Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Connor. Connor Wonders, “What is an echidna?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Connor!
Let’s start today’s Wonder of the Day with a riddle. What does the echidna have in common with the platypus? We’ll give you a hint: We think both animals are EGGcellently fascinating. That’s right! Both of these mammals lay eggs.
In fact, the four species of echidna are the only mammals other than the platypus who do so. Female echidnas lay a single egg per year and carry it around in a pouch on their abdomen. About 10 days later, the egg hatches. The baby is called a puggle.
Are you WONDERing what echidnas look like? Some people call them spiny anteaters because of their long, beak-like mouths. The animals are covered in spiky hairs much like a hedgehog and can grow to be 14 to 30 inches long.
If you live in Australia, Tasmania, Indonesia, or Papua New Guinea, you may have seen echidnas before in the wild. They live in several different land habitats in these regions. However, at least two species of echidna are also critically endangered. You’re more likely to see one being cared for in a zoo.
What do echidnas eat? In zoos, they’re often fed leaf eater biscuits mixed with dog kibble. In the wild, they prefer insects and worms. These animals have a strong sense of smell that helps them hunt, but they do not have teeth. Instead, their long tongues help them catch and eat prey.
Echidnas are also excellent swimmers, despite spending much of their time on land. They use their long snouts as snorkels, with the rest of their bodies remaining underwater as they swim. These animals are also known to be talented tree climbers and diggers.
In fact, digging is one way echidnas keep themselves safe from predators. When they sense danger, echidnas dig into nearby soil or sand. Then, the animals escape into the hole they’ve made. They may remain partly above ground as long as their head and most of the body are below ground. After all, a predator is unlikely to bite down on the echidna’s spine-covered exterior.
The echidna is one of the oldest known species on Earth. It’s also changed very little since prehistoric times. However, due to the very small number of echidnas in the wild, scientists still have many questions about the animal and how it acts in nature.
Standards: NGSS.LS1.A, NGSS.LS1.B, NGSS.LS1.C, NGSS.LS4.C, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.W.3, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.W.7, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2