Echidnas are also known as spiny anteaters. Their Latin name means ‘quick tongue’ (Tachyglossus) and ‘spiny’ (aculeatus) and they are quick when eating ants!
Their snouts are rigid and strong, allowing them to break open logs and termite mounds. Echidnas then slurp up ants and other insects with their sticky, saliva-covered tongue, which can be 17cm long!
Echidnas have a very keen sense of smell, useful in locating mates, detecting danger and ‘snuffling’ for food. Their short limbs and shovel-like claws are perfect for digging out food and burrowing in the soil. Males also have a spur on each hind leg although, unlike the Platypus, it’s non-venomous. Instead, they use their hard, sharp spines for protection. Below these 5cm-long spines, echidnas are covered in short black hair, helping them to live in a wide variety of habitats.
The Echidna and the Platypus are egg-laying mammals called monotremes. All other mammals give birth to live young. Just as with other mammals
do, the Echidna feeds its young with milk, is warm blooded and has fur.
Short-beaked Echidnas can grow up to 40cm and weigh around 7kg, but most are between 2kg and 5kg.
Echidnas may be shy and infrequently seen, but they’re found across most of Australia and hold the title of Australia’s most widespread native mammal.
The primary threat to echidnas is habitat loss, especially the loss of fallen logs and tree stumps, and protective understorey vegetation. As they are slow-moving, they are also vulnerable to being hit by vehicles.
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