Do Echidnas Lay Eggs?

Echidnas, which are also known as the spiny anteater, are truly one-of-a-kind animals. Today, we’ll take a look at some of the ways this creature is so special and unique. 

Do echidnas lay eggs? They are one of only two mammals that don’t give live birth but rather lay eggs. Mammals that lay eggs are called monotremes and there are only five living monotremes in the world – four are species of echidnas and one is the platypus.

Mammals are a group of animals that are warm-blooded, have backbones, are covered in hair, have a better-developed brain than other groups of animals, and feed their young milk. All but two mammals give birth to their young live, which is another thing that sets this group apart.

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This animal puzzles experts and scientists alike because it is so unlike any other mammal in the world. The fact that female echidnas lay eggs is what makes them most unusual.

Echidna Eggs

Echidnas breed during the months of July and August and then a female lays one egg. This egg is different than eggs you might be familiar with from birds because an echidna’s egg is very leathery. Once the mother lays her egg, she rolls the small egg (it is usually about the size of a grape) into her belly pouch in order to keep it safe.

The egg stays in the pouch for about ten days before the baby echidna (known as a “puggle”) hatches. This puggle is only about the size of a jelly bean and it uses its claws to latch on to the hair in the mother’s pouch and then they lap up milk from special glands in the mother’s pouch. 

The puggle will stay in its mother’s pouch until they begin to develop spikey spines, which is usually about 53 days after birth. Then, the mother will place the puggle in a burrow. The mother will then leave to get food and only return to the burrow once every five to ten days in order to feed her baby. Once the puggle reaches about seven months of age, it will be ready to go off on its own. 

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Orphaned young Echidna, spines just stating to develop
Orphaned young Echidna, spines just stating to develop

What else makes the echidna so unique?  

Well, Echidnas have the lowest body temperature of any mammal in the world. They have an average body temperature of about 89 degrees Fahrenheit and their temperature can fluctuate about four degrees in either direction over the course of a day.

The fact that they have such a low body temperature actually comes in handy because it leads to a long life expectancy. Wild echidnas can live to be up to 45 years old, while those living in captivity can live to be about 50 years old. 

Echidnas, as well as platypuses, have an almost sixth sense. These animals are electroreceptive! The snouts of echidnas are packed with receptor cells that help them track movements as well as the subtitle electric fields produced by their prey. Scientists estimate that echidnas have about 400 to 2,000 electroreceptor cells in their snout. 

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Did you know that Echidnas are toothless animals? Echidnas eat a diet full of insects such as ants, termites, and worms, but how do they eat them if they do not have teeth? Echidnas have slender snouts and very strong claws that they use to open ant hills, logs, and more. Then, they use their sticky tongs to get the insects they eat. And these tongues are very long – they are almost half a foot long! Lastly, they use tough pads on the roof of their mouths to break down their food

Echidnas’ bodies are covered in spines, but they are not what you might think. Their spines are actually just long, hollow, and tough hair follicles. Echidnas use their spines as their main defense against predators (such as cats, dogs, foxes, and goannas). When an echidna needs to protect itself from a predator, they will roll up into a ball with their spines sticking out and protecting them and then they will dig themselves into a burrow to stay safe. On top of their hair follicle spines, echidnas are also covered in a layer of fur which helps to keep them warm.