Echidnas do not have a teat for the young to attach to. Milk is secreted from pores at the base of specialized mammary hairs. The two milk patches are at about the same location as the teats would be.
Long Beaked Echidna
The long beaked echidna (Zaglossus bruijnii) disappeared from the Australian continent about 50 million years ago
Ancestor - Old Echidna
The oldest known Monotreme fossil was found at Lighting Ridge NSW in 19?? . It was named Steropodon galmani. It was dated to be 110 million years old, dating back to the Cretaceous, the period when we had tha greatest dinosaur diversity on the planet!! This makes the Momotremes the oldest suriving mammals on the earth today.
Echidnas eat a wide variety of invertebrates. Information about an animals diet is often gleaned by studying the feces. Echidna feces or scat contains lots of indigestible body parts from ants and termites. When feeding on soft bodied invertebrates such as grub larvae, worms, mites, insect pupae and small spiders there are few tell tale parts left in the scat to provide clues to the extra food sources.
Folk lore records that echidnas are nocturnal or night active animals. They are active both day and night. Echidnas must avoid high temperatures. During the summer or in hot parts of their range individuals will become night active to avoid the high ground temperatures. Some of their favorite foods also avoid heat and only become accessible during cooler periods.
Echidnas live by themselves most of the year. They do not fight or defend a territory. When an echidna encounters another echidna or other animal, it basically just ignores it.
Even solitary animals must get together to breed. During the winter, a female will attract a number of males to her. They form what is call an "Echidna Train". There is only one female in the train, all others are males. The courtship period may last for up to 6 weeks and then the female mates only once with one male. We do not know what makes the male a successful breeder.
About 24 days after mating the female lays one single egg directly into the pouch. The egg is about the size and texture of a small green grape
After only 10 days the egg hatches
Drawings Dr. Richard Semon between 1891 and 1893.
Zoologische Forschungsreisen in Australien.
The pouch of an echidna is different than a kangaroo pouch. It is formed by pulling two longitudinal muscles on either side of the stomach together. Both males and females can form a pouch. When the mother has a young, the pouch is fleshier because she is lactating.
When the young is put in the nursery burrow at about 50 days of age, its life changes. In the pouch it always had access to milk. Once in the burrow, the mother comes back only once every 5 days to suckle it! The young is totally dependent on the mother until it is weaned at the age of 7 months.
An echidna at the Philadelphia Zoo lived for 49 years in captivity! It was an adult when brought to the zoo. On Kangaroo Island there is good documentation of an echidna that has been known to locals for 45 years.
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