Australian Animal Archive

Short-Beaked Echidna.
Tachyglossus aculeatus.
(ak-yue'-lay-ah'-tus : "spiney fast-tongue")

Echidna - Tachyglossus aculeatus

Along with the Platypus, Echidna's are the world's last surviving monotremes. The Short-Beaked Echidna (usually referred to in Australia as the Echidna) spends most of its day sleeping in the shelter of fallen timber or rocks. Depending on the temperature and the availability of food, Echidna's feed for varying lengths of time between dusk and dawn.

The Echidna's diet is made up of ants and termites, ploughing open their nests with huge powerful claws on their forefeet, then lapping up the insects with a 17 cm-long sticky tongue.

The Echidna is found in most parts of Australia and in the lowlands of Papua New Guinea.

Mating occurs in July and August. A single egg is laid into a temporary pouch which develops on the onset of the breeding season. The egg then takes about 10 days to hatch. The hatchling or 'Puggle' then emerges from the mothers temporary pouch, bald, semi-transparent and without hind limbs. It will then make its way to the mothers permanent suckling pouch.

The early milk of the Echidna mother is rich in iron and is a 'strawberry milk' colour. The Puggle's are suckled in the pouch until they begin to develop spines, as this becomes very uncomfortable for the mother. Still blind, the Puggle is then left in a short burrow while the mother is feeding. Puggle's are suckled between 6 and 7 months.

A scared Echidna won't try to escape by running away from a threat instead the Echidna will vigorously start digging with both front and back legs and submerge below the surface of the ground in a submarine like manner. If the Echidna doesn't have time to dig itself in, an exposed Echidna will protect itself by rolling into a tight ball of sharp spines.

Characteristics:
Football sized, tailess body of spines or spikes, tubular beak type nose, short legs with powerful claws, light to dark brown fur with stout, cream coloured spikes.
Habitat:
Widespread across Australia and Papua New Guinea wherever termites and ants are abundant.
Behaviour:
Solitary, forages day or night depending on the temperature. Shelters during extreme temperatures in logs, amongst rocks or other animal burrows. Echidna's dig their own nursery burrow and juveniles first become visible during the spring.
Breeding:
A single egg is laid 2 weeks after June-September mating. Fast-growing puggle's weaned after 6-7 months.
Feeding:
Ploughs open termite and ant nests with strong claws, preferring to eat termites to biting ants.
Voice:
Usually silent. Echidna's softly coo or mew on occasion. Females my become more vocal whilst grooming themselves or their young.









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