Echidna (pronounced i-kid-na) is one of the most interesting and curious creatures in the world. It was very easy to find all sorts of echidna facts for kids when researching this article because Echidnas have a lot of weird characteristics and adaptations. Australians love this delightful and prickly little character so much so, that it even features on the Australian 5c piece. One of only two living egg-laying mammals in the world (the other being the platypus), the echidna has some very unique features that make it stand out from other animals.
Fun Echidna Facts
- Along with the platypus, the echidna is the only other living egg-laying mammal species.
- There are two types of echidna – the Long-beaked Echidna (native to New Guinea), and the Short-beaked echidna (found in Australia).
- The Short-beaked Echidna is featured on the Australian 5c piece.
- The Echidna ranges from 35-52 cm in length. It can weigh up to 6 kg.
- Echidnas have the ability to move objects twice their own weight.
- Echidna’s spines are actually long, tough, hollow hair follicles.
- As well as being covered in spines, echidnas are also covered in shorter fur to keep them warm.
- These spines are an echidna’s main line of defence when predators strike.
- When under threat, they will roll up into a ball of radiating spines to protect themselves or dig themselves to safety.
- Echidnas are actually toothless mammals, but they more than make up for it with their long, sticky tongues.
- An Echidna’s tongue is about 15 cm long which is longer than your pencil!!
- The echidna’s scientific name, Tachyglossus actually means ‘fast tongue.’
- Echidnas slurp up ants, worms and insect larvae with their tongue.
- The claws on an echidna’s hind limbs are curved backwards to help them dig, which is another way they help protect themselves from danger as they can dig their way out of trouble.
- Echidnas are a monotreme, meaning they lay one egg at a time.
- Echidna babies are called ‘puggles.’
- Echidnas have been known to live for up to 50 years in captivity, and 45 years in the wild.
The Echidna Baby
The breeding season for the short-beaked echidna is from mid-May to early September and during this time male echidnas actively seek out females to mate.
Echidnas then form a line of up to ten males known as an ‘echidna train’, with a female leading the ‘train.’ The smallest, youngest male is often at the rear of the line.
Echidnas are a monotreme, meaning they lays one egg at a time. A month after mating, the female deposits a single, soft-shelled, rubbery egg into her pouch. The gestation period is quite quick – after only ten days the baby echidna hatches.
Baby echidnas are called ‘puggles’. When born, a baby echidna comes out the size of a jellybean, blind and hairless! When it comes to mealtime, puggles are fed through special glands in their mum’s pouch called milk patches. They stay within the den their mother creates for up to a year before going it alone.
Echidnas have no teeth, so instead of chewing they grind their food between the tongue and roof of their mouth. Their tongues are extremely long and sticky, which makes it very easy for them to get to their prey. Echidna’s favourite things to eat are ants, termites, worms and insect larvae. Believe it or not, they have been known to eat about 40,000 per day!
Echidnas usually feed in early mornings and late evenings as these are the cooler periods of the day. They have an acute sense of smell which they rely on to detect food. Once the food is located they use their long sticky tongue to catch their prey.
The echidna’s body is highly adapted for their diet. They have short muscular legs, with very long forefeet and very long sharp claws. These are used for burrowing into ant nests and termite mounds, and for turning over leaf litter and digging into rotten logs. Their long nose helps them locate food by sensing the electrical movements created by ants and termites. The tip of the tongue can even bend into a U-shape, so it can reach around corners into all the narrow galleries of the termite mound or ant nest.
Places to see echidnas in and around Brisbane
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is home to some very cute echidnas – and you can even book in for an Echidna Encounter if you like. That’s right, you can get right up close and personal and hold an echidna (watch those spikes!) and get your photo taken with one too.
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary has some resident short beaked echidnas that you can visit next time you are there.
Australia Zoo is definitely a great spot to check out some resident short beaked echidnas. In fact, word on the street is that they are Bindi’s favourite animal! You can also pay for a private echidna encounter. These gorgeous, spiky, little echidnas may even sit on your lap so you can hand feed them.