Wikipedia Article
Copyright Notice: This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Echidna".

Echidnas, also known as spiny anteaters, are four extant mammal species belonging to the Tachyglossidae family of the monotremes. Together with the Platypus, they are the only surviving members of that order. Although their diet consists largely of ants and termites, they are not actually related to the anteater species. They live in New Guinea and Australia. The echidnas are named after a monster in ancient Greek mythology.

Echidnas are small mammals that are covered with coarse hair and spines. Superficially they resemble the anteaters of South America, and other spiny mammals like hedgehogs and porcupines. They have snouts which have the functions of both the mouth and nose. Their snouts are elongated and slender. They have very short, strong limbs with large claws and are powerful diggers. Echidnas have a tiny mouth and a toothless jaw. They feed by tearing open soft logs, anthills and the like, and use their long, sticky tongue which protrudes from their snout to collect their prey. The Short-beaked Echidna's diet consists largely of ants and termites, while the Zaglossus species typically eat worms and insect larvae.

The long-beaked echidnas have tiny spines on their tongues that help capture their meals.

Echidnas and the Platypus are the only egg-laying mammals, known as monotremes. The female lays a single soft-shelled, leathery egg twenty-two days after mating and deposits it directly into her pouch. Hatching takes ten days; the young echidna, called a puggle, 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 puggle, returning every five days to suckle it until it is weaned at seven months.

Male echidnas have a four-headed penis, but only two of the heads are used during mating. The other two heads "shut down" and do not grow in size. The heads used are swapped each time the mammal copulates.

Some Echidna Species:

Western Long-beaked Echidna
The Western Long-beaked Echidna (Zaglossus bruijni) is one of the four extant echidnas and one of three species of Zaglossus that occur in New Guinea. Fossils of this species also occur in Australia. As Tachyglossus bruijni, this is the type species of Zaglossus.

The Western Long-beaked Echidna is present in New Guinea, in regions of elevation above 1300 m and up to 4000 m, it is absent from the southern lowlands and north coast. Its preferred habitats are alpine meadow and humid montane forests. Unlike the Short-beaked Echidna which eats ants and termites the Long-beaked species eats earthworms. The Long-beaked Echidna is also larger that the Short-beaked species, it reached up to 16.5 kg (36 lb), the snout is longer and turns downward, and the spines are almost indistinguishable from the long fur. It is distinguished from the other Zaglossus species by the number of claws on the fore and hind feet, it has three (rarely four) claws.

Short-beaked Echidna
The Short-beaked Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) is found in southeast New Guinea and also occurs in almost all Australian environments, from the snow-clad Australian Alps to the deep deserts of the Outback, essentially anywhere that ants and termites are available. Its size is smaller than the Zaglossus species, and it has longer hair.

Sir David's Long-beaked Echidna
Sir David's Long-beaked Echidna (Zaglossus attenboroughi), also known as the Attenborough's Long-beaked Echidna or Cyclops Long-beaked Echidna, is one of three species from the genus Zaglossus to occur in New Guinea. It is named in honour of Sir David Attenborough. It lives in the Cyclops mountains in Papua province of Indonesia near the cities of Sentani and Jayapura.

It is the smallest member of the genus, being closer in size to the Short-beaked Echidna than other members of the genus. It has five claws on its fore and hind feet. It has dense short fur.

The species was described from a single damaged specimen collected in the Dutch colonial era (c. 1961), and has apparently not been collected since that time. Given the ongoing anthropogenic disturbance of the Cyclops Mountain forest habitat, this has raised concern that Z. attenboroughi populations may already be endangered or even locally extirpated. However, it is important to note that biological surveys of Papua province are notoriously incomplete and it is possible that the animal still exists there or in related mountain ranges.

It was reported on July 15 2007 that researchers from EDGE visiting Papua's Cyclops Mountains have recently discovered burrows and tracks thought to be those of Zaglossus attenboroughi. Furthermore, communication with local people revealed that the species had perhaps been seen as recently as 2005.

Sir David's Long-beaked Echidna was identified as one of the top-10 "focal species" in 2007 by the Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) project.

Eastern Long-beaked Echidna
The Eastern Long-beaked Echidna (Zaglossus bartoni), also known as Barton's Long-beaked Echidna, is one of three species from the genus Zaglossus to occur in New Guinea. It is found mainly in Papua New Guinea at elevations between 2000 and 3000 meters.

It can be distinguished from other members of the genus by the number of claws on the fore and hind feet, it has five claws on its fore feet and four on its hind feet. Weight varies between 5-10 kg (11-22 lb); its body length ranges from 60–100 cm (23.5-39 in), and has no tail. It has dense black fur. The species is the largest monotreme and is slow moving. It rolls into a spiny ball for defense.

There are four recognised subspecies:
  • Z. bartoni bartoni
  • Z. bartoni clunius
  • Z. bartoni smeenki
  • Z. bartoni diamondi

  • The population of each subspecies is geographically isolated and they can be distinguished primarily by differences in body size.

    This article is from Wikipedia, a user-contributed encyclopedia.
    It may not have been reviewed by professional editors. (Please see the full Wikipedia disclaimer).

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