Animals

Echidna: 15 Facts You Won’t Believe!

Echidna facts are fun to read.
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The natural world around us does not conform to the rules we make for it. In this article, we will learn about the contradiction that is the echidna. Echidnas, which are also called spiny anteaters, are mammals that belong to the family Tachyglossidae. The contradiction that they embody is that they are mammals that lay eggs. Along with the platypus, the echidna is the only animal that is both a mammal and has the ability to lay eggs. Echidna's pronunciation may seem difficult at first owing to its spelling but it is pronounced as ' uh-kid-nuh'. Another quirk about the shiny anteater is that while they are called anteaters they aren't even closely related to true anteaters. Fossils as early as 17 million years ago give us information about the specialized echidna skeleton, their toothless skull, claws, and how they have evolved over time. Echidna mythology facts are quite interesting to learn about. Their name derives from the creature echidna in Greek mythology, which was half-snake and half-woman. Being imagined as part reptile and mammal, the echidna was named appropriately.

Read until the very end of this article to learn some crazy true facts about the echidna. You may also find fun echidna facts for kids here.  

If you find this article fascinating, make sure to check out the numbat and the liger.

Echidna

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Larvae, worms, ants, termites

What do they eat?

Carnivore

Average litter size?

1

How much do they weigh?

Female echidna - 9.9 lb (4.5 kg) Male echidna - 13 lb (6 kg)

How long are they?

Short-beaked echidna: 12–18 in (30-45 cm)

Western long-beaked echidna: 18-31 in (45-78 cm)

How tall are they?

14-30 in (36-76 cm)

What do they look like?

Black or brown

Skin Type

Spiky Hair

What are their main threats?

Hunting, loss of habitat

What is their conservation status?

Critically Endangered

Where you'll find them

Rock crevices, woodlands, forests

Locations

Tasmania, New Guinea, Australia

Kingdom

Animalia

Class

Mammalia

Scientific Name

Tachyglossidae aculeatus

Family

Tachyglossidae

Genus

Tachyglossus - Short-beaked echidnas Zaglossus - Long-beaked echidnas Megalibgwilia - echidnas are known from Australian Fossils

Echidna Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an echidna?

Echidnas can be described as egg-laying mammals.

What class of animal does an echidna belong to?

Echidnas belong to the class Mammalia. This can come as a shock to some as this animal looks a lot like a reptile in some ways and is among the list of egg-laying mammals. But being warm-blooded and producing milk for their young makes them appropriately categorized as mammals.

How many echidnas are there in the world?

No exact number is available to determine their population.

Where does an echidna live?

Echidnas can be found in large numbers in New Guinea, Tasmania, and the Australian mainland.

What is an echidna's habitat?

Echidnas live and can mainly be found in forests, shrublands, grasslands, and woodlands. They can also commonly be found living in caves and hollow logs if they find adequate space.

Who do echidnas live with?

Echidnas are primarily known to be solitary animals that live by themselves. At the same time, they are not very territorial and wouldn't mind sharing space with other echidnas.

How long does an echidna live?

Echidnas have a long life and can live up to 45 years of age. One captive echidna reached the age of 50 years old before finally passing away. At 50 years, its lifespan is among the longest.

How do they reproduce?

During the breeding season, the female echidna lays a single leathery egg. This leathery egg gets deposited in her pouch 22 days past the day mating has occurred. The echidna baby would use its egg tooth to break out of the echidna eggshell after a period of 10 days of gestation. After the initial 10 days, the puggle (baby echidna) remains in the care of the mother's pouch for over 45 days drinking milk until it develops a spine. The mother would then put the puggle in a burrow, where she will visit every five days or so to suckle the puggle till it has weaned at about seven months' time.

What is their conservation status?

The two kinds of echidnas species have quite different conservation statuses. The short-beaked echidna, Tachyglossus aculeatus, is pretty common in most of Australia and even lowland New Guinea and is thus not listed as endangered. The long-beaked echidna (Zaglossus) on the other hand are endemic to just New Guinea. Long-beaked echidnas have been considered Critically Endangered since 1998. Further studies are required to access the number of genetically distinct populations present.

