There are two species of echidna. The short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus)
lives in Australia and the
lowlands of New Guinea. The long-beaked echidna (Zaglossus brujnii) lives in the highlands of New Guinea.
The echidna is a member of the order
Monotremata, of which there is one other member. The table below
shows these animals relation to each other.
The name Monotreme comes from the fact that the
echidnas and the platypus use the same opening for reproduction
and eliminating waste products, which is an attribute that is
found in reptiles (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1995). Other
reptilian characteristics include the ability to lay eggs,
cervical ribs, and that there is "localisation of ascorbic
acid synthesis in the kidney (Serena, 1994; p.118).
The long-beaked echidna is found in the humid
mountain forests of Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya. The
short-beaked echidna is more widely dispersed and can be found
throughout Australia and parts of Papua New Guinea. Whereas the
platypus is only found in the Eastern parts of Australia.
Differences between Echidna, Porcupines, and Hedgehogs
|Relatives|| ||Belong to Order Rodentia., Relations are guinea pigs, chinchillas, rats.
||Moles, shrews and tenrecs. Order Insectivora (insect eaters).|
|Location|| ||N & S America, Europe, Africa and Asia.
||Close relatives found in Europe, Africa, Philippines, Sumatra, Egypt, & Gobi desert to N China.,
European hedgehod introduced to NZ.|
|Diet|| ||Bark, roots, tubers, bulbs, seeds, leaves, sometimes insects.
||Frogs, snakes, lizards, young birds, mice, insects.|
|Quills & Protection||Spines not barbed, different lengths & thickness. Fixed to skin.
Spines can be moved individually. Roll up - prefer to dig down to present spiny back.||Hollow & barbed.
Sit loosely on skin and detach and stick in intruder who comes too close.||Short spines. Not barbed.
Fixed to skin. Roll into ball.|
|Mouths and faces||Birdlike beak - part of skeletal structure. Touch hairless skin covering it.
||Teeth. Chew. Small, button-like noses.||Tiny sharp teeth., Voracious appetites. Small, button-like noses.
|Feet||Quadruped. Hind feet - outward & rotated back.||Quadruped.
Hind feet - point forward.||Quadruped. Hind feet - point forward.|
(Table adapted from Rismiller, 1999)
The echidna uses its to pick up food. It does this by flicking it out
and then quickly pulling it back into its mouth.
The echidna's skull is similar to that of a bird's
rather than a mammal's. This is because the echidna's beak is
part of the bone structure of the skull.
Echidna spines are hairs that have adapted. They are
Feet & Claws
Stomach & Digestion
The echidna is able to swim across water.
Gunduwa is the Wadjarri name for the short-beaked echidna.
The oldest order of mammals is Monotremata. Etienne Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire (1803) came up with the name
Monotremata (Mono = one, tremata = hole). He felt that there were significant enough differences between the monotreme
and the mammals & reptiles that justified them being a class of their own.
Encyclopaedia Britannica. 1995
Rismiller, P., 1999.The Echidna: Australia's Enigma.
Hong Kong: Hugh Lauter Levin Associates. Inc
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