Echidnas

Sometimes known as the spiny anteater, the echidna is an egg-laying mammal of Australia and New Guinea. It has adapted to living in a variety of habitats, from deserts to mountains, as long as there is a ready source of its favorite food of termites. Questions and answers about echidnas can be found here.

1,308 Questions
Anteaters
Echidnas

Why do spiny anteaters lay eggs but are mammals?

Spiny anteaters, more properly known as echidnas, have eggs in order to ensure the continuity of their own kind. They are monotremes, which means that they are egg-laying mammals, like the platypus.

They are classified as mammals because they have all the other characteristics of mammals. The defining characteristic of a mammal is that it nurtures its young on mothers' milk, and the echidna does that. It also has fur, and is a warm blooded vertebrate which breathes using lungs (not gills).

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What is the life span of an Echidna?

Echidnas have a lifespan of between 45 and 55 years.

In the wild, due to predation and being hit by cars, their life span may average around 16 years.

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Echidnas

What does a short-beaked echidna look like?

The short-beaked is a small, spiky monotreme (egg-laying mammals) native to Australia and a small area of Papua New Guinea.

Its size is between 30cm and 40cm long, with a mass of 2kg to 4kg. Echidnas in the south are larger than their northern counterparts.

Insulating an echidna's body is fur which varies in colour from light brown to darker brown, reddish brown and sometimes black. The further north an echidna lives, the lighter the colouring. They can be quite light brown in northern areas of Australia, and black in Tasmania. Again, echidnas in the south have thicker fur than that of their northern counterparts.

More obvious are their lighter-coloured spines which protrude up to 5cm long, and protect them from predators. They do not have spines on their stomachs.

Echidnas also have long snouts with which they sniff out termites, which are then caught on the echidna's 15cm long tongue. They have sharp claws for digging into termite mounds, though they prefer to find their termites under rotting logs.

During breeding season, the female echidna develops a pouch, where she lays and incubates her egg. The pouch is little more than a fold of skin, and even the male can develop a pouch.

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Echidnas

Does a spiny anteater give birth to live young?

No. The proper name of the spiny anteater is echidna, and it is not related to anteaters at all. A female echidna lays a single egg every breeding season.

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Echidnas

How do echidnas give birth?

They don't.

Echidnas are monotremes, or egg-laying mammals.

After mating, there is a gestation period for the egg of 23 days. During breeding season, the female develops a rudimentary pouch which is really just a flap of skin. When it comes time to lay her egg, she curls tightly into a ball and lays it directly in this pouch, where it is incubated for around 10 days. The young emerge blind and hairless, and stay in the pouch, suckling for two to three months.

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Echidnas

What countries do echidnas live?

Echidnas live in Australia and on the island of New Guinea.

There are only two species of echidnas: the short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) of Australia, and the long-beaked echidna (Zaglosssus bruijni) of New Guinea.

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Echidnas

Where do echidnas get glucose from in the wild?

Echidnas are monotremes that primarily live in Australia. They use their sense of smell to find food and get glucose and other nutrients from ants and termites, among other things.

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Echidnas

What do echidnas eat?

This varies according to the species.

Short-beaked echidnas live almost exclusively on termites, although they also eat ants. Echidnas have large claws for breaking open termite mounds (which, in much of Australia, are made from mud). They have long sticky tongues, about 15cm long, with which they catch the termites. Echidnas also look for termites under old, rotting logs, their preferred locale.

The long-beaked echidna, which is found only on the island of New Guinea, feeds mainly on worms, insect larvae and other invertebrates.

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Echidnas

How did the echidna get its name?

The echidna (Tachyglossus Aculeatus) was named after the Greek monster Echidna, who was half snake (reptile) and half woman (mammal). She was known as the "Mother of all Monsters" as most of the monsters in Greek mythology were said to have mothered by Echidna.

The most obvious reptilian characteristic of the echidna is that it lays eggs. The mammalian characteristics of the echidna is that they are warm-blooded, have fur, produce milk and suckle their young.

For more information on Echidna the monster, see the related link.

As for the echidna's scientific name of Tachyglossus - this means "Fast tongue". The echidna lives primarily on termites and ants, collecting them from nests by flicking its tongue in and out very quickly to capture the insects. The echidna's tongue moves at a speed of around 100 times per minute.

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Platypuses
Monotremes
Echidnas

Which 2 mammals lay eggs?

The only two egg-laying mammals in existence are the platypus and the echidna, which are classed as monotremes. They are still classified as mammals because they feed their young on mothers' milk - a characteristic unique to mammals alone.

There are just three known species of egg-laying mammals, or monotremes. They are the platypus and short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) of Australia, and the long-beaked echidna (Zaglosssus bruijni) of Papua New Guinea. The echidna is sometimes called the spiny anteater, and there are several sub-species of the long-beaked echidna: the Western long-beaked echidna, Sir David's long-beaked echidna and the Eastern long-beaked echidna.

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What is a baby echidna called?

Puggle

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Echidnas

Where does the echidna live?

