Australian echidnas help other wildlife


This video says about itself:

13 August 2015

The “short-beaked echidna” is one of four living species of echidna and the only member of the genus “Tachyglossus”. The short-beaked echidna is covered in fur and spines and has a distinctive snout and a specialized tongue, which it uses to catch its prey at a great speed. Like the other extant monotremes, the short-beaked echidna lays eggs; the monotremes are the only group of mammals to do so.

From Science News:

An echidna’s to-do list: Sleep. Eat. Dig up Australia.

Short-beaked species of this mammal is a valuable ecosystem engineer

By Susan Milius

12:00pm, November 18, 2016

With no nipples and reptilelike eggs, short-beaked echidnas look like a first draft of a mammal. Yet, as Australia’s other digging mammals decline from invasive predators, the well-defended echidna is getting new love as an ecosystem engineer.

The only mammals today that lay eggs are the four echidna species and the duck-billed platypus. Eggs are probably a holdover from the time before mammals split from reptiles. Each year or so, the short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) lays one leathery egg “about the size of a grape,” says Christine Cooper of Curtin University in Perth. Instead of constructing a nest, mom deposits the egg in her version of a kangaroo pouch and waddles around with it.

When the egg hatches about 10 days later, two patches of pores in mom’s pouch ooze milk, and the baby laps it off her skin. The puggle, as a baby echidna is called, hitchhikes for weeks as mom forages. The ride ends, however, when the puggle starts growing spines. “Then mum’s like, ‘Nope, no more,’ and she will put [baby] into a burrow,” Cooper says.

Puggles live in mom’s pouch until they get prickly

Puggles live in mom’s pouch until they get prickly.

Ben Nottidge/Alamy Stock Photo

Foraging echidnas claw around and poke their snouts into termite or ant nests, flicking out a long gooey tongue to flypaper up insects. The goo comes from unusually large salivary glands, but a quick echidna lick doesn’t slime. When Cooper wears sandals to visit captive echidnas, she says, “it’s ‘ooh, that tickles!’”

Echidnas’ toes point backward on their hind paws but forward on the front, and their short legs slant outward in a bit of a reptile sprawl, says Christofer Clemente of University of the Sunshine Coast in Sippy Downs, Australia. They rock side to side as they walk, moving both left, then both right feet. They can’t run, but they’re strong diggers, Clemente says. They not only claw around for food, but also defend their soft undersides by quick-digging into the ground, spikes up.

Acceleration-sensing instruments strapped onto short-beaked echidnas show they spend about 12 percent of their day excavating, researchers report in the Oct. 15 Journal of Experimental Biology. Over a year, a single echidna churns up some 204 cubic meters of soil, the scientists calculate, as it hunts for insects or scrabbles for shelter.  That’s enough to bury more than 100 full-sized fridges.

That digging benefits the echidna’s unusual diversity of habitat — from rainforest to desert. Echidnas don’t need to bury fridges, but soil turnover and nutrient mixing keep ecosystems humming along.

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “Australian echidnas help other wildlife

  1. Pingback: Beautiful birds and fungi in Australia and Slovakia | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Fossil marsupials discovery in Bolivia | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Injured African ants brought back to nest to recover | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: Platypus milk saving human lives | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. Pingback: Brazil’s oldest mammal named after David Bowie | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  6. Pingback: How Italian crested newts eat, new research | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  7. Pingback: Mysterious echidna in London, England museum | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  8. Pingback: 300-million-year-old platypus-like mammal ancestor’s blood, new research | Dear Kitty. Some blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.