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Fossil range: Miocene–Recent
Western Long-beaked Echidna
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Monotremata
Family: Tachyglossidae
Gill, 1872

Genus Tachyglossus
   T. aculeatus
Genus Zaglossus
   Z. attenboroughi
   Z. bruijnii
   Z. bartoni
   †Z. hacketti
   †Z. robustus
Genus †Megalibgwilia
   †M. ramsayi
   †M. robusta

A Short-beaked Echidna curled into a ball; the snout is visible on the right.
In Australia the Short-beaked Echidna may be found in many environments, including urban parkland such as the shores of Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra, as depicted here.
French Island Echidna.ogg
A Short-beaked Echidna building a defensive burrow in French Island National Park (0:43s)
Short-beaked Echidna

Echidnas (pronounced /ɨˈkɪdnə/), also known as spiny anteaters,[2] belong to the family Tachyglossidae in the monotreme order of egg-laying mammals. There are four extant species, which, together with the Platypus, are the only surviving members of that order and are the only extant mammals that lay eggs.[3] Although their diet consists largely of ants and termites, they are only distantly related to the true anteaters of the Americas. They live in New Guinea and Australia. The echidnas are named after a monster in ancient Greek mythology.



Echidnas are small mammals that are covered with coarse hair and spines. Superficially they resemble the anteaters of South America and other spiny mammals like hedgehogs and porcupines; this is due to convergent evolution. They have snouts which have the functions of both mouth and nose. Their snouts are elongated and slender. They have very short, strong limbs with large claws and are powerful diggers. Echidnas have a tiny mouth and a toothless jaw. They feed by tearing open soft logs, anthills and the like, and use their long, sticky tongue, which protrudes from their snout, to collect their prey. The Short-beaked Echidna's diet consists largely of ants and termites, while the Zaglossus species typically eat worms and insect larvae.[4]

The long-beaked echidnas have tiny spines on their tongues that help capture their prey.[4]

Echidnas and the Platypus are the only egg-laying mammals, known as monotremes. The female lays a single soft-shelled, leathery egg twenty-two days after mating and deposits it directly into her pouch. Hatching takes place after ten days; the young echidna, called a puggle, then sucks milk from the pores of the two milk patches (monotremes have no nipples) and remains in the pouch for forty-five to fifty-five days,[5] at which time it starts to develop spines. The mother digs a nursery burrow and deposits the puggle, returning every five days to suckle it until it is weaned at seven months.

Male echidnas have a four-headed penis. During mating, the heads on one side "shut down" and do not grow in size; the other two are used to release semen. The heads used are swapped each time the mammal copulates.[6]

Contrary to previous research, the echidna does enter REM sleep, albeit only when the ambient temperature is around 25°C. At temperatures of 15°C and 28°C, REM sleep is suppressed.[7]


Molecular clock and fossil dating suggest echidnas split from platypuses 19–48 million years ago. Echidnas evolved from water-foraging ancestors which returned to living completely on the land, even though this put them in competition with marsupials.[8] Because of this, it has been suggested that "oviparous reproduction in monotremes confers advantages over marsupials, a view consistent with present ecological partitioning between monotremes and marsupials."[8]


Echidnas are classified into three genera. The genus Zaglossus includes three extant species and two species known only from fossils, while only one, extant species from the genus Tachyglossus is known. The third genus, Megalibgwilia, is known only from fossils.


The three living Zaglossus species are endemic to New Guinea. They are rare and are hunted for food. They forage in leaf litter on the forest floor, eating earthworms and insects. The species are:

The two fossil species are:


The Short-beaked Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) is found in southeast New Guinea and also occurs in almost all Australian environments, from the snow-clad Australian Alps to the deep deserts of the Outback, essentially anywhere that ants and termites are available. It is smaller than the Zaglossus species, and it has longer hair.


The genus Megalibgwilia is known only from fossils:

  • Megalibgwilia ramsayi from Late Pleistocene sites in Australia
  • Megalibgwilia robusta from Miocene sites in Australia


  1. ^ Groves, C. (2005). Wilson, D. E., & Reeder, D. M. ed. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 1–2. ISBN 0-801-88221-4. 
  2. ^ Retrieved on 21 October 2007
  3. ^ "The Enigma of the Echidna" by Doug Stewart, National Wildlife, April/May 2003.
  4. ^ a b Zaglossus bruijni
  5. ^ Short-beaked echidna
  6. ^ Shultz, N. (26 October 2007). "Exhibitionist spiny anteater reveals bizarre penis". New Scientist website. Retrieved 27 October 2006. 
  7. ^ SC Nicol, NA Andersen, NH Phillips, RJ Berger (11 February 2000), "The echidna manifests typical characteristics of rapid eye movement sleep", Neuroscience letters 
  8. ^ a b Phillips MJ, Bennett TH, Lee MS. (2009). Molecules, morphology, and ecology indicate a recent, amphibious ancestry for echidnas. PNAS. 106:17089–17094. doi:10.1073/pnas.0904649106
  • Flannery, T.F., and Groves, C.P. (1998) A revision of the genus Zaglossus (Monotremata, Tachyglossidae), with description of new species and subspecies. Mammalia 62, 367–396.
  • Parker, J., "Echidna Love Trains", "Scribbly Gum" online magazine.

