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Leaves

The echidna should hold some kind of record as the world’s most perplexing animal. It’s a mammal that lays eggs. It cannot sweat. It hibernates when it doesn’t need to. It has spines but it is not a hedgehog. Its eyes are more like those of birds and reptiles. Its stomach is not like those of other mammals. It is also called a spiny anteater, although it is not a true anteater and it prefers to eat termites…

To add to the confusion, Paignton Zoo has included the echidna in its Easter egg trail – although it makes much more sense than that fraudulent fur-ball, the very definitely-non-egg-laying Easter bunny…

The Zoo’s Marvellous Easter trail runs over the Easter weekend and is all about baby mammals. This particular mammal, the echidna, lives in Australia and New Guinea. The only mammals in the entire world that lay eggs are the platypus and four species of echidnas.

The short-beaked echidna has a spiny body, a slender snout and a long sticky tongue. It is an excellent digger and eats termites, ants and other small invertebrates. So maybe next year we can ditch the egg-throwing North American rabbit and create our own mythology about the echidna and how, in spring, it digs up Easter eggs for good boys and girls…

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