Thursday, April 9, 2009

Life Photo Meme: Silly

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Monotremata

Family: Tachyglossidae

This silly-looking animal is the short-beaked echidna, Tachyglossus aculeatus. There are only two types of echidnas in the world, the long and short-beaked. The short beaked echidna is found in Australia and the long beaked in New Guinea. Like the platypus, their beak has electrical sensors, which they use to find ants and other creepy-crawlies in the dirt. Like the other monotremes the adults lack teeth, so after catching their ants with their long sticky tongue, they crush them with hard plates on the roof of their mouth.

They also lay eggs. The female lays an egg during breeding season, but will then carry that egg around in a pouch until it hatches. She can deposit it down a burrow, if she needs to leave to go forging. The newly hatched echidna is only the size of a jellybean and will hitch a ride on top of the mother’s pouch.

Their paws are quite interesting. The front paws have long claws for digging, but the back ones are very strange. They curve backwards, so the animal is walking on the top of their foot. This backwards curve helps the animal push dirt out and away from the hole it is digging. They also posses an unusually long claw that curves farther out on each foot. This set of claws is used for grooming; it’s so long, so it can get in between the stiff guard hair spines. Despite the grooming, echidnas are home to the world’s largest species of fleas, which is 4mm long (0.15 in).

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