Distribution: Australia, New Guinea and some off-shore islands
Habitat: All habitats
Description: Short-beaked Echidnas are covered with long, brown-black and golden spines. Under the spines, the echidna’s body is covered with fur. Its long, tubular and toothless snout is naked. The tongue is long and sticky and is around 18 cm long.
Diet: The Short-beaked Echidna is an insectivore and eats ants and termites. The echidna digs its way into ant or termite nests with its front paws and extends its long, sticky tongue into the nest. The insects stick to the tongue and are drawn into its mouth where they are crushed up. Echidnas in Tasmania have recently been shown to consume between 30-40% pasture grubs in their diet!
Breeding: Echidnas are one of only two Australian mammals that lay eggs. The baby hatches after 10 days and is carried around by the mother for two months in a pouch-like skin fold. This baby is called a ‘puggle’. The mother carries the baby around until its spines start to develop at which point it deposits it in a specially constructed nursery burrow. The mother returns to feed it approximately every 3-6 days.
There are no significant predators of adult echidnas, but dingos will occasionally eat them. The spiny coat provides an excellent defence. When disturbed, the echidna curls into a spiky ball. When attacked, it may dig very quickly and bury itself in the soil.
At Perth Zoo: Perth Zoo bred its first ever echidna puggle in 2007. It was only the ninth ever bred in Australia. There have been more successful births of echidnas at Perth Zoo in following years.
Perth Zoo houses a number of echidnas in the Australian Bushwalk in an exhibit.
Did you know? Each spine is formed from a single hair.
Echidnas and platypuses are monotremes. This is the name given to mammals that lay eggs.