Echidna Facts For Kids | Anatomy, Diet, Habitat, Behavior

The echidna (Tachyglossidae) is a small to medium-sized invertebrate. Along with platypus, it is the world’s only egg-laying mammal. Sometimes echidnas are also called spiny anteaters probably because of their spiny skins. In appearance echidnas seem more like porcupines or hedgehogs. They are found in Australia and New Guinea. Echidna is an interesting animals, lets discover more about it in these Echidna Facts For Kids.

Echidna Facts For Kids

Anatomy of Echindna

  • Echidnas can reach a length of 16–40 in (40–100 cm) and weighs up to 5.5–35.2 lb (2.5–16 kg).
  • They don’t seem to have any obvious neck but echidnas do have a short stubby tail. The animal’s back looks like a dome except that it is almost entirely covered with spines of different lengths and sizes.
  • Echidnas possess a unique muscle, panniculus carnosus which is located under its skin. With the help of this muscle echidnas are able to move individual spines.
  • Long and short-necked echidnas are recognized not only by their varied sizes and mass but the beak-length also draws a line between the two species.
  • The length of the adult long-beaked echidna averages 24–40 in (60–100 cm) while the weight is 13.2–35.2 lb (6–16 kg). The beak averages 4.2 in (10.5 cm) in length.
  • Short-beaked echidnas reach a length of 12–20 in (30–50 cm) and weighs up to 5.5 – 15.4 lb (2.5 – 7 kg). They possess 2.1 in (5.5 cm) long beak.
  • Echidnas lack external ears. They have a good sight and can learn visual cues.
  • Long-beaked echidnas have dense woolly hair but their spines are quite short. These spines remind us of the Tasmanian short-beaked echidnas.
  • There are 1 – 3 glooming claws on each of the hind foot. Back and front limbs have five toes.
  • Thanks to its strong short limbs that help the animal to dig and climb with ease. Long-beaked echidnas have limbs twice the length of short-beaked echidnas’.
  • The body temperature is quite low in comparison to other mammals. Echidnas have 87.8–91.4°F (31–33°C).
  • Physical features of echidnas are same in both male and female.
  • The long-billed echidna has 2,000 electroreceptors on its bill.

Distribution of Echidna

  • Short-beaked echidnas are widely distributed in Australia and in some parts of New Guinea.
  • Long-beaked echidnas occur only in Salawati and New Guinea.
  • Echidnas once occupied much of Australia but they disappeared 20,000 years ago.
echidna facts for kids
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Echidna Habitat

  • Short-beaked echidnas make homes in a variety of Australian habitats, ranging from arid to tropical, and from sea level to alpine.
  • There is not enough data on the T. a. lawesi’s distribution in New Guinea however they are thought to occur in the south and southwest of the country.
  • Long-beaked echidnas are found 12,500 ft (4,150 m) above sea level. They occur in areas that receive heavy rainfall each year.

Echidna Behavior

  • Echidnas are solitary species. They have a home range of 494 acres (200 ha). Echidnas often overlap their territories but they are not territorial.
  • They will never forage in groups nor do they interact with each other. Echidnas are not known to use the same shelter sites.
  • Short-beaked echidnas remain active during day and night but it largely depends on the habitats.
  • Echidnas do not sweat or pant and as such they avoid the hottest hours of the day in as much as they can.
  • Long-beaked echidnas are absolutely nocturnal.
  • They rarely make any sound but when they do it’ll be like ‘cooing’ or ‘purring’.

Feeding Ecology and Echidna Diet

  • Short-beaked echidnas consume all invertebrate species that are found in the rotting wood or soil. They can extend their tongue for up to 7 in (18 cm) and it has sticky secretion at its tip.
  • Long-beaked echidnas eat only earthworms. They have a grooved tongue that seems to possess three rows of keratinous spines; these spines allow the animal to extract worms.
  • Echidnas do not have teeth; they press their food with spines which are located at the base of the tongue.
  • They got the ability to sense vibrations with their beak. Furthermore, echidnas find prey while using their acute senses of hearing and smell.
echidna facts for kids
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Reproductive Biology

  • Short-beaked echidnas attain maturity at 5 – 7 years of age.
  • The breeding occurs in June to September. The solitary behavior of echidnas comes to an end when they look for a partner.
  • A group of males following a lone female is referred to as ‘echidna train’.
  • The gestation period lasts for 22 days. The female lays leathery shelled eggs which measure 0.6 in (15 mm). These eggs are about the size of 10 cents.
  • The incubation period lasts 10.5 days. Young echidnas are known as ‘puggles’. Puggles weigh up to 0.0105 oz (300 mg).
  • Puggles remain in the mother’s pouch for about 50 days. During this time, it will increase its body mass 85,000%. When the young becomes too heavy to carry, the mother leaves it in burrow and suckles it every two hours for about 5 days.
  • The young weighs as much as 1.7–3.3 lb (800–1,500g) at weaning and it is likely to travel 25 mi (40 km) to establish a home territory. Mature females produce only one young in 3 to 5 years.

Echidna Conservation Status

Endangered: 3 species

Lower Risk/Near Threatened: 1 species

References

Augee, M. L., ed. Monotreme Biology. Mosman: Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, 1978

Augee, M. L., and B. Gooden. Echidnas of Australia and New Guinea. Kensington: New South Wales University Press, 1993.

Griffiths, M. The Biology of the Monotremes. New York: Academic Press, 1978.

Pledge, N. S. “Giant echidnas in South Australia.” South Australian Naturalist 2 (1980): 27–30.

Rismiller, P. D. The Echidna, Australia’s Enigma. Southport, Connecticut: Hugh Lauter Levin Associates, 1999.

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