Let’s begin today’s Wonder of the Day with a puzzle. What do echidnas have in common with platypuses? We’ll give you a clue: We believe both animals are extremely fascinating. That’s correct! Both of these mammals lay eggs.
In fact, the four species of echidna are the only mammals, other than the platypus, that do so. Female echidnas lay one egg per year and carry it in a pouch on their abdomen. About 10 days later, the egg hatches. The baby is called a puggle.
Are you curious about what echidnas look like? Some people refer to them as spiny anteaters because of their long, beak-like mouths. The animals are covered in spiky hairs similar to a hedgehog and can grow to be 14 to 30 inches long.
If you reside in Australia, Tasmania, Indonesia, or Papua New Guinea, you may have encountered echidnas in the wild. They inhabit various land habitats in these regions. However, at least two species of echidna are also critically endangered. You’re more likely to see one being cared for in a zoo.
What do echidnas eat? In zoos, they are often fed leaf eater biscuits mixed with dog kibble. In the wild, they prefer insects and worms. These animals have a strong sense of smell that helps them hunt, but they do not have teeth. Instead, their long tongues assist them in capturing and consuming prey.
Echidnas are also adept swimmers, despite spending most of their time on land. They use their long snouts as snorkels, while the rest of their bodies remain submerged as they swim. These animals are also known for their climbing and digging abilities.
In fact, digging is one way echidnas protect themselves from predators. When they sense danger, echidnas dig into nearby soil or sand. Then, they retreat into the hole they’ve created. They may remain partially above ground as long as their head and most of their body are below ground. After all, a predator is unlikely to bite the echidna’s spiky exterior.
The echidna is one of the oldest known species on Earth. It has also undergone very few changes since prehistoric times. However, due to the extremely low number of echidnas in the wild, scientists still have many unanswered questions about the animal and its behavior in nature.
Have you ever seen an echidna at the zoo or in the wild? If not, would you like to? This unique animal is just one more fascinating inhabitant of planet Earth!
Give It a Try
Ready to learn more? Give one or more of these activities a try with a friend or family member.
- Imagine you’re hiking in the wilderness of Indonesia or Tasmania. Suddenly, you hear a commotion on your left. Intrigued, you follow the sound and come across an echidna! What is the echidna up to? What unfolds next? Let your imagination run wild and create a short story or comic strip about your adventure.
- Select another endangered animal to delve into today. After reading about it, summarize your findings for a friend or family member. What aspect of the animal intrigued you the most? What led to its endangered status?
- Can’t resist adorable animals? Explore the live cams at Zoos Victoria to discover more about Australian wildlife. Once you’ve watched the live streams, choose one of the animals to research further. Create a list of questions and seek assistance from a friend or family member to conduct online or library research. Don’t forget to jot down all the fascinating facts you uncover!
- https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/echidna (accessed 15 Mar. 2021)
- https://kids.sandiegozoo.org/animals/echidna (accessed 15 Mar. 2021)
- https://www.livescience.com/57267-echidna-facts.html (accessed 15 Mar. 2021)
- https://learnersdictionary.com/ (accessed 15 Mar. 2021)
1. What is an echidna?
An echidna is a unique mammal that belongs to the monotreme group, which also includes the platypus. It is native to Australia and New Guinea. Echidnas are known for their spiky spines and long snout. They have a characteristic beak-like mouth and a sticky tongue, which they use to catch ants and termites, their primary food source.
2. How does an echidna reproduce?
Echidnas are unique in terms of their reproductive system. They are egg-laying mammals, just like the platypus. The female echidna lays a single leathery egg, which she incubates in a pouch on her belly. After about ten days, the egg hatches, and the baby echidna, called a puggle, stays in the pouch for several months, feeding on milk produced by specialized mammary glands.
3. What are the physical characteristics of an echidna?
Echidnas have several distinctive physical traits. They are covered in coarse spines that act as protection against predators. They have short legs and strong claws, which they use for digging burrows. Echidnas also have a long, sticky tongue that extends up to 18 centimeters, enabling them to catch insects. They vary in size, with adult echidnas typically weighing between 2 and 6 kilograms.
4. Where do echidnas live?
Echidnas are found in various habitats across Australia and New Guinea. They can adapt to different environments, including forests, grasslands, and even deserts. Echidnas prefer areas with dense vegetation, where they can find a sufficient supply of ants and termites. They are also excellent swimmers and can traverse rivers and streams if necessary.
5. What are the predators of echidnas?
Echidnas have a few natural predators, including dingoes, foxes, and birds of prey. However, their spiky spines act as a strong defense mechanism against most predators. When threatened, an echidna will curl into a ball, exposing only its sharp spines. This makes it difficult for predators to attack or injure them.
6. How long do echidnas live?
The lifespan of an echidna can vary depending on various factors, including its environment and health. Generally, echidnas live up to 16 years in the wild, but some individuals have been known to live beyond 20 years. In captivity, where they are protected from predators and have access to proper care, echidnas can live even longer.