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165119.  Thu Apr 12, 2007 5:46 am Reply with quote

Echidnas (or Spiny Anteaters) seem to be remarkable for just how much we don't know about them, considering they are the most widely-distributed mammal in Australia (the only other place they occur is in New Guinea).

Monotremes, they caused an uproar in naturalist circles in 1884 when it was discovered that they have the temerity to lay eggs, thus letting down the entire mammalian order. To this day, though, no-one has figured out how they get their eggs into their pouches.

They live rather a long time - up to 45 years in the wild - and there is a suspicion that this is masking a decline in the population (ie that although there are still quite a lot of them about, they may all be ancient as hell), but nobody really knows that either.

There seems to be an inbuilt imbalance between the sexes: 2-3 males per female. We don't know why this is, either. However, we rejoice in it because it results in the phenomenon known as the Echidna Love Train: a single female followed about by as many as ten males, in single file, for up to six weeks before mating occurs. Sometimes two love trains bump into each other, and some of the males switch trains (like you would).

Picture researchers, please. Also sound clearance: can we get the O'Jays song? It should be covered by the BBC's license, I think.

Echidnas were long thought to be the only mammal that doesn't dream, but this has recently (very recently: Feb 2007) been shown to be untrue. We still don't know what they're dreaming about, mind.

165126.  Thu Apr 12, 2007 5:51 am Reply with quote

**dances around the room**

165128.  Thu Apr 12, 2007 5:55 am Reply with quote

In Greek mythology, Echidna was the "mother of all monsters". She and her mate Typhon spawned the Nemean Lion, Cerberus, Chimera, the Sphinx, and the Hydra amongst other notorious ASBO candidates.

Echidna is also the name of a genus of Moray eels.

165133.  Thu Apr 12, 2007 6:05 am Reply with quote

The song was no.1 for the O'Jays in 1973.

165158.  Thu Apr 12, 2007 6:40 am Reply with quote

Echidnas have the lowest body temperature of any mammal (struggling to find an authoritive source for this). A baby echidna is called a puggle.

165163.  Thu Apr 12, 2007 6:44 am Reply with quote

The males make donuts:
The female stops and often partially digs her front legs and head in near the base of a tree or bush. The male echidnas start digging a trench beside the female. They then try to push each other aside, and end up digging around the bush as well as beside the female. The result is a doughnut shapedrut which about 18-25 centimetres deep. The rings have puzzled many a bushwalker

Why are echidnas stuck in a rut with their sex life?


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