This is an Echidna - or as it is sometimes called in books published outside of Australia "The Spiny Anteater.
That second name is rather accurate, as it is both spiny and an eater of ants!
However, thats not why this animal is a contender for top 10 ranking: what makes this animal special is that it is a mammal that layer eggs.
Now these are not like your everyday chicken egg, being small and leathery, but an egg they are. The eggs hatch (if thats the right word) after about ten days - and then the young echidna continues to grow in a shallow pouch.
Many people (including me) were taught at school that these animals were some form of fossil species with primitive features - and this is now not thought to be the case. While its true that they have some features of the skeleton that are found in reptiles, they are not some primitive beast hanging on be the skin of its teeth (not that it actually has teeth!).
These are modern, well adapted creatures that are in fact the most wide spread of all Australia's native mammals. The distribution map for this species is basically the same shape as Australia - if there are ants, there may well be echidnas. In cold regions - Tasmania and alpine areas - the fur between the spines may be much longer than in the individuals in these pictures.
(It occurs to me that some of you may never have heard the word echidna before - so it sounds like this ee-kid-na)
Last and not least is the echidnas ability to dig almost vertically downwards in soft ground as a means of defence. When buried in this way the echidna presents little more than a dome of spines to any would be predators.
|in defence mode (and not looking at the camera)|
You can find more animals from around the world here at Eileens Critters on Saturday.