AKA the Spiny Anteater.

Kingdom = Animalia
Phylum = Chordata
Subphylum = Vertebrata
Class = Mammalia
Subclass = Prototheria
All living prototheria are of the Order Monotremata
Genera = Tachyglossus

They and the platypus make up all living monotremata (monotremes). The spiny anteater lives in Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea. The female will lay one egg sometime around May. The egg is carried in the mother's pouch where it hatches. The young stays in the pouch until it is developed enough to survive on it's own (a few weeks). They look like hedgehogs with long noses, and as you might guess they eat ants, termites and other insects. They live in burrows and are quick diggers.

There are two species, Tachyglossus aculeatus and Zaglossus bruijnii (Long-beaked Echidna). The longed-beaked echidna has a longer snout and it's spines are much less noticable, mostly hidden beneth it's fur. The long-beaked echidna lives only in north-western New Guinea.

Εχιδνα

A monster with the torso of a woman and a serpent's tail instead of human legs. Accounts of her origin differ: according to Hesiod she was the the daughter of Phorcys and Ceto; other versions claim that she was descended from Tartarus and Gaia, or from Styx, or from Chrysaor (Table 12 and Table 32). Echidna inhabited a cave either in Sicily or in the Peloponnese. She used to devour passers-by until eventually she was killed by Argos. Many monstrous offspring were attributed to her: by Typhon she is said to have given birth to Orthrus, the dog of Geryon; to Cerberus, the guardian of the Underworld; the Lernean Hydra; and the Chimaera. Orthrus allegedly fathered Phix, a Boeotian monster, and the Nemean Lion. The dragons guarding the Golden Fleece and the Garden of the Hesperides are said to have been Echidna's offspring, as was the eagle of Prometheus.

Those who lived in the Greek colonies on the Euxine Sea, used to recount a quite different legend concerning Echidna. According to this version, when Heracles visited Scythis he left his horses to graze while he slept and when he awoke he found they had disappeared. As he searched he came across Echidna in a cave; she promised to return his horses if he agreed to couple with her. He consented, and as a result Echidna gave birth to Agathyrsus, Gelonus and Scythes.

{E2 DICTIONARY OF CLASSICAL MYTHOLOGY}

The echidna, or spiky anteater, is covered in long sharp spines with coarse fur inbetween to keep the animal warm. The colour and length of these spines tend to vary depending on the climate and habitat in which the echidna lives. They can grow to about 25-45 centimetres long and weigh between 2-7 kilograms. The echidna has a lifespan of 50 years, compared to the African Porcupine's 17 years.

Echidnas can be found in mainland Australia, Tasmania and Papua New Guinea and are not too fussy about where they live. They will be happy anywhere with a decent ant or termite population. This monotreme will seek shelter under hollow logs, debris, rocks or in small caves or burrows. Echidnas dont have a fixed home, with the exception of a female looking after her young, and can be found in a range of habitats including forests and deserts.

One of the most interesting things about the echidna is its methods of protecting itself against predators. It can curl into a ball, exposing its harmful spines, with its soft underbelly tucked away. Alternatively, its sharp claws allow it to burrow down into the ground quickly and then claw into the earth so as to prevent the animal being pulled out of the ground. When using this method the echidna will expose the spines along its back for extra protection. Even though the animal is rather slow moving, it can run away from its predator with its stubby legs and seek shelter.

As this animal feasts on ants and termites, it has no teeth but a long tongue to compensate. The long snout of an echidna will pick up electrical signals and aid with finding a suitable source of food. Once a nest of ants or termites is found, the echidna will tear into it with its front feet and snout and finally catch its prey with the quick yet sticky tongue. Horny pads inside the mouth will crush the insects it eats.

During the mating season (which usually runs through July and August) the female will develop a pouch. Three weeks after mating, it will then dig a burrow and lay a single egg. That egg will usually take about 10 days to hatch. Once hatched, the young will attatch itself inside the mother's pouch, where it will feed on milk. After 8-12 weeks spines will start to develop on the young, which means its will need to leave its mother's pouch. From this point it will live in a burrow for 6 more months. Its mother will often return and feed it.

There are two types of echidna, the short beaked and long beaked. The long beaked lives in Papua New Guinea and feeds on larger insects and earthworms, rather than ants. In most other aspects the two species are very similar.

Traffic along rural roads result in the death of hundreds of echidnas each year. Goannas, foxes, dingoes and feral animals are an added danger as they all prey on the echidna. Along with these threats, bushfires and droughts too have a serious effect on the echidna population.

References cited:
home.mira.net/~areadman/echidna.htm
http://www.ozramp.net.au/~senani/echidna.htm

E*chid"na (?), n. [L., a viper, adder, Gr. .]

1. Gr. Myth.

A monster, half maid and half serpent.

2. Zool.

A genus of Monotremata found in Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea. They are toothless and covered with spines; -- called also porcupine ant-eater, and Australian ant-eater.

 

© Webster 1913.

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