Echidnas are small mammals (between 35-45cm and up to 7 kilograms), covered with coarse hair and spines. They have short, strong limbs with large claws and are powerful diggers. They have a long, slender snout which acts as both the mouth and nose, and feed by tearing open soft logs and anthills and using their long, sticky tongue to collect prey.
There are four species of Echidna’s the short-beaked (tachyglossus aculeatus), the eastern long-beaked (genus zaglossus), Western long-beaked (zaglossus bruijnii) and the Sir David’s long beaked (zaglossus attenboroughi) found all around Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea. The short-beaked echidna’s diet consists of ants, termites, worms and insect larvae. Although their diet consists largely of ants and termites, they are not actually related to the anteater species, but locals will refer to them as spiny anteaters. Echidnas can be found throughout Australia in a range of habitats and climates. Echidna’s life spans can range from 15 years to 50 years. Echidnas have a slow metabolism and a low body temperature of 32°C (89°F), which allows their longevity. They are mostly nocturnal, but in warm weather can be seen during the day. Echidnas shelter under rocks, logs or bury themselves in the ground.
Together with the platypus, echidnas are known as ‘monotremes’ (mammals that lay eggs). This means that in the breeding season, female echidnas will lay a single egg, and once hatched, carry her young in her pseudo pouch until the young starts growing spines. The female will then dig a burrow where the young echidna will remain until fully developed. Male echidnas have a four-headed penis. Two of the heads will shut down during intercourse to fit into the female’s two-branched reproductive tract. Males will alternate the heads they use between matings.