The Egg-Laying, Spike-Wearing Echidna, One of the Strangest Mammals on Earth

The echidna, also known as the spiny anteater, is a fascinating and unusual animal that is native to Australia and New Guinea. It is one of only two monotremes, or egg-laying mammals, in the world, along with the platypus.


One of the most distinctive features of the echidna is its spiny coat. The echidna is covered in sharp, spiky quills, which provide protection against predators. The quills are actually modified hairs, and they are shed and replaced periodically throughout the echidna’s life. The echidna can also curl up into a ball, with its spines facing outward, to further protect itself from danger.

Photo by Enguerrand Blanchy

The echidna’s diet is another unusual aspect of its biology. It is an insectivore, and it feeds mainly on ants and termites. To catch its prey, the echidna uses its long, sticky tongue, which can extend up to 18 cm (7 inches) in length. The tongue is covered in tiny, backward-facing spines, which help to trap the insects as they are licked up.

Like the platypus, the echidna lays eggs rather than giving birth to live young. Females lay a single, leathery egg, which is incubated in a pouch on the mother’s belly for about 10 days.

The single leathery egg of the echidna. Photo by WILDLIFE GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Once the egg hatches, the baby, called a puggle, stays in the pouch for several months, feeding on milk produced by specialized glands.

Photo by Enguerrand Blanchy

The echidna is also a fascinating animal in terms of its overall behavior. It is a solitary creature, and it spends much of its time foraging for food. It is a slow-moving animal, but it can run surprisingly fast when it needs to, and it is also an excellent climber. Echidnas are known to be active both during the day and at night, and they have been observed entering a state of torpor during periods of extreme heat or cold.

Photo by Jacob Dyer

Finally, the echidna is a species of great cultural significance to many Indigenous Australian communities. It is featured prominently in Aboriginal Dreamtime stories and is considered a sacred animal in many cultures. The echidna’s unique appearance and behavior have also made it a popular subject in art and literature, both in Australia and around the world.

Photo via Natural History Museum

We love Australia, and their remarkable animals like the echidna. With many fascinating features that make it stand out from other creatures. Its spiny coat, insectivorous diet, egg-laying reproduction, and unique behavior all contribute to its status as a truly special and remarkable species. As we continue to study and learn more about this amazing animal, we can deepen our appreciation for the incredible diversity of life on our planet.