Echidna (Spiny Anteater)


The Echidna or spiny ant eater is egg-laying mammals with quills on their bodies. They are in the family of Tachyglossidae. The only living mammals that lay eggs are the four species of echidnas and the platypus. They are also the only members of the order Monotremata that are still alive. Some species eat ants and termites, but they are not closely related to the real anteaters of the Americas, which are xenarthrans like sloths and armadillos. Echidnas live in New Guinea and Australia.

Nomenclature: How Many Echidna Species Are There?

Four kinds of echidnas are shown here. These are their scientific names:

  1. Zaglossus bartoni
  2. Tachyglossus aculeatus.
  3. Zaglossus bruijni
  4. Zaglossus attenboroughi

Echidnas from New Guinea are called Zaglossus, and echidnas from Australia are called Tachyglossus. As for what their names mean, “Zaglossus” in Greek means “through the tongue.” It is also known as the Cyclops long-beaked echidna because it lives in New Guinea’s Cyclops Mountains. The eastern long-beaked echidna, Zaglossus bartoni, was likely named after the naturalist Benjamin Smith Barton.

The Zaglossus bruijni was named after the Dutch naturalist Antonie Augustus Bruijn. Zaglossus attenboroughi is named after Sir David Attenborough, a well-known English naturalist. It comes from the Greek words for “fast” and “tongue.” Spiny is what “aculeatus” means.

How Does An Echidna Look Like?

So, again what is an echidna? Echidnas are animals with strong bodies and long, sticky tongues that they can use to eat ants, earthworms, and termites. They protect themselves by curling up into a ball, like an aardvark or a hedgehog, and sticking out their spines. Keratin, also present in fingernails, is used to make echidna spines. They have large brains for their size, and the cortices of their brains are well developed.

The eastern long-beaked echidna, Zaglossus bartoni, is different from its relatives because its front feet have five claws, and its back feet have four claws. It can weigh between 11 & 22 pounds and is between two and a little over three feet long. Like the platypus, it has spurs on its back legs. Both males & females are born with spurs, but unlike the male platypus’ spurs, they are not poisonous. Spurs fall off females, but males keep them.

The female eastern long-beaked echidna is also bigger than the male. Zaglossus bartoni has four different kinds. They are Zaglossus bartoni clunius, Zaglossus bartoni bartoni, and Zaglossus bartoni smeenki, both of which have five claws on each foot, and Zaglossus bartoni diamondi, which is the largest member of the species.

Biggest And Smallest Echidna

The western long-beaked echidna, or Zaglossus bruijni, is the largest of all the mammals that lay eggs. It can weigh up to 36 pounds and has long fur and spines. It has three claws on each foot, and its tail is short. Most of the length of its head consists of its curved nose. It doesn’t have teeth, but its tongue has bumps that look like teeth.

The number of claws a Zaglossus bruijni has seems to vary from one animal to the next. Some have claws on the middle three of their five-toed feet, while others have claws on all five toes. Spurs are only on the males.

The Zaglossus attenboroughi, or Sir David’s long-beaked echidna, is the smallest of the Zaglossus echidnas. It ranges from 11 to 22 pounds. Here, the male is bigger than the female, and only he has spikes on his feet. It has thick, fine fur, and only a few white spines are on it. It and other echidnas are in the order of Monotremata because they don’t have genitalia that sticks out.

This means that the animal’s cloaca is where it goes to the bathroom, mates, and lays eggs. Even females get pouches. Zaglossus attenboroughi is active at night, and like other echidnas, it curls up into a ball of bristles when it feels any threat. Its snout is about 2.8 inches long & a bit straighter than those of the other species. The short-beaked echidna, or Tachyglossus aculeatus, gets its name from how quickly its tongue catches its food.

Do Echidnas Have Teeth?


Like other echidnas, it doesn’t have any teeth, and its ears are inside its head. It is 12 to 18 inches long and weighs between 4 and 15 pounds. The back of the animal’s mouth has hard pads, and males have spurs on their back legs. This echidna’s front legs and claws are strong, like a mole’s. So it can quickly dig into the ground.

