Echidnas are dark brown in colour,
although young echidna are lighter, and have hair and long
spines covering their back, with only hair covering their soft
under belly. They have ear openings but no external ears. The
eyes are small and beady. The echidna has a long sensitive tube
like snout, and a long thin tongue with sticky saliva that
thrusts in and out of their small mouth at the end of the snout,
and is the perfect tool for reaching into the ant and termite
echidna is adapted for very rapid digging, with short limbs and
powerful claws. The claws on the hind feet are elongated and
curve backwards, this enables the Echidna to clean and groom
between the spines. Male echidnas have a spur on the hind feet.
Echidnas are also good swimmers, paddling about with only the
snout and a few spines showing. They have been seen to cross
wide beaches to swim and groom themselves in the sea.
Click me for a full size image.
Mating usually occurs in July and August, with a two to four
week gestation period. The female lies on its back and gives
birth to a leathery looking egg, which it transfers into a
temporary pouch (not much more than a fold of skin on its
underside), which develops at the onset of the breeding season.
In about 10 days the egg hatches. The young remains in the pouch
for about three months, suckling milk secreted from milk glands.
After this time the mother leaves it in the burrow returning
every 5 or 6 days to nurse it. The juveniles seem to emerge from
the burrow about September.
A young Echidna is called a puggle.
The echidnas diet is comprises ants and
termites, although they will eat other invertebrates such as
grubs, larvae and worms. The echidna uses its forepaws to open
up the ant or termite nests and then probes the nest with its
sensitive snout. Any insects in the nest are caught on the
echidnas rapidly moving tongue, that can extends 15 cm, and is
covered with a layer of sticky mucous, hence the name Tachyglossus meaning fast tongue. The jaws are narrow and have
no teeth so food is crushed between hard pads which lie in the
roof of the mouth and on the back of the tongue. Echidnas eat a
lot of soil and ant-nest material when feeding, and this makes
up the bulk of droppings. The dropping is quite distinctive,
with an almost shiny cylindrical shape in which ant remains are
The coat of an Echidna is made up of
coarse hair and spines (modified hairs). The Echidna use their
spines to protect themselves from danger by rolling into a ball
or digging horizontally below the surface. An echidna can also
wedge itself securely by extending its spines and limbs. If
disturbed, echidnas will usually lower the head, and vigorously
dig themselves into the ground leaving only the spines exposed.
On hard surfaces the can curl into a ball, presenting defensive
They grow up to 45 cm in length, weighing between 2 to 5 kg,
and can live for a long time (up to 40 years), although these
days it faces danger from men, many being killed on the road, or
falling prey to feral cats and dogs. Other predators include
eagles, dingoes, goannas, and the Tasmanian devils. Foxes are
also considered a danger.
WHERE TO SEE THEM:
Echidnas are shy and move slowly, but they can
usually be approached by treading softly. A solitary animal for
most of the year, although during the mating period, several
males may follow a single female.
Echidnas can often be seen during the daytime as well as
night, with their activities often being influenced by the
temperature, in the warmer parts of Australia it is completely
nocturnal, spending the daylight hours resting out of the heat.
They can be found sheltered in rotten logs, stumps or burrows,
or under bushes. In the more temperate areas foraging occurs
around dusk, while echidnas in southern Australia are often
active during the day, particularly during winter. Common
throughout most of temperate Australia, they can be found
foraging in forests, woodlands, deserts, mountain areas, and at
the side of roads. In Tasmania, it is common in the dry open
country on the east coast and can be found on the open
The echidna pictured here (Coles Bay, Tasmania), was
photographed during the late morning.
Source: much of the information
have been sourced from the links below.