beaked echidna is the echidna found in Australia.
long beaked ones and others in New Guinea, but the Australian species
has a short beak.
It is a funny looking animal that resembles the hedgehog of the
Northern Hemisphere and the spiny
anteater of South America, but is not related to any of
It is a monotreme - an
egg laying mammal, one of the two (along with playtpus)
found in Australia.
In fact, the Australian
species - Tachyglossus aculeatus- is by far the smallest compared to
its three cousins - western long beaked, eastern
long beaked, and Sir
David's long beaked echidnas in New Guinea.
There are five subspecies of
the short beaked echdna in Australia, all found in different regions: T. a. setosus in
Tasmania, T. a. multiaculeatus
on Kangaroo Island, T. a. acanthion in
Northern Territory and Western Australia,T. a. aculeatus in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales andQueensland; and T. a. lawesii in
New Guinea and north eastern
What Does It Look Like?
first glance it's a hedgehog looking animal, but it's larger (The
Tasmanian subspecies is the smallest).
It is about 30 to 50 cm
long, and can weigh up to seven kilos.
It has creamy coloured, sharp
spines (for self protection), but like all mammals it also
It has small eyes and a long
snout, even the short beaked species does have a snout
that is longer than a hedgehog's.
It also has aquick
and long tongue,
which it uses when foraging.
It has short limbs
with five digits, and strong claws (that enable it to dig quickly and
break into termite
Where Is It Found?
beaked echidna is found in New Guinea, and short beaked echidna is found in
In Australia, it is
found all over the continent, as well as the island of
Tasmania. It has the widest distribution of all Australian native
It lives in almost all
including forests, bushland, woodland, grassland, and heath, from the
extremes of dry deserts to wet rainforests and cold, snowy Alpine
It also comes to farmland,
urban outskirts and backyards.
Behaviour and Ecology
is a solitary animal
(except during the breeding season, of course).
When threatened, it first curls
into a ball, just like hedgehogs, and if the threatening
continues it then burrows itself into the ground.
They have low body
temperature (just like their cousin the platypus),
they don't sweat or pant, so they are better in cooler than warmer
Like most mammals, they
are most active in early mornings and late afternoons,
however in colder climate they may be most active in the middle of the
day. In the coldest climates of Alipne country and Tasmania,
They often shelter in hollow logs and places with good camouflage,
however they do not have
a fixed territory (they cover larger areas), shelter or
nest site (other than a burrow for the young but it's not the same one
Diet and Feeding
Echidnas eat ants and termites
(also some other insects,
their larvae, and other soil dwelling invertebrates such as
For that reason, they have a sensitive
nose (to find them), a long and sticky tongue (to
catch them), and sharp, strong
claws (to break into their nests). They have no teeth.
Mating and Breeding
The breeding season is
the mid-to-late Dry season up here in northern Australia (roughly July
The male and the female
do not stay together after mating.
After a gestation period of about 23 days, the female lays one single egg a year.
The egg is incubated in the female's pouch for about 10 days, after
which, a tiny
(only size of a grape), blind
and hairlessyoung - also called puggle
- is born.
The puggle is carried in the pouch for about two months.
Once its spines develop, it becomes too prickly and the mother builds a
burrow for it, but the puggle continues sucking milk for another four
They leave the burrow at about 6-7 months of age, and usually live for
about 10 years (up to 16, and a captive one lived 49 years).
The short beaked echidna does not have so many natural enemies, but
the young (puggles) may be taken by cats, dingoes, foxes, snakes and
goannas, but more than anything they are killed by cars.
The species is not threatened to extinction, but habitat destruction,
parasites and introduced animals have directly or indirectly reduced
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