Species: Eastern long-beaked echidna (Zaglossus bartoni)
Status: Critically Endangered (CR)
Interesting Fact: The eastern long-beaked echidna is a monotreme, so unlike most mammals it actually lays eggs instead of giving birth to live young.
The eastern long-beaked echidna looks remarkably like a hedgehog with an elongated snout. Its diet consists almost entirely of earthworms. Using an excellent sense of smell, the echidna can track down prey in dense undergrowth and uses its probing snout to root them out of the leaf letter. It’s long, thin and flexible tongue is covered in a sticky secretion, and instead of teeth it has horny spines at the back of the mouth to grind up prey.
A solitary and nocturnal creature, the eastern long-nosed echidna will dig large burrows to shelter in. When threatened, the echidna can curl up into a ball, showing only spines to a potential predator. A single egg is laid into a pouch on the mothers abdomen. After hatching, the spineless young will continue to grow and develop in the pouch for 6 to 8 weeks, feeding on milk from the mother’s mammary glands.
Intensive hunting, combined with a loss of habitat has pushed the eastern long-beaked echidna into a precarious position. The key populations of this species are now restricted to the highest parts of New Guinea’s mountains. Few conservation measures are currently in place. It is, however, on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) which means that international trade in this species is carefully monitored.
Discover more about the eastern long-beaked echidna on the ZSL Edge of Existance website.
Lauren Pascoe, ARKive Media Researcher