E is for Echidna Penises
(and other fun stuff)
Did she just say, Echidna penises? Well, yes I did. 🙂 It’s a very odd feature indeed. But if you can only wait a moment, let me first tell you about several other oddities the Echidna (pronounced ee-kid’-na) has going for it. I won’t say the echidna is totally weird because I think they’re cool as can be. But they are unique, that’s for sure!
Have a look at this short video to watch a mother echidna and her baby, called a “puggle.”
NOTE: No echidna penises were harmed in the making of this video, that I know of, nor are there any visible echidna penises in the video. But the puggles are, of course, created with the help of those freaky echidna penises I haven’t told you about. Yet.
Echidna Penises … it’s just fun to say. Maybe it’s just the novelty factor.
A Female Echidna and Her Puggle
Fun Echidna Facts:
- The Echidna, also known as spiny anteaters, are native to Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea.
- They are a very odd creature indeed.
- They have spines like a porcupine. Their bodies, except for the face, legs, and belly, are covered with 2 inch-long (3 mm) spines. These spines are actually modified hair. There is also fur between the spines to provide insulation.
- They have a beak like a bird, which is actually a snout that acts as a mouth, and a nose with an amazing sense of smell.
- They have another extremely amazing sense too. Special cells in their beaks are sensitive to the electromagnetic signals emitted by all living things. This sense is usually only found in sharks and rays. The echidna may be the only mammal that has the ability to search for its food in this way.
- The echidna lays eggs like a reptile. They, along with their cousin, the platypus, are the only egg-laying mammals in the world
- They have a pouch like a kangaroo to carry their young. A single, soft-shelled, leathery egg (about the size of a dime) incubates and develops in the pouch. The ‘puggle’ hatches about 10 days later (smaller than a jelly bean).
- The puggle stays inside the mother’s pouch, nursing from its mother’s milk. The mother, however, doesn’t have a nipple. Instead, she has special glands in the pouch called milk patches. These secret milk, which the baby laps up.
- Two months later, the puggle starts to grow spines. At this point, the mother will move her puggle to a burrow, where she’ll continue to take care of it for seven more months.
- They grow to between 12 and 17 inches (19 to 27 mm) long and weigh between 4 – 10 pounds (2 – 3 kg).
But what about the Echnidna Penises? Have patience. I’ll get to that.
A few more fun Echidna Facts first:
- Echidnas have the lowest body temperature of any mammal, 89°F (32°C ).
- They can live as long as up to 50 years in captivity, although there have been reports of wild animals reaching 45 years of age. This is thought to be due to their low body temperature and slow metabolism.
Oops, here it is!
Echidna Penises Facts:
- Male echidnas have a bizarre, four-headed penis. There, I said it.
- During sex, two of the heads shut down while the other two grow bigger to fit into the female’s two-branched reproductive tract.
- Males alternate the heads they use between matings.
- This one-sided ejaculation may play a role in sperm competition, as many males attempt to fertilize the same female.
- In another possible adaptation for sperm competition, echidna sperm form bundles that swim faster than individual sperm cells.
Okay, as if those Echidna Penises facts weren’t freaky enough:
- During echidna breeding season, males line up nose to tail behind a single female, forming a train of up to a dozen individuals.
- Trains can last more than a month, with males dropping out and rejoining.
- When the female is finally ready to mate, the males dig a trench in the ground around her.
- The males compete for mating honors by pushing each other out of the trench.
- The last one remaining gets to mate with the female.
NOTE: Just so you know, I’m not going to add a photo of an echidna penis in here, in case your kids are looking over your shoulder. Or maybe it’s you, the reader, who is sensitive to that sort of thing. But click on this link if you’d LIKE to SEE A PIC AND a VIDEO of the thing.
Phew! I’m glad I’m not an echidna!
Here are a few more Echidna Facts for the road, to erase any images I may have just stirred up in you.
- The Echidna has no teeth. They use their long, 6-inch (10mm) sticky tongues to feed on ants, termites, worms, and insect larvae. Echidnas break their food down with hard pads located on the roof of the mouth and back of the tongue.
- They have a very large brain for its body size. Part of this might be due to their enlarged neocortex, which makes up half of the echidna’s brain (compare this to about 30 percent in most other mammals and 80 percent in humans).
- Males have non-venomous spurs on their hind feet.
- Echidna are host to the world’s largest flea. Bradiopsylla echidnae, the echidna flea, is thought to be the world’s largest flea at 0.15 inches (4 mm) long.
Threats to the Echidna
Some predators include wild cats, foxes, domestic dogs, and goannas. Snakes pose a large threat to the echidna species because they slither into their burrows and prey on the young spineless puggles.
Video Source: Earth Unplugged
Thank you for putting up with my sad humor.
It’s been a VERY long year.