Echidna, Short Beaked

Echidna, Short-Nosed

Scientific Name: Tachyglossus aculeatus

Status: Least Concern

Habitat: Papua New Guinea, Tasmania, and Australia

Diet: Insectivorous, feeding primarily on termites and ants

Length: 12–24 inches

Weight: 12 pounds

Echidnas and platypuses are the only surviving monotremes, an ancient order of egg-laying mammals. A female lays a single egg that she tucks into a primitive pouch—a fold of skin that holds the egg in place. After hatching, the baby stays in the pouch until it develops spines, then it moves to a burrow. Unlike marsupials, monotremes do not have nipples. The female secretes milk from ducts that are similar to sweat glands and the baby (called a puggle) laps the nourishment off her skin.

Although echidnas have extremely poor eyesight and sense of smell, they have hearing that compensates. Ears with large external openings and an internal bone structure allow them to sense the slightest vibrations. The echidna uses this exceptional skill to sense danger and locate its food.

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