Short-Beaked Echidna

Short-Beaked Echidna

Short-nosed echidna, Common echidna, Spiny anteater

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Genus
SPECIES
Tachyglossus aculeatus
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
30-50 yrs
WEIGHT
2-7 kg
LENGTH
30-45 cm

Short-beaked echidnas are easy to recognize with their long protective spines on their back. Although not so conspicuous, there is fur between the spines, ranging from light-brown to black in color and noticeably denser in members of the species that live in colder habitats, enough to obscure the spines of the Tasmanian subspecies. These animals have long, tubular, toothless, and furless snouts. They have a very small mouth that opens just enough for a sticky worm-like tongue to flick out of.

No

Nocturnal

Di

Diurnal

Cr

Crepuscular

Ca

Carnivore

In

Insectivores

My

Myrmecophagous

Te

Terrestrial

Al

Altricial

Fo

Fossorial

Ov

Oviparous

Bu

Burrowing

To

Torpor

Po

Polygyny

So

Solitary

Hi

Hibernating

No

Not a migrant

S

starts with

We

Weird Animals
(collection)

Distribution

Geography

Short-beaked echidnas are found in Australia, including Tasmania, and Papua New Guinea. They occupy a range of habitats, including meadows, heathlands, woodlands, coastal forests and dry inland areas, and the Australian desert. They can also be found in agricultural areas and urban outskirts,

Short-Beaked Echidna habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Short-beaked echidnas are solitary except during mating time. In the warmer months, they tend to avoid the heat and be nocturnal. At higher elevations, in areas that are more temperate, and in winter, these animals are more diurnal and will forage around dusk or in the daytime. To some extent, they are able to control their temperature, but it is generally lower than other mammals. During cold weather, they hibernate for ten days. All their body processes slow down during this time. In addition to brief and light bouts of torpor throughout the year, echidnas enter periods during the Australian winter when it hibernates, both in cold regions and in regions with more temperate climates. Short-beaked echidnas walk with a waddle and they can also climb and run. They are very powerful and are able to even tear apart rotten logs with their claws, in search of termites, or they dig into ant nests. Echidnas are believed to locate food by smell, using sensors in the tips of their snouts, by shuffling around seemingly arbitrarily and using their snout in a probing manner.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Short-beaked echidnas are carnivores (insectivores). Thie diet includes ants, termites, worms, and grubs.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
June-August
PREGNANCY DURATION
23 days
INCUBATION PERIOD
23 days
BABY CARRYING
1 egg
INDEPENDENT AGE
1 year
BABY NAME
puggle

Short-beaked echidnas are polygynous and in the breeding season, a ‘train’ of a number of males may follow one female in the hope to mate with her. June through August is when mating usually occurs. Gestation is for about 23 days, then the female will lay one single soft-shelled egg for incubation in her pouch. After about 10 days the egg hatches and the baby echidna, a “puggle”, will be about 1.5 cm (0.6 inches) long. The puggle stays in its mother’s pouch until its spines develop, at about 3 months old. When puggles are old enough, their mother will go out to feed and leave them in a nursery burrow. Puggles continue to suckle from their mothers until weaning at around 7 months old. They become independent when they are 1 year old.

Population

Population threats

This species is not faced with any major threats over most of its range. Due to European settlement, however, and the accompanying threats of land clearance, predation and competition by introduced species, and road mortality, Short-beaked echidnas are disappearing from parts of their range.

Population number

The global population size of Short-beaked echidna has not been quantified. According to the IUCN Red List, this species is widespread and common throughout most of its range with a stable population trend. It is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Short-beaked echidnas are good swimmers. They paddle about with only their snout and a few spines visible. They are known to cross wide beaches and swim in the sea and groom themselves there.
  • If disturbed, these animals dig straight down very fast and cover themselves up with earth. They may also roll up into a ball or they may dig a hole so that only their spines can be seen.
  • During very hot weather these echidnas will look for shade, as they do not sweat or pant.
  • A Short-beaked echidna is on Australia’s 5-cent piece.
  • Echidnas and platypuses are both “monotremes” or mammals that lay eggs.
  • The spines of the Short-beaked echidna have tiny bundles of muscle connected to the bottom of each spine, enabling the echidna to control the spine's direction and movement.
  • Female echidnas secrete milk via two aerola patches: small, hairy areas connected to their milk glands. Echidna babies suckle milk straight from their mother’s skin.
  • The spines of short-beaked echidnas are made of keratin, the same substance that human hair and nails are made from.
  • Echidnas are very strong animals, able to lift a load double its weight.
  • Echidnas are very clever, almost as smart as a domestic cat.

References

1. Short-Beaked Echidna Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Short-beaked_echidna
2. Short-Beaked Echidna on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/41312/0

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