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Echidnas


Echidnas
Photo Information
Copyright: jim stevens (jimbob) Silver Note Writer [C: 1 W: 0 N: 125] (427)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2007-11-07
Categories: Mammals
Camera: Nikon D200, AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 18-200mm DX, HOYA 72mm UV
Exposure: f/8, 1/180 seconds
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Theme(s): Nature's Oddities [view contributor(s)]
Date Submitted: 2007-11-14 17:14
Viewed: 4346
Points: 4
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
What do echidnas look like?
Together with the platypus, echidnas are the world's only monotremes, or egg-laying mammals. There are two species of echidnas, one confined to the highlands of New Guinea, and one which lives in Australia and New Guinea.
The smaller species is found throughout Australia, although the animals vary in colour depending on their location. In the northern, hotter regions, echidnas are light brown, but they become darker with thicker hair further south. In Tasmania, they are black. All echidnas have sharp spines covering the back of their short, stocky bodies.
The echidna's snout is between 7 and 8 cm long, and is stiffened to enable the animal to break up logs and termite mounds when searching for food. An echidna's mouth is on the underside of its snout, at the end. This allows the animal to feed easily especially when suckling. Adult echidnas vary in size, from 35 to 53 cm. Males weigh about 6 kilograms, while females weigh about 4.5 kilograms.
The short, stout limbs of an echidna are well-suited for scratching and digging in the soil. The front feet have five flattened claws which are used to dig forest litter, burrow, and tear open logs and termite mounds. The hind feet point backwards, and help to push soil away when the animal is burrowing. Two of the claws on each back foot are used for grooming. An echidna's tail is short, stubby and hairless underneath.
Where do they live?
For most of the year echidnas are solitary animals, although each animal's territory is large and often overlaps with that of other echidnas. During the breeding season they probably use their fine sense of smell to locate one another. Echidnas are usually found among rocks, in hollow logs and in holes among tree roots. During rainy or windy weather they often burrow into the soil or shelter under bushes and tussocks of grass.
Protecting themselves
The echidna looks fearsome enough, but it is a shy animal and would rather retreat than fight if disturbed. When frightened it will curl into a ball, with its snout and legs tucked beneath it and its sharp spines sticking out. It will wedge itself beneath rocks, or burrow straight down into soft soil, to escape predators such as dogs, eagles and dingos.
Like the platypus, the male echidna has a hollow spur on its back leg. While a male platypus can use this spur to inject poision into would-be attackers, echidnas do not have this ability.
What do they eat?
With a keen sense of smell, an echidna uses its long, hairless snout to search for food, detect danger and locate other echidnas. Termites are the preferred food, which is why the animal is often called the 'spiny anteater'. After finding food, an echidna catches the prey with its long, sticky tongue. Because it has no teeth, it grinds its food between its tongue and the bottom of its mouth.
In warm areas, echidnas feed during the cooler morning and evening hours, and sleep during the heat of the day. In southern Australia, they often stop eating during the colder months and then eat large amounts during spring.
Breeding
Being monotremes, echidnas produce young from eggs which are hatched outside their body, in the same way as birds and most reptiles. During the breeding season, a female echidna develops a simple pouch into which she lays a single egg. The egg takes about 10 days to hatch, producing a young animal which measures around 1.45 cm (about the size of a jellybean) and weighs as little as 380 milligrams. The young echidna is carried around in its mother's pouch for about three months, during which the female will sometimes drop it into a burrow for protection.
By the time the infant leaves the pouch, its spines have started to develop, but it still stays close to its mother and continues to suckle milk through specialised pores in the skin inside her pouch. Although they begin to eat termites and ants soon after leaving the pouch, young echidnas are often not fully weaned until they are several months old.
Echidnas have been known to live for as long as 16 years in the wild, but generally their life span is thought to be under 10 years.

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Critiques [Translate]

Hiya Jim, well done on catching one of these in the open, as I know only too well how difficult that is, looks a tad OE and it's a shame you couldn't get even closer, composition wise, perhaps some of the grass could be cropped and the shot is a little small, full points for this capture!

Dear Jim
An egg laying mammal is a welcome addition to my theme "Nature's Oddities". Thank you for sharing!

The details in your notes are amazing, and I have to admit, totally new and strange for me.

As so often, when working on my themes, I am quite upset that unusual photos do not get the respect they deserve!

Thank you for introducing this litttle wonder.
Have a nice Week end
Kind Regards from the Tzaneen Dam in Limpopo, South Africa
Ingrid

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