Friday, June 12, 2009

Two of a kind

I had never considered the echidna until my sister sent me this article on Wednesday. And I am here to tell you - and to show you why - they are as weird as they look! Only they and the platypus have the distinction of being monotremes, living links between reptiles and birds on one branch and placental mammals on another: both lay eggs; both have a single opening (a cloaca) through which they urinate, defecate, and reproduce; and both lack nipples, nursing their young through openings in the skin. And each animal has some equally strange characteristics~
  • It is one of the most pacifistic mammals.
  • It can erect the spines on its body and withdrawn its arms and legs to protect itself.
  • It has rows of spikes on its tongue instead of teeth.
  • The male has a four-pronged penis - have a look.

  • It swims with its eyes, ears, and nostrils closed, relying on electrosensory receptors to catch prey.
  • It eats half its body weight each day and stores excess fat in its tail.
  • The webbing folds under its feet to expose individual nails that allow them to run on land.
  • The male is equipped with a venomous spur that can deliver enough poison to kill a dog - see it here.
  • When the first specimen was brought to Europe, it was believed to be a hoax.
Monotremes are the oldest surviving mammalian group and can live 50 years or more. The genome of the platypus was decoded last year, but the long-beaked echidna was elusive until recently. Momotremes are loners and can withstand wide temperature extremes. And, as my sister was delighted to relay, their babies are referred to as "puggles"!

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