Short-beaked Echidna Tachyglossus aculeatus
Short-beaked Echidna, Barren Lands N.P., NSW, Australia, March 2006 - click for larger image Barren Lands N.P., NSW, Australia
March 2006

I'm afraid that this is the best photo I took of this superb creature and it doesn't show the face with the long snout. We saw a few, particularly in Tasmania and usually at the side of or crossing a road where it would be difficult or dangerous to stop for a photograph. On one occasion I managed to stop safely but, by the time I was out of the van with my camera, the echidna had disappeared into the undergrowth.

The Short-beaked Echidna is distributed in Australia and New Guinea. It is found in a very wide variety of habitats from forest to dry grasslands. The one thing that it requires is a plentiful supply of ants or termites.

It is a monotreme which is a very small and exclusive group of animals which are egg-laying mammals. Apart from the very rare Long-beaked Echidna Zaglossus bruijni, the only other member of the family is the Duck-billed Platypus Ornithorhynchus anatinus.

The female Echidna lays a single leathery-shelled egg that is incubated in a pouch. It hatches after about 10 days and stays in the pouch until the spines begin to form. The youngster lives of its mother's milk for up to a year before it moves out to its own territory.

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