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Researching and collecting mammals is essential for understanding how animals and environments change over time, and to help us understand how to best conserve species under threat.

Echidnas and other mammals are collected or donated to the Australian Museum for research by Mammalogists, or for educational purposes. They are sometimes hit and hurt by cars or have died whilst being cared for in a zoo and are then given to the Museum.

  • The overall mammal collection size at the Australian Museum is estimated at 52,500 specimens.
  • Echidnas are toothless, but they make up for it with their long and sticky tongues.
  • Echidna spines are actually hairs and are the main defence mechanism when an echidna is being attacked. The echidna will roll into a ball to protect themselves.
  • A baby echidna is called a puggle.
  • Echidnas are monotremes, or mammals which lay eggs.

  1. What are the external features of an echidna and how are they used for an echidna's survival?
  2. Why is it important to protect echidnas?
  3. What is a Museum's role in protecting echidnas?
  4. How are we protecting echidnas from the illegal wildlife trade?

A DNA test which can distinguish whether a quill is from an Australian or New Guinean sub-species was developed to help understand the illegal wildlife trade of echidnas.

Watch the video to learn about some recent research conducted at the Australian Museum.

Scroll through the images to follow a digital story about how echidnas in the Australian Museum's Mammalogy collections are used in research or for education.

  • Echidna
    After an echidna is accepted by the Museum’s scientists it is sometimes stuffed and mounted by a taxidermist for education or exhibition display. Image: Stuart Humphreys
    © Australian Museum
  • Echidna specimens in Mammalogy Collection Area
    Some echidnas are prepared as study skins so researchers can examine their external features (eg. claw number, body size), compare them with relatives, and observe any adaptations that have occurred over time or across different environments. This helps us to understand how they have evolved. Image: Abram Powell
    © Australian Museum
  • Echidna skins in the Mammalogy Collection Area
    It is essential that the provenance of any echidna specimens is recorded so scientists can clearly understand changes in adaptations or where they occur over time. The provenance includes the place, date, and name of the collector. Image: Abram Powell
    © Australian Museum
  • PA.392 Short-beaked echidna Dec 2017 AT 003
    Echidna skeletons are sometimes cleaned and articulated by taxidermists. This is so Mammalogists can study how they move, compare bones with relatives and other animals, and compare bones with fossilised remains to understand more about evolution. Image: Megan Dean-Jones
    © Australian Museum
  • HJ Burrell photo: Echidna in egg-cup
    Archival sources such as photographs and letters can be used by Mammalogists. This is so the history of specimens can be verified or behaviour of live animals studied. This photograph from the Australian Museum’s archives show a “Puggle” (baby Echidna) HJ Burrell photo: Echidna in egg-cup Echidna puggle in egg-cup, 1914-1918 Image: H.J. (Harry) Burrell
    © Australian Museum
  • HJ Burrell photo: Echidna rolled up
    This photography from the Australian Museum's archives shows an echidna rolling into a ball, a technique used for protection. HJ Burrell photo: Echidna rolled up Echidna rolled up, 1914-1918 Image: H.J. (Harry) Burrell
    © Australian Museum

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