EchidnaSpecies Tachglossus Oculeatus
Echidnas are solitary living, robust ground dwelling monotremes, with strong sharp spines made from keratin. They are powerful diggers with short legs are long claws. The front claws are spade-like for digging while the hind claws are directed backwards with a long second hind claw used for grooming. They have fur between their spines, and the density varies depending on location. The further south they are, the denser the under coat.
The echidna, though difficult to pronounce, gets its name from the Greek mythological creature that was half-woman, half-snake, as the animal was perceived to have qualities of both mammals (fur, produces milk etc) and reptiles (lays eggs).
There are four species of echidnas, three Short beaked species with a few geographic varieties and the much larger long beaked echidna, found only in PNG.
They are found throughout Australia in every terrestrial habitat, a very adaptable animal that is common throughout much of its range. They also live within a large home range, anything between 20-200ha.
The echidna uses its long and sharp claws to open termite and ant nests and uses its long sticky tongue (15-18cm) to collect its meal. The insects are crushed between horny plates on the back of its tongue and the roof of the mouth. They prefer eating termites over ants and are quite partial to termite queens and nymphs.
Echidnas move slowly, with a rolling gait and when disturbed they dig their way into the dirt vertically until only their spines are visible.
Did You Know?
Did you know that during the mating season male echidnas queue up behind a female nose to tail to attract her attention? These trains, as they are called, may have up to 11 males at a time following, all hoping to gain the advantage and be the successful suitor.