Last Updated on January 2, 2021 by Neil Mackengie
One of the strangest animals you could see is an echidna or spiny ant-eater. The echidna has long claws, a tubelike snout, and a covering of short, stiff spines like that of a hedgehog or porcupine. But what makes it strange is that although it is a mammal, it lays eggs! This animal and the platypus, or duckbill, are the only mammals that lay eggs like birds and most reptiles.
Also, even though it is a mammal, like birds and reptiles it has only a single body opening. This serves both for the elimination of all body wastes and for laying eggs. The platypus and the spiny anteater are therefore called “monotremes”, which means “a single opening”.
The spiny anteater is equipped for a life of digging and for gathering ants and insects as its principal food. The echidna lives in Australia and New Guinea. It has legs that are short and powerful with long, curved claws for digging. The snout is long and narrow and shaped like a tube. It has a sticky, wormlike tongue that it can thrust out to catch insects. At breeding time, the female echidna develops a pouch on her under- side. This pouch opens to the rear. No one is certain how the eggs get into the pouch. But at egg-laying time the female probably curls her body so that one or two eggs are laid directly into the pouch.
She carries the eggs until they hatch. The young live in the pouch until they become too big for comfort. Then the mother leaves them in the burrow or in some other safe hiding place she searches for food.
If threatened, a spiny anteater digs straight down into the ground and presents only its sharp spines to the enemy. It can bury itself completely in a few minutes! The New Guinea spiny anteater can grow to a length of about 76 centimeters. The Australian species is a little smaller.
Can you eat echidna?
Echidnas. It may come as a surprise that Echidnas are sought after animal by Aboriginal people. As with a lot of bush meats, the taste has been described to be just like chicken however we think it’s better than chicken.