Echidna Babies Are Real Weird

published on July 2, 2020

a long time ago on a continent far far

away a spiky little mammal waddled into

existence it's covered in thorny spines

it has a tongue half as long as its body

and a literal superpower

oh and it lays eggs too this is the

echidna

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awesome docs hi I'm Daniel Defoe and

you're watching animal logic today we're

looking for the spiky little monotremes

the echidnas

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then exploring some mountains up in the

east coast of Tasmania really hoping to

catch a glimpse of some wild echidnas

our chances might be slim but we got a

look Billy hope we can find some of our

spiky little monitoring friends echidnas

are one of the oldest surviving mammals

on the planet the oldest known fossil of

an echidna came from an australian cave

deposit from 17 million years ago during

the early Miocene era when an ancestor

of the rhinoceros was still roaming

north america found only in Australia

and New Guinea there are several species

of echidna but here in Australia the

short beak to Kidd now reigns

uncontested and they will live anywhere

that they can find food when the deserts

to the Alpine mountains to the coasts

and the grasslands echidnas are one of

two extant genera in the monotreme order

they've got some of the strangest

morphology among mammals

these guys are monotremes and what that

means is that they lay eggs for this

unusual order containing echidnas and

platypuses laying eggs is thought to be

an evolutionary survival strategy

similar to marsupials who keep their own

developed young in their pouches

monotremes keep their eggs in their

pouches but unlike many marsupials early

monotremes found success with a life in

the water and having their offspring

safe from drowning in the protection of

the egg proved to give them a much

higher chance of survival

today echidnas have found new niches to

exploit and don't swim all that much but

with no evolutionary pressure to change

they've kept on with their unusual

reproductive strategy in fact many of

their seemingly strange anatomical

features were commonplace among early

mammals and we're the weird ones for not

laying eggs

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they were just driving along the highway

heading to our first hotel and lo and

behold there were two two echidnas

inside of the road also known as spiny

anteaters echidnas have received this

misnomer due to their diet rather than

relation to actual anteaters their diet

is primarily made up of ants and

termites and their snouts are perfectly

adapted for this tasty regimen using

their powerful claws to dig up prey

they'll stick their lengthy snouts into

the ground extending their long sticky

tongues to catch insects leaving the

cutest little nose holes in the ground

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their tongues are quite long measuring

up to 18 centimeters about half the

length of their entire body since they

don't have any teeth the kid must chew

their meals by pressing them against the

roof of their mouths crushing them with

their powerful tongues but they have one

more adaptation that helps them find a

meal a sixth sense their snouts are

aligned with electro receptors that can

detect even the slightest of muscle

movements allowing the echidnas to

target their prey with razor accuracy

they are one of the few terrestrial

animals that have this superpower

part of their efficacy on the hunt comes

from their surprisingly large brains

their brains have a huge prefrontal

cortex in humans this is the part of the

brain that we use for higher-level

strategic thinking they have a lot of

folds in their brains which suggests

that they are relatively complex

experiments have found that they are as

smart as cats and rats

scientists have even discovered that

echidnas experienced rapid eye movement

while sleeping in humans REM sleep is

connected with dreaming what couldn't a

kid not be dreaming about probably

chasing Chaos Emeralds I'm gonna try and

get a little bit closer to me as being

shy though he's hiding in the hiding in

the bushes oh it's just a glimpse but

we've seen two echidnas so not bad

echidnas are brimming with curiosities

one of the other traits that makes them

near unique among mammals is that their

stomachs are almost devoid of acid since

they have no stomach acid a lot of

harder materials pass straight through

them leading some scientists to believe

that they have no stomachs at all as a

stomach is defined as the part of the

digestive system that has acid to break

down solids this lack of acid stems from

their ancestors diet which didn't

require heavy acid to digest and so they

stopped expending energy to produce it

the next thing on the long list of the

echidnas oddities are their eyes their

eyes are unique in the animal world

because they're hard and flat echidnas

have possibly the flattest eyes among

mammals giving them an insane focal

length allowing them to spot predators

from great distances their eyes are also

very hard protecting them from getting

stabbed by their spikes when they roll

into a ball those spikes are actually

modified hairs and are primarily made of

keratin they're the echidnas first line

of defense when they're threatened

they'll go into a ball exposing their

sharp spines to ward off predators their

other option is to go and hide in their

burrows but they're also very good at

not getting spotted in the first place

among all this brush and scrubland

kidness would actually have very good

camouflage they blend in really well

with the ground here their spines

resemble the scraggly vegetation that

they live in making them tough for a

predator to spot despite living in areas

with extreme weather they don't really

do well in heat this is because they

can't sweat lacking any sweat glands

they opt to spend the hot Australian

days hidden away in their burrows and

the cool evenings and nights cruising

for ants

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on the other hand when it gets too cold

they can go into torpor a more temporary

form of hibernation in order to conserve

energy it will even do this if they

can't find much food entering torpor to

save energy while they wait for more

food to show up echidnas have the lowest

active body temperature of all mammals

at about 31 to 33 degrees Celsius and

during torpor that temperature can

plunge to 5 degrees Celsius since they

spend so much time in burrows they've

developed a high tolerance for carbon

dioxide and low oxygen environments this

is particularly useful during forest

fires as they can hide in their burrows

and ride it out so long as it doesn't

get too hot

short make the kid knows occupy

territory of about 50 hectares and will

meet up with other echidnas it's time to

mate if laying eggs wasn't unusual

enough the echidnas reproductive

strategy gets even weirder males have

four pronged genitalia and females have

to branch to reproductive tracts this

allows the male to alternate only using

two at a time to deposit his specimen in

each of the female's tracks while the

other to rest

in order to mate without hurting

themselves on the female spikes the

males have fairly long appendages and

they are covered in spines to help

induce ovulation many males will

simultaneously court a female forming a

train with the dominant males up front

this gives the female several chances to

mate successfully females lay their eggs

directly into their pouches and they

hatch about 10 days later weirdly the

pouch is not permanent and is only

formed when needed their young are

adorably called puggles and when born

they weigh just about two grams about

the same weight as a dollar bill their

eggs are leathery and soft they take

care of those until they hatch at which

point they do still feed on milk and

they have a milk patch as opposed to

nipples so the babies will lap up

against the milk patch on their abdomen

and drink the milk that way fully grown

male echidnas can be about six kilograms

while the females are about 25% lighter

they can live up to 15 years in the wild

but there have been reports of echidnas

living for over 40 years which is

possible due to their low metabolism

they're like the tortoises of the mammal

world despite their endless list of

mysteries echidnas are not as rare as

you might expect they have a massive

range and despite threats from invasive

species and habitat destruction their

populations are waddling strong

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so what should I talk about next please

let me know in the comments and be sure

to subscribe for new episodes of Animal

Logic every week thanks for watching

just wonderful creatures I'm naming this

one knuckles for obvious reasons

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