The echidna originates throughout Australia and Southern New Guinea and can be found in a range of habitatis including forests, deserts, shrublands and meadows.
They primarily eat ants and termites, but will also eat other insects.
The echidna is crepuscular, meaning it is usually active at dawn and dusk. Our echidna, Bruce, can be seen in our Nocturnal House exhibit.
The short-beaked echidna has a compact, round body closely set with spines. At the end of its snout is a small, slit-like mouth, through which its long tongue is extended 15-18cm beyond the snout. The tongue is coated with sticky saliva, so that any insect it touches is trapped. Echidnas have no teeth - they break up food between horny ridges in their mouth. They have five digits and strong claws on both hind and fore feet. Males also have spurs on each hind leg, which may be used in defence. They are excellent diggers, rapidly digging into the ground.
Echidnas are monotremes - a group of egg-laying mammals! A breeding female has a temporary groove on her abdomen, which develops at the start of the breeding season. She lays a single leathery shelled egg and transfers it to the groove, incubating it for between 7-10 days. The egg is coated with sticky mucus, which helps it to stay in the groove. When the echidna hatches it is called a 'puggle'. It is only 1.25cm long and helpless so it remains on its mother's abdomen while it develops. Once spines develop at about three weeks the puggle is no longer carried by its mother.
Hunting, land clearance and competition from introduced species.
Efforts are being made to learn more about conditions needed to breed these unusual mammals in zoos outside of Australia. Education programmes within Australia encourage greater care of native species such as the echidna.
- Latin Name: Tachyglossus aculeatus
- Class: Mammals
- Order: Monotremata
- Family: Tachyglossidae
- Conservation status: Least Concern
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