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ECHIDNA, or Porcupine Ant-Eater (Echidna aculeata), one of the few species of Monotremata, the lowest subclass of Mammalia, forming the family Echidnidae. It is a native of Australia, where it chiefly abounds in New South Wales, inhabiting rocky and mountainous districts, where it burrows among the loose sand, or hides itself in crevices of rocks. In size and appearance it bears a considerable resemblance to the hedgehog, its upper surface being covered over with strong spines directed backwards, and on the back inwards, so as to cross each other on the middle line. The spines in the neighbourhood of the tail form a tuft sufficient to hide that almost rudimentary organ. The head is produced into a long tubular snout, covered with skin for the greater part of its length. The opening of the mouth is small, and from it the echidna puts forth its long slender tongue, lubricated with a viscous secretion, by means of which it seizes the ants and other insects on which it feeds. It has no teeth. Its legs are short and strong, and form, with its broad feet and large solid nails, powerful burrowing organs. In common with the other monotremes, the male echidna has its heel provided with a sharp hollow spur, connected with a secreting gland, and with muscles capable of pressing the secretion from the gland into the spur. It is a nocturnal or crepuscular animal, generally sleeping during the day, but showing considerable activity by night. When attacked it seeks to escape either by rolling itself into a ball, its erect spines proving a formidable barrier to its capture, or by burrowing into the sand, which its powerful limbs enable it to do with great celerity. "The only mode of carrying the creature," writes G. Bennett (Gatherings of a Naturalist in Australasia), " is by one of the hind legs; its powerful resistance and the sharpness of the spines will soon oblige the captor, attempting to seize it by any other part of the body, to relinquish his hold." In a younger stage of their development, however, the young are carried in a temporary abdominal pouch, to which they are transferred after hatching, and into which open the mammary glands. The echidnas are exceedingly restless in confinement, and constantly endeavour by burrowing to effect their escape. From the quantity of sand and mud always found in the alimentary canal of these animals, it is supposed that these ingredients must be necessary to the proper digestion of their insect food.

There are two varieties of this species, the Port Moresby echidna and the hairy echidna. The last-mentioned is found in south-eastern New Guinea, Australia and Tasmania. In all the spines are mixed with hair; in the Tasmanian race they are nearly hidden by the long harsh fur. Of the three-clawed echidnas (Proechidna) confined to New Guinea there are two species, Bruijn's echidna (P. bruijnii), discovered in 1877 in the mountains on the north-east coast at an elevation of 350o ft., and the black-spined echidna (P. nigroaculeata) of larger size - the type specimen measuring 31 in., as against 24 in. - with shorter claws.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also echidna


Wikipedia has an article on:


Proper noun


  1. (Greek mythology) she-viper, a female monster



Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies


Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Osteichthyes
Classis: Actinopterygii
Subclassis: Neopterygii
Infraclassis: Teleostei
Superordo: Elopomorpha
Ordo: Anguilliformes
Subordo: Anguilloidei
Familia: Muraenidae
Subfamilia: Muraeninae
Genus: Echidna
Species: E. nebulosa ...

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Simple English

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Monotremata
Family: Tachyglossidae
Gill, 1872

Genus Tachyglossus
   T. aculeatus
Genus Zaglossus
   Z. attenboroughi
   Z. bruijnii
&nbsp;&nbspZ. bartoni

[[File:|thumb|right|An Echnida looking for food]]

An Echidna also called "spiny anteaters"[1], is a monotreme that lives in Australia and in New Guinea. They form the family Tachyglossidae.

Echnidas have a long, tube-like mouth with a sticky tongue, but they are also covered in spines. They are also called spiny anteaters. Echidnas are monotremes, which means they have mammary glands, but lay eggs too.

The echidna has a unique way of protecting itself. With its long, sharp claws, they quickly dig a hole until only their spines are accessible. The predator will not be able to get to it without injuring itself. Spiny anteaters eat ants. They also eat other small insects. Echidnas pick up the bugs with their sticky tongues.


Look up Tachyglossidae in Wikispecies, a directory of species
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