The mother lays an egg, and it’s incubated in a temporary pouch. Once the egg hatches, the baby echidna—called a puggle—stays in the pouch and laps up milk from special glands called milk patches. Unlike other mammals, echidnas do not have nipples. The puggle stays in the pouch for about two months, when it begins to grow spines. The mother then moves it from her pouch to a burrow and cares for it the next seven months. Echidnas nest in burrows that other animals have left behind or they can sleep in hollow logs, rock crevices, under bushes, or in piles of leaves.
Echidnas use their narrow snout, which functions as both a nose and mouth, to search out ants, termites, spiders, worms, and other larvae. They capture their food with a long, sticky tongue. They can forage up to 18 hours a day and are most active from dusk until dawn.
Their spines are a specialized kind of hair and are used for defense. When attacked, they will curl up like a hedgehog. They can also use their powerful claws to bury themselves in the ground to get away from an attacker.
- Echidnas are named after a creature in Greek mythology, who was half woman, half snake, probably because they have both mammalian and reptilian characteristics.
- Their sticky tongues can be almost seven inches long.
- They are the most widespread of Australia’s native mammals and can live anywhere from snowy mountains to deserts.
- In colder areas, they will hibernate, waking every 2 to 3 weeks.
- While their lifespan in the wild is about 15 years, echidnas can live up to 50 years in captivity.