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Kangaroo Island Travel Guide
Kangaroo Island Wildlife - Monotremes
Short Beaked Echidna
Short-beaked Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus multiaculeatus) - 'swift tongue, furnished with many spines'.
Cool temperate, to tropical wet sclerophyll forest to desert (even to areas of winter snow).
40-55cm; weight 2-7 kg.
- Uses sense of smell and touch to find its food.
- Catches food with 15cm long, sticky (covered with mucous) tongue!
- Mainly eats termites (lots of termites on KI), as well as worms and beetles.
- Can break open termite mounds and probe the nest with its sensitive snout to detect any food. It will then use its tongue to catch its prey.
- They do not have teeth, so they grind their food between hard plates on their tongue and the roof of their mouth.
- Most of their water is obtained from the food they eat.
- Echidnas are usually solitary animals, but through using their good sense of smell they can find one another and be seen in an 'Echidna Train' during breeding seasons (end of June to September).
- The males will seek out a female forming a 'train' behind her with up to ten males following her.
- The strongest biggest male is at the front of the line with the smallest younger male at the rear.
- When the female is ready to mate the female will lay flat on her stomach and the males will dig a trench around her. The biggest and strongest male will push all the other males out of the trench and will lie next to the female on his side and place his tail under hers and then mate.
- About 2 weeks later a single egg is laid into a temporary pouch, that develops with the onset of the breeding season. The folds of skin and muscle around the abdomen thicken to create a false pouch.
- After about 10 days the egg hatches (the young are about the size of a grape!).
- During the following period of lactation, the mother spends most of her time in her burrow, but will leave the young behind from time to time to go foraging.
- After 2-3 months the young is ejected from the pouch as its spines continue to grow
- It will remain suckling from its mother until it is about 6 months of age.
An animal that is hard to mistake in the wild. It has distinct spines that should be avoided by inquisitive tourists, a short beak and small brown head. It can often be seen waddling across roads or through scrub.
- The Kangaroo Island echidna is a distinct subspecies to the mainland echidna. It has more numerous, longer, thinner and paler spines.
- Less active in cold, wet winter periods.
- If disturbed/threatened, it often curls up into a ball of radiating spines, or if on soft ground will use its powerful front digging claws to sink directly downwards into the earth.
- Preferred diet is termites, although can also eat ants, beetles and other invertebrates.
- Tongue can extend 18cm out of its mouth! It is coated with a sticky saliva that helps to catch prey.
- Locates prey by smell and by minute electrical signals detected by receptors in the snout.
- The short-beaked echidna occurs in Australia and the lowlands of New Guinea
- On the island the only natural predator is the Rosenbergs Goanna which will dig up the nursery burrows in order to get to the 'puggle' which is a baby Echidna. Feral Cats are also known to attack adult and young echidnas.
- Reproduces every 3-5 years (which is not very often)