baby echidna born at Perth Zoo.

Echidnas have very strong claws and forelegs, to help with digging for food. The male has a spur on his hind legs, just as a male platypus does, but unlike the platypus, this spur is not poisonous.

Echidnas are covered with spines, which are actually modified hairs. On a trip to the bush, one of our party actually picked up an echidna - not a smart move, as his hands were covered with bleeding pinpricks. When threatened, echidnas roll up into a ball so that their soft, vulnerable parts are protected.

The echidna is a shy animal, and usually moves quite slowly. They are mainly nocturnal in the warmer parts of the country, but in cooler parts, may be seen foraging at dusk, or even during the day.

The snout is off great use to these animals, in finding their food; they will use it to detect either electrical impulses, or the smell of their prey. Echidnas will use their powerful claws to dig for food, or to tear open logs to reach it.

Echidnas are quite common, and are not considered to be endangered. Thy are thought to be the oldest surviving mammal in the world.

Echidna Close Up

Echidna close up.
Echidna close up. | Source

Melbourne Zoo Echidna

This little echidna lives at Melbourne Zoo, Victoria, Australia. It's a great shot, because you can clearly see his nose and his claws, which he uses to find food.

Your Echidna Comments

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    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Hopefully, it's just ants, not termites! How lovely to have echidnas in your garden though. :-)

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

      Echidnas often wander through my garden. I've started paying particular attention to which trees they visit, in case it is a warning about termites. :)

    • profile image

      RuralFloridaLiving 4 years ago

      These little guys are adorable. Never heard of them before this. Thanks for sharing them with the rest of the world!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      interesting lens

    • Nightcat profile image

      Nightcat 4 years ago

      What beauties they are, thanks for sharing! :)

    • profile image

      myspace9 4 years ago

      Nice lens.

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @stormy1990: Security word is Squidoo's not mine! They do chose some strange ones. lol

    • profile image

      stormy1990 5 years ago

      @Snakesmum: Cool! i'd love to visit Australia someday. I live in USA, Indiana.

      P.S. Hehe, kinda funny security word "pigpop"

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @stormy1990: Yes, I'm in Melbourne, Victoria, in the South-East of Australia. Thanks for visiting.

    • profile image

      stormy1990 5 years ago

      Wow! Cool pics and video! My compliments! Do you live in Australia???

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @CoolFool83: Thankyou, and thanks for visiting.

    • CoolFool83 profile image

      CoolFool83 5 years ago

      Very fascinating lense on the Echidna

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @Terrie_Schultz: They are - I love seeing them out in the bush. Thanks for visiting.

    • profile image

      cmadden 5 years ago

      Is that baby echidna showing attitude or showing off? Interesting lens - these ant munchers are kinda cute!

    • profile image

      Terrie_Schultz 5 years ago

      Such interesting creatures!

    • listprofits profile image

      listprofits 5 years ago

      These guys are not great on eyesight, so they'll wander right past you in the bush..

    • gadgetbuff profile image

      gadgetbuff 5 years ago

      Very interesting little critters. Very nice lens!

    • profile image

      gradientcat 5 years ago

      I didn't know much about Echidnas before, very informative article.

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @Dressage Husband: Thankyou Stephen.

    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 5 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      Very interesting lens about animal I had never heard of before. Liked and blessed

    • JoshuaJDavid profile image

      JoshuaJDavid 5 years ago

      I've seen these things before but never knew what they were called. Interesting lens. Liked.

    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 5 years ago from Somewhere in England

      Imagine being referred to as the "mother of most other monsters? "Not exactly a compliment. I was surprised how big Echidnas are, like a monster hedgehog. Genuinely interesting lens, thanks.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Interesting little creatures. I didn't know much about them before.

    • daisychainsaw lm profile image

      daisychainsaw lm 5 years ago

      Love reading about unusual animals, very interesting!

    • profile image

      getmoreinfo 5 years ago

      This is interesting about the Echidnas Australian Ant Eater

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 5 years ago

      Great lens

    • Dusty2 LM profile image

      Dusty2 LM 5 years ago

      Nice lens with some good info about a cute little furry animal. At first, I too, thought it was a hedgehog until I saw the long nose. Anyway, thanks for sharing this lens. (^_^)

    • profile image

      GrammieOlivia 5 years ago

      I just did a lens on platypii, and read a lot about Echidnas at the same time, they are definitely an anomoly in the animal world. Thanks for all the information.....good job!

    • Ninche profile image

      Ninche 5 years ago

      Very interesting and educational ( at least for me ) lens. Thank you!

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @LiteraryMind: It was a pleasure, as I enjoy making lenses. Thanks for visiting.

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Thank you for introducing us to this great animal.

    • choosehappy profile image

      Vikki 5 years ago from US

      Very interesting! I saw one of these on tv once but that's about the extent of my experience with it. ;)

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 5 years ago from New Zealand

      Nice, I like animal lens. The Echidnas, is a lot like a hedgehog in New Zealand, only it seems to have a longer nose.