Common Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus)

Class: Mammalia
Order: Monotremata
Family:    Tachyglossidae
Size:    Length: 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 cm) 
Weight: 5 to 14 pounds (2.2 to 6.3 kg)
Diet: Termites and ants
Distribution: Australia
Young:  1 every year or every other year
Animal Predators:  Dingoes, foxes, feral cats and dogs
IUCN Status: No special status 
Terms: Young: Puggle
Lifespan: Average 10 years in the wild and up to 49 years in captivity



·       Echidnas sometimes make cooing sounds like that of a dove.

·       The duck-billed platypus is the echidna’s closest living relative.

·       The scientific name, Tachyglossus aculeatus, means “fast-tongued, spiny.”

·       Echidnas do not drink; they lick the early morning dew from plants to obtain water.

·       Common echidnas are also known as “short-nosed echidnas,” “short-beaked echidnas” and “spiny anteaters.”

·       The tip of their snout is sensitive to the electric signals emitted by insects, enabling them to sniff out ant and termite nests.



Like hedgehogs, echidnas have spines as well as dark brown or black hair covering their back and sides. They have a stocky body, a hairless snout and a long, sticky tongue. All four of their feet have powerful claws for digging, and the second toe of each hind foot has an extra long, curved claw so that they can scratch themselves between their spines. Echidnas have two coats of fur—one is a short fur coat to keep them warm and the second coat is made of long spines, which act as single, hard hairs.  



Echidnas can be found in forests, meadows and deserts of the following areas in Australia: Kangaroo Island, Fraser Island, and Victoria. Echidnas are not territorial and several may live within the same area. Echidnas take shelter beneath thick bushes in hollow logs, under debris or in burrows.   


Feeding Habits

Echidnas use their snout and strong claws to dig up the mounds where termites and ants live. With their long, sticky tongue, they scoop up their prey. They grind their food between spines at the base of the tongue and the spiny ridges on the roof of their mouth. 



Like duck-billed platypuses, echidnas are mammals that lay eggs. During mating season, in July and August, several males will follow a female until she is ready to mate, although only one will actually mate with her. Three to four weeks later, females lay a single egg that is directly deposited into the pouch, where it will stay for 10 to 11 days, until it hatches. The shell of the egg is like leather, and the youngster pierces the shell with an egg tooth, the only tooth echidnas will ever have. The egg tooth disappears not long after. Baby echidnas are carried in the pouch for up to 55 days, until the spines begin to grow and the youngster can walk. Baby echidnas will then be removed from the pouch by the mother and left in a safe area. She returns occasionally to feed it. The youngster drinks a pink-coloured milk from a milk patch (not a teat) on the mother for up to six months and by one year it will be independent.



Although they are usually solitary creatures, echidnas are also docile and tolerate other echidnas within close proximity. When confronted with danger, they dig very quickly into the earth, leaving only their spines showing. When echidnas are startled, they curl up into a ball of spines or dig beneath the surface of the ground where they can hide. They may also wedge between two rocks or a hollow log by extending their spines and limbs. Echidnas can be either nocturnal or active by day, depending on the temperature. During hot summers, they come out mainly at night, while during cooler times, they will likely be more active during the day. Echidnas are true hibernators; they gain weight during warmer seasons and enter hibernation for three to four-and-a-half months in winter, in the mountains of southeastern Australia. Echidnas may also go into torpor during cold temperatures, with their body temperature dropping to as low as 3.7 degrees Celsius (38.7 Fahrenheit). Extreme heat is dangerous to common echidnas because they have no sweat glands. To cool down on a hot day, they dig into burrows or crevices, or go for a swim to cool down.



Echidnas are not of conservation concern. 



Vaughan, T., Ryan, J. and Czaplewski, N. (2000). Mammalogy, Fourth Edition. Orlando: Sanders College Publishing