A generally solitary animal, the eastern long-beaked echidna is a highly specialised feeder (4), with a diet consisting primarily of earthworms (1), which is an abundant food source in the humid forests it inhabits (5). The eastern long-beaked echidna has a well-developed sense of smell, which it uses to detect its prey as it roots around in the leaf litter and undergrowth with its probing snout (4). As the eastern long-beaked echidna is rarely found foraging in the daylight (2), it is easy to understand why both hearing and smell are more important than vision when searching for food or perceiving danger (4). When an earthworm is found, the echidna quickly takes it with its long, thin, flexible tongue which is covered in a sticky secretion (4). The echidna does not have teeth and instead mashes the food between horny spines at the back of the tongue and the roof of the mouth (5).
The eastern long-nosed echidna has a large home range, varying between 10 and 168 hectares (2). A powerful digger, the echidna digs burrows in which to shelter (4), which can be up to 4.9 metres in length and situated up to 0.57 metres below the soil surface (2). When threatened, it may use its powerful limbs and spines to wedge itself into a hollow log or a crevice in a rock, or can curl up into a ball so that only its spines are showing (4).
Female echidnas develop a temporary pouch on the abdomen during the breeding season, into which a single egg is laid. After hatching, the spineless young will remain in the pouch for six to eight weeks, feeding on the thick milk from its mother’s mammary glands. The young will then be placed in a sheltered site, and visited regularly by the mother (6). The eastern long-beaked echidna is a long lived species, with one captive individual in London Zoo known to have lived for 30 years (1).