Individuals of this solitary-living species only come together to mate, during which a ‘train’ of several males may follow a single female hoping to mate with her (2) (4). The short-beaked echidna is one of a small group of egg-laying mammals known as monotremes (2). About three weeks after mating, a single leathery-skinned egg is laid into a pouch on the female’s abdomen, which is then incubated for a further ten days before it hatches (5) (7). After hatching, the young remain in their mother’s pouch until they are around 45 to 55 days old, after which time they are left in a burrow while the mother is foraging (5) (7). Juveniles continue to suckle until they are weaned at about six months old, at which time they are fully independent (5) (7). Echidnas both in the wild and in captivity have been known to live up to 50 years (7).
During the warmer months, echidnas tend to be nocturnal and to avoid the heat. At higher elevations, in more temperate areas, and during winter they are more diurnal, foraging around dusk or during the day (1) (4). The short-beaked echidna’s diet consists of a large variety of invertebrates, including ants, beetles, spiders, worms, insect eggs and termites, which are lapped up with the long, mobile tongue (5).