What do they look like? The Short-beaked Echidna is recognized by sharp spines covering the top half of its body. Between the spines are dark hairs. The Echidna grows up to 7kg in weight and uses its short, powerful legs with long claws for digging. A long beak and even longer tongue are used for feeding.
Where do they live? The Short-beaked echidna is the most successful land mammal in Australia. They can live in almost any habitat type including deserts and areas with winter snow. The only habitat requirements are sufficient ground cover and a supply of ants and termites.
What do they eat? Echidnas are highly specialized feeders surviving on ants, termites and dirt. The dirt is believed to aid in digestion. They use electric pulses in their very sensitive beak to locate food items and collect ants and termites with their long sticky tongue. Termite mounds and rotten logs are easily dismantled with their strong forearms. They have the strength to loft objects over twice their own weight.
Behaviour: Echidnas are solitary animals and only come together during the breeding season. They are a non-aggressive species that use their spines to ward of predators. If threatened they will immediately start to burrow into the ground to protect their soft fleshy underbelly. If the ground is too hard they will lie on their back and curl into a very tight ball.
Reproduction: Short-beaked echidnas are one of only three species of monotremes in the world. The other two are the Platypus of Australia and the Long-Beaked Echidna of Papua New Guinea. Monotremes are egg laying mammals. Females will mate from June to September and after a 14 day gestation period produce a single egg. The egg is held in their pouch for a 10 day incubation period. The “puggle” emerges from the soft egg completely bald and is cared for in a burrow. After 6-8 weeks it emerges to feed with its mother.
Threats: Domestic dogs are a threat to the echidna in urban environments and a large number of echidnas are injured by cars as they cross roads.
Conservation Status: Common.