Echidna Fun Facts

What do echidnas look like?

Echidna is a fascinating creature to read about.

Echidnas are medium-sized animals that have a stark resemblance to the anteaters of South America and even porcupines and hedgehogs. Echidna's have a long, sticky, worm-like tongue and a body that is covered in coarse hair and spines that serve as a defense mechanism against potential threats and predators. Their brown or black body is paired with their long and slender mouth which is both the echidna's nose and mouth. Their claws help them become powerful diggers. Echidna ears cannot be easily distinguished as their ears appear as slits in their body. Long-beaked echidnas (Zaglossus) have a shorter and straighter beak in comparison to the short-beaked echidna.

How cute are they?

The echidna, especially the baby echidna called a puggle, is adorably cute. Their small face and short legs negate the intimidation of their sharp spines and appear to be quite cute.

How do they communicate?

The echidnas are generally quiet animals. One way in which we are aware, the male echidna communicates is through the substance released by its spurs. This waxy milky substance is not a poison but instead acts as a means of communication through scent during the breeding season.

How big is an echidna?

The echidna's height can range between 14 and 30 inches (36-76 cm). Their weight may be between the range of 9.9 and 13 lb (4.5-6 kg). Their spines can notably grow up to 2 in (5 cm). Sex too plays a role in deciding the echidna size with the male on average being 25% larger than the female.

How fast can an echidna move?

The echidna animal is not very fast, and can at best manage a speed of 1.5 mph (2.4 kph).

How much does an echidna weigh?

The adult male echidna can weigh about 13 lb (6 kg) while the female can weigh around  9.9 lb (4.5 kg).

What are their male and female names of the species?

There are no unique names for the two sexes of echidna species.

What would you call a baby echidna?

A baby echidna is called a puggle.

What do they eat?

The short-beaked echidna Tachyglossus aculeatus relies largely on consuming ants or termites. The long-beaked echidna on the other hand prefers to prey on worms and insects. The short-beaked echidnas catch their prey such as ants and other invertebrates with their long sticky tongue and use their beak to break their other, soft-bodied prey.

Are they poisonous?

The short-beaked echidnas and long-beaked echidnas are not poisonous species. This does not necessarily mean that their sharp spines are completely harmless. Interestingly, the male echidnas do produce a waxy substance at their hind feet spurs but the substance is not venomous in nature.

Would they make a good pet?

Although they are adorable it's not the smartest idea to have a spiny anteater as a pet. They can be dangerous to humans. Echidna pet would require highly specific knowledge of their diet and health on behalf of the pet owner. Additionally, the long-beaked echidna is endemic to the island of New Guinea, and thus housing it as a pet outside its habitat is a risky proposition.

Did you know...

Echidnas are very hard to research for scientists. They make very little noise and actively avoid humans. Even in captivity, echidnas show little interest in mating which makes studying these cute creatures a real challenge.

The echidnas have electro sensors on the tip of their snout. This adaptation helps them detect and sense earthworms, ants, and termites.

Similar to platypus, echidnas cannot withstand extreme heat beyond their body temperature. Echidna's body temperature is usually low around 84–90 °F.

The short-beaked echidna has miraculous strength owing to its well-developed subcutaneous muscle layer.

Long-beaked echidna's tongue is covered with backward-pointing barbs which assists them to prey on earthworms.

Echidnas can be easily distinguished from similar-looking animals by the length of their beak and the number of claws present on their feet.

What is unique about the echidna?

There are quite a few interesting facts about echidna. Echidnas are unique in many different ways, laying echidna eggs as mammals is just one of those.

The long-beaked echidna's beak is used to explore the leaf litter lying on the forest floor.

Can you have an echidna as a pet?

While they are not dangerous per se but they roll up into a small ball exposing just their sharp spines when they feel threatened. This makes them not ideal to have as pets. In fact, if you have a dog too they probably won't along with an echidna and at worse can get hurt by the long or short-beaked echidna.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including the anteater and the greater bilby.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one of our Echidna coloring pages.

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