Short-Beaked Echidna

Short-Beaked Echidna

Short-nosed echidna, Common echidna, Spiny anteater

Tachyglossus aculeatus
Population size
Life Span
30-50 years
kg lbs 
cm inch 

The Short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) is one of four living species of echidna. It is covered in fur and spines and has a distinctive snout and a specialized tongue, which it uses to catch its insect prey at a great speed. The Short-beaked echidna lays eggs and is the only living group of mammals to do so.


The head and body of the Short-beaked echidna appear to merge. The earholes are on either side of the head, with no external pinnae. The eyes are small, about 9 mm (0.4 in) in diameter, and at the base of the wedge-shaped snout. The nostrils and the mouth are at the distal end of the snout; the mouth cannot open wider than 5 mm (0.2 in). The body of the Short-beaked echidna is, with the exception of the underside, face, and legs, covered with cream-colored spines. The spines, which may be up to 50 mm (2 in) long, are modified hairs, mostly made of keratin. Insulation is provided by fur between the spines, which ranges in color from honey to a dark reddish-brown and even black; the underside and short tail are also covered in fur. The limbs of the Short-beaked echidna are adapted for rapid digging; they are short and have strong claws. The claws on the hind feet are elongated and curved backward to enable cleaning and grooming between the spines. Like the platypus, the echidna has a low body temperature - between 30-32 °C (86-90 °F) - but, unlike the platypus, which shows no evidence of torpor or hibernation, the body temperature of the echidna may fall as low as 5 °C (41 °F). The echidna does not pant or sweat and normally seeks shelter in hot conditions. The musculature of the face, jaw, and tongue is specialized for feeding. The tongue is the animal's sole means of catching prey and can protrude up to 180 mm (7 in) outside the snout. The tongue moves with great speed, and has been measured to move in and out of the snout 100 times a minute.




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 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

Short-Beaked Echidna habitat map
Short-Beaked Echidna
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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. 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 they hibernate, 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, shuffling around seemingly arbitrarily, and using their snout in a probing manner. Echidnas are powerful diggers, using their clawed front paws to dig out prey and create burrows for shelter. They may rapidly dig themselves into the ground if they cannot find cover when in danger. They bend their belly together to shield the soft, unprotected part, and can also urinate, giving off a pungent liquid, in an attempt to deter attackers. Males also have single small spurs on each rear leg, believed to be a defensive weapon that has since been lost through evolution. Echidnas typically try to avoid confrontation with predators. Instead, they use the color of their spines, which is similar to the vegetation of the dry Australian environment, to avoid detection. They have good hearing and tend to become stationary if sound is detected.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

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

Mating Habits

23 days
23 days
1 egg
1 year

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 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.
  • 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.
  • Their strong and stout limbs allow echidnas to move paving stones, and one has been recorded moving a 13.5 kg (30 lb) stone; a scientist also reported that a captive echidna moved a refrigerator around the room in his home.
  • Female echidnas secrete milk via two areola patches: small, hairy areas connected to their milk glands. Echidna babies suckle milk straight from their mother’s skin.
  • Echidnas are very strong animals, able to lift a load double its weight.
  • Echidnas are very clever, almost as smart as a domestic cat.

Coloring Pages


1. Short-Beaked Echidna Wikipedia article -
2. Short-Beaked Echidna on The IUCN Red List site -

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