It is able to live underground because it can live in places where there isn’t much oxygen, and there is a lot of carbon dioxide. It can’t sweat, so it stays in its burrow during the hottest part of the day. During the winter, the short-beaked echidna sleeps or slows down. The short-beaked echidna is more common than the Zaglossus echidna and can be found in almost all habitats in Australia and the eastern part of New Guinea.

Diet: What Does An Echidna Eat?

Echidnas with long beaks eat worms and insect larvae. Echidnas with short beaks, on the other hand, eat mostly ants and termites. Like anteaters, echidnas use their specialized snouts and tongues to get small animals out of hard-to-reach places. Echidnas also use a system that picks up electrical signals to find food.

They have between 400 and 2,000 receptors in their noses, making them very sensitive to movements underground and easy for them to find their prey. Even though this is a common trait in aquatic or amphibious animals, echidnas are one of only four species that don’t live in water that has this trait. The other three are cockroaches, bees, and platypus.


The Echidna lays eggs like a reptile and has a pouch like a kangaroo, protective spikes like porcupines (but not hollow like a porcupine), a snout like anteaters, and a spiky tongue for getting food out of hard-to-reach places. Echidnas can survive up to 50 years in captivity because they have the coolest bodies of all mammals and slow metabolism.


Habitat: Where Does Echidna Live?

The echidna is an animal that likes temperatures that are not too hot or too cold. It can be found hiding from the sun in tunnels, caves, or even underground burrows. Zaglossus echidnas live in forests or meadows high in the mountains. They tend to stay away from the coast. They live in Australia and New Guinea.

Echidna Predators

Hunting is the most dangerous thing for echidnas. Aboriginal Australians think that the small animal is a tasty treat to eat. The conservation status of the short-beaked echidna is “Least Concern,” but the other echidnas are either “Vulnerable” or “Critically Endangered.” One species might even be gone for good.

Zaglossus bruijni is in a very bad situation because its habitat is being destroyed, and people are killing it. People in Papua, where it lives, think of it as a tasty treat. But hunting has been made illegal except in certain situations.

The eastern long-beaked echidna is listed as Vulnerable because its habitat is being destroyed, and people and wild dogs are hunting it. But its status has changed from critically endangered to endangered. Echidnas are also in danger from parasites like tapeworms, which they get when they drink water that other animals with parasites have used.

Are Echidna Carnivores, Herbivores, Or Omnivores?

So, what are echidnas? Echidnas are carnivores that eat bugs and other small animals. The termites and ants that the short-beaked echidna eats. As they look for food, they dig holes in the ground. They usually do this in the shade of big, old trees. They use their claws to tear open ant colonies and termite nests and their tongues to catch insects inside.

Then, they use the hard pads in their mouths to grind them up. Since the echidna can’t help but eat soil along with the ants and termites, its poop is often full of dirt. People think that Sir David’s long-beaked echidnas eat worms and other animals without backbones. People sometimes find the holes they make in the ground with their noses when they are searching for food. The long-beaked eastern echidna eats grubs and earthworms at night.

Their tongues have tooth-like structures that help them hold on to soft-bodied invertebrates. They often find food in rotting logs or by pressing their head and forelimbs into wet soil. This is what makes them find the earthworms. Zaglossus bruijni almost always eats earthworms. They eat the earthworm’s head first, using the spikes on its tongue to hold it in place. Zaglossus bruijni might also eat grubs, termites, or ants.

Echidnas Vs. Anteaters?

Even though they both use the same method to get food, echidnas and anteaters are not related. True anteaters live in South America and parts of Mexico to the north. They are part of the “worm tongue” (Vermilingua) suborder. Some animals include the silky anteater, the southern tamandua, the giant anteater, and the northern tamandua.

Like the spiked echidna, anteaters have long faces and tongues that are very long and sticky. Their tongues can be longer than their heads. This is because their tongues are attached to their breasts. Their mouths look like tubes, and they don’t have any teeth. Instead, they have lips. They also have strong claws like echidnas that tears the nests of ants & termites. Moreover, anteaters have thick fur to protect them from their prey’s bites and stings, and they use their tongues to gulp down as many insects as they can as fast as they can.

