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What are Echidnas?

How much do we really know about these strange looking creatures?

In this classic Bondi Vet clip, Dr. Chris Brown is introduced to an alien like creature while visiting Tim Faulkner at the Australian Reptile Park - The puzzled vet has a seemingly simple mission: to work out what on earth this tiny creature is. The answer is an adorable, yet strange looking, baby echidna.

Echidnas are native Australian mammals belonging to the Tachyglossidae family. Similar to platypuses, they are one of five species of egg-laying mammals otherwise know as monotremes.

These strange looking creatures appear similar to porcupines. Echidna’s backs are covered in tiny spikes, which are used to protect themselves when in danger. Echidnas have a long beak, with electroreceptors at the tip to assist when searching for food. Their snouts are also used to break up termite banks and ant mounds, which they feed on using their long, sticky tongue.

As well as tiny insects, baby echidnas feed on their mother’s milk, which comes from the mammary gland. As seen with the baby echidna orphan in the clip, the palm of a person’s hand is a good way to depict a mother’s mammary gland for feeding purposes.

The baby echidna in the video, also know as a puggle, is kept inside an esky. This is because echidnas do not cope well in high temperatures. When they aren't hiding away in the cool temperatures of a burrow, echidnas are typically found hidden beneath vegetation or under roots.

Although echidnas are generally land animals, they are also talented swimmers who like to bathe in water.

As seen in the video baby echidnas, look very different to fully-grown echidnas. Their spines have yet to develop, leaving them hairless and quite unusual looking. In the wild, the lack of hair allows the mother echidna to carry the puggles safely in her pouch until they become too spiky to carry around.

FACT OF THE DAY: The echidna is one of Australia’s most extraordinary native animals, which can also be found on the five-cent coin.

For more information on Australian wildlife, don’t forget to tune into Bondi Vet, 6:30pm Saturday on Channel Ten.