Short-beaked echidna Click to enlarge image
(Tachyglossus aculeatus) Image: Stuart Humphreys
Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    aculeatus
    Genus
    Tachyglossus
    Family
    Tachyglossidae
    Order
    Monotremata
    Subclass
    Prototheria
    Class
    Mammalia
    Subphylum
    Vertebrata
    Phylum
    Chordata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    40-55 cm

The Short-beaked Echidna is the only species of echidna in Australia.

Identification

The Short-beaked Echidna is easily recognised by its sharp spines, short legs and long snout.

Similar species:

Long-beaked Echidna (Zaglossus bruijni), is from New Guinea


Tachyglossus aculeatus
A Short Beaked Echidna is pictured with its snout to the surface of a wet rock. Its spines are yellow with a black tip, whilst its snout appears to be a bluish-brown colour. The echidna is an oval shape, with a ball-like appearance. Image: Kathy Atkinson
Australian Museum

Habitat

The Short-beaked Echidna lives in forests and woodlands, heath, grasslands and arid environments.

Distribution

The Short-beaked Echidna is found throughout Australia, including Tasmania. Although it is found all over Australia, it is not as common in Sydney as it once was.



Feeding and diet

Using its pointed snout and sharp claws, the Short-beaked Echidna breaks into ant and termite nests and catches its prey by flicking its long sticky tongue in and out. It also catches a lot of dirt in the process and this is expelled in the droppings.

Life history cycle

Like the Platypus, the Short-beaked Echidna is an egg-laying mammal or monotreme and lays one egg at a time. The eggs hatch after about 10 days and the young, emerge blind and hairless. Clinging to hairs inside the mother's pouch, the young echidna suckles for two or three months. Once it develops spines and becomes too prickly, the mother removes it from her pouch and builds a burrow for it. It continues to suckle for the next six months.

Predators

The Short-beaked Echidna has few natural enemies, but it may be killed by cars, dogs, foxes and occasionally goannas, and cats may take the young.