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Echidna and Platypus


Together with the platypus, echidnas are the world's only monotremes, or egg-laying mammals. There are two species of echidnas, one confined to the highlands of New Guinea, and one which lives in Australia and New Guinea. The smaller species is found throughout Australia, although the animals vary in colour depending on their location. In the northern, hotter regions, echidnas are light brown, but they become darker with thicker hair further south. In Tasmania, they are black. All echidnas have sharp spines covering the back of their short, stocky bodies.

For most of the year echidnas are solitary animals, although each animal's territory is large and often overlaps with that of other echidnas. During the breeding season they probably use their fine sense of smell to locate one another. Echidnas are usually found among rocks, in hollow logs and in holes among tree roots. During rainy or windy weather they often burrow into the soil or shelter under bushes and tussocks of grass.

With a keen sense of smell, an echidna uses its long, hairless snout to search for food, detect danger and locate other echidnas. Termites are the preferred food, which is why the animal is often called the 'spiny anteater'. After finding food, an echidna catches the prey with its long, sticky tongue. Because it has no teeth, it grinds its food between its tongue and the bottom of its mouth. In warm areas, echidnas feed during the cooler morning and evening hours, and sleep during the heat of the day. In southern Australia, they often stop eating during the colder months and then eat large amounts during spring.

If you see an Echidna (or their scats) there is a simple smart phone app ‘EchidnaCSI’ that can be used to record them. Citizen Science observations are an important contribution to research, to help understand echidnas and their behaviour.


The platypus population in Knox is small but very significant. Their growing presence in our waterways is a strong indication of the improving health of the environment where they live.

Platypuses have thick brown fur, which traps an insulating layer of air next to their skin. Males grow to a length of about 60cm, females 50cm. Males have a venomous spur on the inside of their hind leg.

The soft bill of the Platypus resembles that of a duck, but is covered with soft, leathery skin containing sensitive nerves that can detect faint electrical fields generated by the small aquatic animals that they prey on. This electroreception is unique among mammals.

Platypuses are most active early morning and late evening and spend most of the day in a burrow. The front paws are webbed and are used like paddles. When swimming, their eyes and ears are closed, and the sensitive bill sweeps from side to side searching for electrical impulses of their prey. Platypuses can stay underwater for several minutes and store food in their cheeks before coming to the surface to grind it up and swallow.

Echidna species and Platypus are the only animals in the Monotremata order: mammals that lay eggs.

Platypus rely on the health of the waterways in which they live. You can help preserve a healthy environment for Platypuses by using phosphate-free detergents and reducing or eliminating your use of plastic bags, which are deadly for the animals of our creeks, rivers and seas.

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