Monday 24 June 2024

Mammals on Monday 3 - Short-beaked Echidna

The Short-beaked Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) - often just called the Echidna - is one of the most widespread mammals in Australia.  And in world terms it's also one the most unusual.

The Echidna is a Monotreme - which means it is an egg laying mammal.  There are very few species of monotreme extant today: The Long- beaked Echidna in Papua New Guinea (there are 3 species) and Platypus.

Echidnas have a coat that includes sharp quills.  Its diet consists mainly of ant and termites, which it 'laps' up with its tongue.  This combination of features and behaviour leads to it sometimes being called The Spiny Anteater.  Its scientific name also draws on its behaviour and features, with Tachyglossus meaning 'quick tongue' and aculeatus referring to its spines.

The female Echidna lays a single, leathery egg. Only 0.16 cm long, this tiny egg is incubated in her pouch for about 10 days until the egg is about the size of a jelly bean. When the egg reaches this size the young echidna – called a  puggle – hatches from the egg. The juggle is scarred in the females pouch for about three months, where it suckles on her mammary glands.  When the puggle starts to grow spines it leaves the pouch - action which probably pleases the mother!

Echidnas are very timid. When frightened, they attempt to partially bury themselves and curl into a ball similar to a hedgehog. Strong front arms allow echidnas to dig in and hold fast against a predator pulling them from the hole.  

They are a remarkable animal.



  1. Hari Om
    they are indeed - and like hedgehogs, manage to be totally cute, despite all the prickles! YAM xx

  2. What a wonderful creature. Thank you for sharing these greats shots!


  3. Echidnas are super cute. I hardly spot them in the wild.

  4. A firm favourite from the moment one first sees it.

  5. Really interesting post. I went to the zoo in Sydney and saw one there. Do you see them in the wild much?

    1. Hi there - we see them 3 or 4 times a year. But if you lived in a good area - with lots of ants! - you would see them a lot more! SM