Echidnas are found throughout most of Australia, and are highly adaptable to a wide range of environments, which has been one of the reasons why they are not threatened by habitat loss. They live anywhere from bushland and woodlands, rocky areas as long as the soil is loose enough to dig, snowy mountains, sandy plains, heath, grasslands, semi-arid environments and deserts. Echidnas can be found wherever there are termites and ants.

Echidnas in the south of Australia are nocturnal, but northern echidnas can frequently be seen during the day. In extreme weather they tend to stay in shelter, whether it be under rocks, within fallen trees or digging themselves into the ground.

The echidna found throughout Australia is the short-beaked echidna. It is also found in the lowlands of southeast New Guinea. The long-beaked echidna is a rarer species, found only in New Guinea. It ranges from low-level coastal regions to rainforests in mountainous areas.

See the link below for more information.

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Echidnas

How big are the spiny anteater's eggs?

The spiny anteater, more correctly known as the echidna, lays small, leathery eggs which are about the size of a grape. They average 13mm to 15 mm in diameter.

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Platypuses
Monotremes
Echidnas

What animal lays eggs but it feeds its young on milk?

Both the platypus and the echidna are egg-laying mammals. They belong to the group known as monotremes and, like all mammals, they feed their young on mothers' milk.

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Echidnas

Why are the platypus and echidna special animals?

The platypus and the echidna are the world's only two known egg-laying mammals. They are classified as monotremes.

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Echidnas

What adaptations help the echidna survive?

The echidna is an egg-laying mammal of Australia and New Guinea. Adaptations of the echidna include:

  • A long tongue with sticky saliva, with which it eats termites and ants.
  • A long snout which makes it easy for the echidna to burrow for ants, termites and worms.
  • During breeding season, the female echidna develops a pouch, where she lays and incubates her egg. Although the pouch is little more than a fold of skin, it protects the egg from would-be predators such as goannas.
  • The echidna has sharp claws for digging, and this ability to dig effectively is helped by its compact, muscular body shape and strong forelegs. When threatened, they can dig very, very quickly into the earth, disappearing horizontally, leaving only their quills exposed while they burrow.
  • The echidna is very adaptable, living in a wide variety of climates and environments, from sub-alpine regions to arid semi-desert - wherever there are termites and ants. It has adapted surprisingly well to European settlement in Australia.
  • Echidnas burrow as a protective defence, leaving only the spines exposed to the potential predator.
  • Echidnas are able to tolerate high levels of carbon dioxide, a necessity for an animal which burrows for protection (and sometimes for food). Because of this, they can also tolerate lower oxygen levels, and this is useful when bushfires occur.
  • When flash floods occur, echidnas can dive underwater, and as they do so, their heart rate drops, which saves oxygen needed by the brain and the heart.
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Echidnas

What do echidnas use their spines for?

The echidna's spines are used for defence. Very few other animal species will attempt to eat an echidna because of its sharp spines.

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Anteaters
Echidnas

Does the young of a spiny anteater resemble the adult?

When the young echidna first hatches, it bears little resemblance to the parents, being pink and hairless. After some weeks, it begins to develop spines, whereupon it starts to take on some similarities to the adult echidnas.

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Animal Behavior
Echidnas

How do the spines on an echidna help it to survive?

The spines of an echidna are very sharp. When threatened, they can dig very quickly into the earth, disappearing horizontally, leaving only their quills exposed while they burrow. Echidnas burrow as a protective defence, leaving only the spines exposed to the potential predator.

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Echidnas

What is the echidna's food chain?

Short-beaked echidnas live almost exclusively on termites, although they also eat ants. The long-beaked echidna, which is found only on the island of New Guinea, feeds mainly on worms and insect larvae.

Echidnas are not at the top of the food chain. Their main predators affect them when they are young. Snakes will sometimes enter their burrow and eat the baby echidna. Other animals do not usually attempt to eat this spiky creature, but some echidna predators include very brave foxes, dingoes and goannas.

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Echidnas

How do you pronounce echidna?

e-kid-na, with the stress on the second syllable

Pronunciation = Long "e" as in "each", "Chid" like "kid", "na" like "nuh"

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Anteaters
Echidnas

What is the Spiny Anteater's diet?

Short-beaked echidnas live almost exclusively on termites, although they also eat ants. Echidnas have large claws for breaking open termite mounds (which, in much of Australia, are made from mud). They have long sticky tongues, about 15cm long, with which they catch the termites. Echidnas also look for termites under old, rotting logs, their preferred locale.

The long-beaked echidna, which is found only on the island of New Guinea, feeds mainly on worms and insect larvae.

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Echidnas

Where is the echidna's poison?

Although the male echidna has a spur, like the platypus, there is no evidence that it has any poison.

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Echidnas

How many babies are born from one echidna mother?

Echidna babies are not born: they are hatched, as echidnas are monotremes, i.e. egg-laying mammals. The female echidna lays a single egg in the rudimentary pouch she develops during breeding season.

There is a belief that echidna young are called "puggles". Even certain government wildlife departments are guilty of perpetuating this myth. This misnomer developed and spread by the appearance of a soft toy, called a puggle, which resembled a baby echidna.

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Anteaters
Echidnas

How Many lobes Does a spiny anteater have in its brain?

The spiny anteater have 4 lobes .

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