Short-beaked Echidna

(Tachyglossus aculeatus)


Short-beaked Echidna IUCN LEAST CONCERN (LC)


Facts about this animal

The short-beaked echidna may reach a head-body length of about half a metre and a weight of up to 5 kgs. The stubby tail is about 9 cm long. It is readily recognised by its covering of up to 60 mm long spines. These spines are usually yellow with black tips, but can be entirely yellow. Underneath the spines, short-nosed echidnas are covered with dark brown or black body hair. The head is small with a long, tubular snout which is toothless, naked and about half the head length. The feet have five digits with flat claws used for digging. Male echidnas have a hollow spur on the hindfoot but there is no functional venom gland.

Echidnas occupy a wide range of habitats. They inhabit overlapping home ranges, where usually shelter under thick bushes, in hollow logs, under piles of debris, or occasionally in burrows. They are insectivore, digging their way into ant or termite nests with their front paws or snout, and extending their long, sticky tongue into the nest. The insects stick to the Echidna's sticky tongue and are drawn into its mouth where they are chewed up between a horny pad at the back of the tongue and a similar structure on the palate.


Echidnas mate during the Australian winter. The female lays a single egg about 2 weeks later, and 10 days after that a tiny, hairless Echidna hatches and remains tucked in a pouch-like skin-fold for 3 months. It cannot suckle, since the mother does not have a teat - instead, it laps milk from the skin immediately above the mother's milk glands. The female carries the young for about 50 days until spines start to develop. She then leaves the young Echidna in a safe place while she hunts for food, returning to suckle her young.

Did you know?
that echidnas are one of only two examples of mammals that lay eggs? The other member of this group is the platypus.


Name (Scientific) Tachyglossus aculeatus
Name (English) Short-beaked Echidna
Name (French) Echidné à nez court
Name (German) Kurzschnabeligel
Name (Spanish) Equidna de nariz corta
CITES Status Not included
CMS Status Not Included



Photo Copyright by
Stewart Macdonald



Range Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea
Habitat Forests, woodlands, meadows and Australian deserts
Wild population Unknown, but it is a common widespread species (Red List IUCN 2011)
Zoo population 96 registered according to ISIS (2005)

In the Zoo

Short-beaked Echidna


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 75 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations , should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Stewart Macdonald

Why do zoos keep this animal

Zoos keep short-beaked echidnas primarily for educational purposes because it is one of only three genera of mammals that lay eggs. Australian zoos also often come into the situation to keep short-beaked echidnas for animal welfare reasons as they may accept and care for sick, injured or orphaned animals.