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Echidna

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Echidna
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Scientific Classification
Species

Genus: Tachyglossus

  • T. aculeatus

Genus: Zaglossus

  • Z. attenboroughi
  • Z. bruijnii
  • Z. bartoni
  • Z. hacketti (extinct)
  • Z. robustus (extinct)

Echidnas are small mammals that often resemble the anteater, hedgehog and porcupine. Their long snouts can be used as both a nose and a mouth. Their long lightning speed tongue helps them to eat up to 200 grams of ants in 10 minutes. Their amazing strong limbs help them to dig burrows fast to avoid the hot heat. Echidnas are grouped into two main categories which are the short-beaked and long-beaked echidnas. The echidna are famous for being known as monotremes which means they are an egg-laying mammal. These mammals have over 6,000 spines on it's body.

Anatomy

Spines

Echidnas are equipped with hair, a long jaw that comes to form a snout, a long tongue used to gather their food, one tooth which is their egg hatching tooth, and ear holes which give them very good hearing. The hair is divided up into two different types. The first is a short coarse hair which helps to keep them warm. The second is a long hard sharp hair which is otherwise known as a spine. The colors of each of these hairs varies depending on where the Echidna lives.[1] The most common color however is a dark brown body with either light brown or blonde spines. Their tongue however does not vary with habitat. Each Echidna has a tongue measuring up to 18 centimeters long. The tongue turns into an oval shape at the end enabling it to grab food both faster and better. When striking the prey the tongue comes out in lightning speed, grabs the prey by bending the oval part of the tongue into a U shape and quickly bringing it back into the mouth. When the prey reaches the mouth there is a process which little spines that are hidden in the mouth remove the prey from the sticky layer that is on the tongue. Once it is removed, it is then moved to the back of the mouth where there are special pads that grind up the food since the Echidna has no teeth. With this the Echidna can gather up to 200 grams of ants in ten minutes. God made their tongues specially designed for that purpose. The echidna is well known for it's strong limbs. It's front feet are very strong and therefore are used for digging it's shelter. The back feet have sharp claws and are used for grooming.[2]

Reproduction

Echidnas are known to be one out of two Monotremes which means a mammal that lays eggs. The mating season consists of a mating train. This is when a group of males follow around a female for the months of July and August. The female gives off a scent trail that can attract up to eight males at one time. The female likes to drag them around for about 4 weeks before deciding she is ready to mate. When the time is right, she will go to a tree lay flat on the ground, then attach her front legs to the tree. The males will then make a circle around her and dig a hole. They all then go into the hole and try to shove each other out. The last remaining gets to mate with the female. The whole mating process can take up to five hours. When they are finished there is a 21 to 28 day time frame that the baby is being carried in the womb. When that period is done, she will then lay the egg and put it inside of her pouch. She holds this egg in her pouch for an average of ten days or until the egg hatches. The baby will then break open the shell by using it's milk tooth. When the baby is first born, it is a pinkish color measuring 1.4 centimeters and has no hard spines so it will not hurt the mother while it is still living into her pouch. The baby will then drink the milk that has come from the mother by her sweating it from her skin to her pouch. When the baby has started to out grow the pouch or either starting to get spines, the mother will dig a burrow either under a rock or dead tree, and place her baby in there until it is able to live on it's own and spines are fully developed. [3]

Ecology

short-beaked echidna

Echidnas are grouped into two different genera. The first being the Tachyglossus which translates to "fast-tongue, spiny." The more common name for this group is the short beaked echidna. You can identify these short beaked echidnas by their medium size length (1 foot), weighing up to 15 pounds, a small head on a big body, and a long cylindrical nose and or snout. Their colors range from blonde to black, but the common colors seen are darker. The hairs on its body are short thick spines with a mixture of bristly hair. You can find them mainly in Australia and Tasmania. The second kind is called the Zaglossus which translates to "Great tongue." The more common name for this group is the long beaked echidna. It is a great deal bigger then the short beaked echidna weighing in at 36 pounds on average. It has a long snout that curves downward. The spines on this echidna are shorter then the short beaked echidna but tend to be more concealed by fur. It's legs are short and are known to resemble pig legs, and it is only found in the region of New Guinea. Each of these groups may have many differences but they also have many similarities. All echidna's activity level depends on the temperature. This leaves the fact that echidnas are nocturnal to be false. Studies have shown that the light level has nothing to do with how active they are. It all has to do with how warm it is. You will see these mammals when the temperature averages around 60 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Their body temperature too does depend on their activity level and the climate. Unlike other mammals, their body temperature remains a constant 34 degrees Celsius, which is known to be the lowest body temperature of all mammals. Heat is much more dangerous to the Echidna as opposed to the cold. To maintain their standard temperature when it is a hot summer day, they will dig burrows and stay there until it is cool enough for them to come out.[4]

Protection

Echidnas look scary enough but suprisingly it is a shy animal and would rather run away then stay to fight. When the animal is scared it will curl up into a ball with it's mouth and legs tucked in leaving its sharp spines to stick out. It is so small that it can then wedge and hide underneath rocks, soil, or burrows to keep it away from its predators. Its more common predators are the eagles, dingos, and dogs. If they have time to hide they will dig a burrow that can be up to 18 centimeters in depth in seconds.

Gallery


Related References