Like an echidna’s tongue, their tongues have tiny hooks that help them grab food. Anteaters may also not feel bites or stings because they have a lot of salivae. Instead of having hard pads at the back of their mouths, anteaters have hard folds in their stomachs that help the sand and grit they eat break down their food. True anteaters, like echidnas, are hard to tell apart by their size, but males tend to be bigger. Most of the time, the female only has one baby at a time, but sometimes they have twins.

Echidna Reproduction

Echidnas live alone, and the only time they get together is to mate. After they have babies, the females are the only ones who care for them. Zaglossus echidnas are so rare that most people don’t know exactly how they mate. Their spines also make it hard to put tracking devices on them. Biologists think these echidnas mate and have babies in a way similar to their cousin, the Tachyglossus aculeatus. Short-beaked echidnas in captivity reach sexual maturity between the ages of 5 and 12 years, and females lay eggs every two to six years.

Male and female echidnas don’t have different names because it took so long for people to figure out which was which. During mating season, which is from June to August, one or more males will follow the female. In what is called an “echidna train,” males walk in a single file. This can last a few days or a few weeks, but the female only mates with one male once per season.

During the 23 days that the female is pregnant, she digs a burrow for her young. In her pouch, she lays one egg. The eggs of an echidna are leathery and cream-colored. They have a diameter of about half an inch and weigh between.053 and.071 of an ounce. In 10 days, the egg will hatch; like a chicken, the baby will use an egg tooth to get out. Puggles are the name for baby echidnas. They are about 0.6 inches long and weigh between.011 and.014 of an ounce. They get out of the pouch and stick to places on their mother’s chest where milk is made.

These are not nipples or teats like other animals have. Instead, they are patches. The milk comes out of a lot of small holes. The iron in the milk makes the milk so rich that it sometimes turns pink. This means that the baby can go for long periods without eating while the mother goes out to find food. Most puggles stay in the burrow to nurse for about 200 days and then leave soon after. When this happens, the baby and its mother stop communicating with each other.

Echidna Population

Biologists think there are between 5 and 50 million short-beaked echidnas in Australia. In New Guinea, however, they are much less common. The number of Zaglossus bruijni is falling sharply, and the animal may soon go extinct. As of 2015, there were about 10,000 adults of the Zaglossus bartoni species. It is unknown how many adults there are of the Zaglossus attenboroughi species, but its population is also going down.

FAQs: Echidna


How Many Species Of Echidna Are There?

Four kinds of echidnas are shown here. These are their scientific names:

  • Zaglossus bruijni
  • Zaglossus attenboroughi
  • Tachyglossus aculeatus.
  • Zaglossus bartoni

Is An Echidna An Anteater?

So, what is a echidna? Echidna (family Tachyglossidae), also known as the spiny anteater, is any of four species of odd egg-laying mammals found in Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea; they consume food and oxygen through a bald, tubular beak that protrudes from a domed, spine-covered body.

Can You Eat Echidna?

In theory, yes. Aboriginal people consider Echidna tasty bush meat and is often compared to chicken in terms of texture and flavor.

Can Echidnas Hurt Dogs?

Remove your dog from the area if it is bothering a resting echidna by barking at it or trying to dig it out of its spot. When threatened, an echidna will dig deeper to protect itself.

Are Echidnas Venomous?

Of the other monotremes, only the echidna has spurs without any venom glands. While platypus venom isn’t deadly to humans, it can be so painful that it briefly incapacitates victims.

How Long is an Echidna Penis?

The penis of an echidna is 7 centrimetres long.

Can I Pick Up An Echidna?

Echidnas should not be transferred more than 200 meters from their original location, but if you feel comfortable doing so, you can pick them up and relocate it to the neighboring wilderness. Keep in mind that females may have babies in adjacent burrows and that they have large home ranges.

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