The echidna is one of only two surviving monotremes, the other being the platypus. The Australian echidnas belong to the Tachyglossus genus and the three surviving Zaglossus species are found in New Guinea.
As well as finding them wandering across roads and across people’s backyards, you can find them anywhere there are ants and termites and its not too hot.
Echidnas breed during the cool of winter. The males line up behind a potential mate and form a train.
Echidna trains can last anywhere up to 6 weeks before mating eventually happens. During this time the echidnas can be seen walking, foraging and just simply resting together.
Echidna trains can have any number from 2-11 echidnas, though 3 to 4 is more usual. The males sometimes move from one train to another.
The males follow the female and sometimes make advances by nudging her tail or side with their nose. When the female signals that she’s ready to mate another colourful display of the echidna’s sexual behaviour begins the mating rut.
Monotremes are egg-laying mammals. The female echidna 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.
Note the blue beads on this one for identification purposes. Despite being relatively common, the solitary habits of this critter means that we don’t know a lot about it.