This small, barrel-shaped animal is one of two of the world’s only egg-laying (Monotreme) Mammals. Unusual for such a “primitive” Mammal, Echidna can be found in New Guinea as well as in Australia. Also quite rare for any Mammal, She has a life expectancy of fifty years or more.
Resembling a pale brown Porcupine, Echidna lives a solitary life in woodlands. With her powerful claws, Echidna turns over rocks in search of food. Because She has no jaw muscles, Echidna draws food into the tiny opening at the end of her snout, with her long tongue. Since She especially likes Ants, Echidna will endure their stings as She “tongues” Them into her mouth.
Echidna is quite good at defending herself. When in danger, She curls Herself into a ball, to be protected by her spines. Sometimes, Echidna will wedge Herself beneath rocks. She can also swiftly dig vertically to get below the surface soil.
Mother Echidna lies on her back and lays one egg. She stretches so that her egg drops into the pouch on her abdomen. After a week and a half, Baby Echidna (Puggle) breaks out of the egg’s leathery shell. The tiny Puggle will suckle and live in his mother’s pouch for two months. Afterwards, He leaves his mother’s pouch for a burrow that She has dug for him. There, Mother Echidna visits daily to suckle her Puggle.
Echidna is a biological anomaly. She has a unique combination of marsupial and reptilian traits. Mother Echidna produces milk but lays eggs, and nurses her Baby in a pouch. Her elongated hind feet curve backwards to allow Echidna to groom between her spines. Usually solitary, She has a train of willing Males following Her around during breeding time, waiting for the chance to become her mate.
Echidna teaches how to live with internal contradictions. She survived the Dinosaurs to continue to have her eggs and nurse her young today. Within Echidna’s body are so many contradictions that you wonder how She made it this far in life. Never fear, Echidna will probably outlast us all. Learn how to live with your own internal contradictions, as Echidna does.
Echidna’s Teachings Also Include:
“Echidna reminds us that we do not have to tackle life all alone.” Copyright: “Animal Messengers”, Scott Alexander King.
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Echidna Photo copyrighted by Department of Conservation and Land Management, Government of Western Australia