Short-Beaked Echidna Fact Sheet

Common Name:

Short-beaked echidna

Scientific Name:

Tachyglossus aculeatus

Wild Status:

Least Concern

Habitat:

Woodland, savanna and semi-arid and arid areas, and rainforest

Country:

Australia and Southern New Guinea

Shelter:

In rotten tree logs, tree roots, stumps, caves and under bushes

Life Span:

Live up to 50 years

Size:

11 to 15 inches, and weigh 4 to 15 pounds

Cool Facts:

  • The Short-beaked echidna bodies are covered with 2 inch long spines which provide insulation.
  • During mating season the Short-beaked echidna males form a mating train which can go up to 12 males in a nose to tail formation behind a single female. They then compete for her by digging a trench and pushing each other out of the trench until there is one left.
  • The Short-beaked echidna are monotremes.
  • The Short-beaked echidna female lays only 1 egg.
  • The female Short-beaked echidna has no nipples.
  • The Short-beaked echidna has 400-2,000 electroreceptors on their snouts.
  • The Short-beaked echidna has a long sticky 6 inch tongue and no teeth.

Details:

The short-beaked echidna is found in Australia and Southern New Guinea.  They are found in woodland area, savanna and semi-arid and arid areas, and in the rainforest. These animals are covered in fur and spines, and have a 6 inch long tongue which they use to catch insects. They have no teeth and a short beak. The short-beaked echidna has mechanoreceptors and electroreceptors which help detect its surroundings. The short-beaked echidna likes to burrow and is able to do so quickly because of strong front limbs and claws. They are able to survive underground because they have high tolerance to high levels of carbon dioxide and low levels of oxygen. The short-beaked echidna has no fighting ability so it curls into a ball and tries to deter predators with its spine. Some of their predators are birds of prey, snakes, dingos, lizards, cats, foxes and Tasmanian devil. The short-beaked echidna has a panniculus carnosus which is a big muscle beneath the skin, covering the entire body. By contracting part of this muscle they are able to roll into a ball essentially changing their shape.  They also have the largest prefrontal cortex compared to body size of any mammal.  In humans, this is the part of the brain used for planning and analytical behavior which has lead people to wonder if the echidna has reasoning and strategizing ability. After doing some experiments, scientists concluded that the short-beaked echidna learning ability matched that of a cat or rat The short-beaked echidna tends to avoid daytime activity because it can not sweat.  In winter the short-beaked echidna goes into hibernation in order to conserve energy. The female short-beaked echidna lays one egg a year. The short-beaked echidna are solitary animals so mating is the only time they have contact with each other. A baby short-beaked echidna is about the size of a grape.

Taxonomic Breakdown:

Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Mammalia Order: Monotremata FamilyTachyglossidae Genus: :Tachyglossus Species: Tachyglossus aculeatus  

Conservation & Helping:

The short-beaked echidna is not listed as endangered and are common throughout Australia and New Guinea. The biggest threat for them are cars and habitat destruction.

For Teachers and Educators

Short-Beaked-Echidna-Fact-Sheet.pdf

Keep Exploring Defenders!