Australian Echidna Facts

There are some interesting Australian echidna facts.

It is one of the most special Australian animals.

Like platypus, they are the world’s last surviving monotremes – an early branch of mammals that still lay eggs like reptiles.
Short-Beaked Echidna or Spiny Anteater (Tachyglossus Aculeatus)
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They are not some of the world’s smartest animals, but their living strategies and specialised diet have let them survive from the times of dinosaurs.

Short-Beaked Echidna (Tachyglossus Aculeatus), Spiny Anteater, Foraging
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Australian Short Beaked Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) is a hedgehog-looking animal but larger (about 400mm long and weighs 2-7kg), with a slender snout, dark to light brown fur and cream, dark-tipped spines. It has been successful to adapt to every single region in Australia, from snowy mountains to tropical rainforests – not many Australian native animals have. It is a solitary animal, and it is active either day or night depending on the climate it lives in. It's usually quiet but may sometimes mew softly. It’s well adapted to the local climate – a Tasmanian individual’s fur can be longer than the spikes, and in alpine areas of Victoria they hibernate. It is a terrestrial animal but will swim if needed and lives basically in any habitat where its food is found. When threatened, it burrows itself into soil or rolls itself into a ball and raises its spines.

Short-Beaked Echidna Foraging in the Leaf Litter on the Forest Floor
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Its secret to success is that it lives exclusively on ants and termites – a niche not very competitive amongst other Australian animals. Its snout contains electro-receptors that detect the moving muscles of ants and termites. It burrows into ant nests and termite mounds, then enters its 18cm-long tongue and sucks the insects into its mouth. It swallows a lot of soil in the process, but it poohs it all out in cylindrical droppings.

Echidna, Kangaroo Island, South Australia, Australia, Pacific
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Their breeding season is July to September when the courtship is on with many males chasing a single female. About two weeks after mating she lays a single 15mm-long egg and incubates it in her temporary pouch for about 10 days. Echidna milk is pink because it's iron-rich. The baby hatches with no spines and will remain in the pouch until it has got short spines. It will then live in a burrow and start discovering outside world another three months later, but is vulnerable to predators during the first year. Echidna is known to live up to 49 years and its species status is secure.

Echidna, Tasmanian Variety
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They are found everywhere in Australia and are quite easy to see compared to many other Australian animals even during the day time, particularly in colder climates. Some good places to see them are Carnarvon National Park in Queensland and the Kosciuszko National Park in New South Wales.

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