Mammal, Egg Layer, or Both? (2)

By definition, a mammal is an animal that is warm-blooded and a vertebrate (animal with a backbone), which nourishes their young with milk from mammary glands. Mammals, by and large, produce live young – however, there are two exceptions to this!

These exceptions are egg-laying mammals – these are called monotremes! This post will cover the more well-known species, and a following post will cover the lesser known of the two.

It would seem that a lot of people tend to be aware of the first on my list – the Platypus.

It seems it’s a lot less people tend to be aware of the second on my list:

Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus)

Sometimes known as the Spiny Anyeater, the Echidna is native to New Guinea, Australia, Tasmania, Kangaroo Island, King Island, and Flinders Island.

There are four different types of (living) Echidna:

1. Short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus), the only one of the four classified as Tachyglossus

Short-beaked echidna

IUCN Red List: Least Concern

2. Western long-beaked echidna (Zaglossus bruijnii), originally classified as Tachyglossus bruijnii but later re-classified

Western long-beaked echidna

IUCN Red List: Critically Endangered

3. Eastern long-beaked echidna (Zaglossus bartoni), also known as Barton’s long-beaked echidna

Eastern long-beaked echidna

IUCN Red List: Vulnerable

4. Sir David’s long-beaked echidna (Zaglossus attenboroughi), know locally as Payanko

Sir David’s long-beaked echidna

IUCN Red List: Critically Endangered

We can all guess who number four was named in honour of – Sir David Attenborough himself!

The Echidna is a relatively small animal, covered in fur, which ranges from a red-brown to dark brown colour. They are also covered in spines, which have varying colours of cream and black, and vary in length and coverage.

The spines are actually a type of hair – thick, tough, and strong. Like the Hedgehog, the Echidna will roll into a ball, and the spines will stick out as a defence.

The Echidna has a long tongue (approx. 15cm) and no teeth – similar to the Anteater, they use their long tongues for feeding.

Like the Platypus, covered in my previous post, the Echidna does not have any teats for feeding milk to their young. The Echidna has a pouch instead (for both the male and female of the species); the female has special glands inside their pouch, which secretes milk for the young to lap up. As with the Platypus offspring, the Echidna offspring are also known as Puggles.

Some similarities in these two unusual mammals!

All images are either open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.

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