Echidnas, along with the Platypus, are monotremes, or egg-laying mammals. There are two species of echidna exhibited in the cabinet in Wild Planet. Do you know what these two species have in common and how are they different?
The Short-beaked Echidna is smaller and is Australia’s most widely distributed terrestrial mammal. Echidnas have short, strong limbs and are great diggers. Their front feet have flattened claws that can shovel through leaf litter and their hind feet point backwards to push material away. The genus name, Tachyglossus, means ‘swift tongue’ which these echidnas use to feed on ants, termites, earthworms, beetles and moth larvae.
When threatened, Short-beaked Echidnas quickly dig into the ground, protecting all their soft parts and leaving only their sharp quills exposed. Long-beaked echidnas have a shorter tongue with backward pointing barbs that can hook earthworms. They also have shorter and fewer spikes than the Short-beaked Echidna.