Echidna's in the Platypus House
After our time looking at the platypus’s, we followed our tour into the next room and wow, there they were. Three of them. This chap was enjoying his food. They are named after Echidna, a creature from Greek mythology who was half-woman, half-snake, as the animal was perceived to have qualities of both mammals and reptiles.
We tried to get a picture with this hungry chaps amazingly long tongue out, but so fast.
Failed in the first but we saw it in the second, sadly it was folded over.
Tracy, our guide, picked a chap up to show us his soft underbelly, put him down and off he scuttled.
We couldn’t take our eyes off them. This one went to check the feed bowls were really empty.
Sadly, it was time to leave these unique creatures.
We watched as they scuttled and then went to the ‘school room’ to read about them.
The short-beaked echidna are medium-sized, solitary animals found throughout most of Australia: their habitat ranges from wet schlerophyll forests [eucalypts, wattles and banksia, often associated with poor soil] to deserts. The back of the echidna is covered in spines and course hair, in Tasmania the hair sometimes obscures the spines. When threatened the echidna will dig downwards often completely covering itself in sixty seconds. Within ten seconds the soft abdomen is buried presenting a predator with a formidable coat of spines. Superficially, echidna’s resemble the anteaters of South America and other spiny mammals such as hedgehogs and porcupines. They are usually black or brown in colour. There have been several reports of albino echidnas, their eyes pink and their spines white – they are in fact white as opposed to being albino, they do not survive to adulthood due to their lack of camouflage, they cannot hide.
Echidnas have tiny mouths and toothless jaws, it feeds by tearing open soft logs, anthills and the like.Typically a three kilogram echidna will consume about two hundred grams of ants in ten minutes. One favourite method is to extend the tongue on the surface of an ants nest and as the ants walk onto the tongue, quickly withdraw it, where they become caught on the sticky saliva.
They have elongated and slender snouts that function as both mouth and nose. Like the platypus, they are equipped with electrosensors, but while the platypus has 40,000 electroreceptors on its bill, the long-billed echidna has only 2,000 electroreceptors, and the short-billed echidna, which lives in a drier environment, has no more than 400 located at the tip of its snout. They have very short, strong limbs with large claws, and are powerful diggers.In all echidnas, the nail of the second hind claw is greatly elongated for preening. The male has a spur, like the male platypus but no venom is produced.
On the mainland, echidna sleep during the day in rocky crevices or under logs but they sleep at night in Tasmania. They semi hibernate during the winter. Normal body temperature is between 29-33 degrees Centigrade but in winter may fall to 6 degrees.
The echidnas' ears are slits on the sides of their heads that are usually unseen due to the fact that they are blanketed by their spines. The external ear is created by a large cartilaginous funnel, deep in the muscle. The echidna’s eyesight is not considered good but it may well have colour vision.
The echidna skeleton.
An echidna train is the term given to a formation that echidnas perform during their mating season. Males pick up a scent of a female in season and follow her closely from behind. Anything up to ten males may follow one female in single file, giving the effect of a train and carriages, the train may continue for up to six weeks before mating may occur. When the female eventually signals that she is ready to mate she may bury her head and shoulders against a solid object like a shrub, log or rock. Her admirers will then dig around her forming a trench. They struggle with each other and try to push the others out of the trench. The last one left earns the right to mate.
The female lays a single soft-shelled, leathery egg twenty two days after mating, and deposits it directly into her pouch. While hatching, the baby echidna opens the leather shell with a reptile-like egg tooth. Hatching takes place after ten days; the young echidna then sucks milk from the pores of the two milk patches (monotremes have no nipples) and remains in the pouch for forty five to fifty five days, at which time it starts to develop spines. The mother digs a nursery burrow and deposits the young, returning every five days to suckle it until it is weaned at seven months.
Platypus and echidna puggles are identical until they are two weeks old...... Cute picture time, an ice cream and it’s off to see the seahorses.
ALL IN ALL CUTE BUT VERY SPIKY
THE WEIRDEST, LOVELIEST CREATURE I’VE EVER MET