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Echidna Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Wendy McDougal

Wendy has taught high school Biology and has a master's degree in education.

The echidna is one of the most unusual mammals on earth! It looks similar to a hedgehog but is set apart from most other mammals by one very unique feature. Read on to learn more!

One Unusual Mammal

See if you can answer this riddle: What looks like a hedgehog, eats like an anteater and lays eggs like a reptile? The answer is, the echidna! Pronounced ee-KID-nah, this creature is one of the most unusual mammals on earth. And we aren't kidding ya! In this lesson we will explore facts and features of the unique echidna.

Features of an Echidna

If you have ever seen a hedgehog, you can imagine what an echidna looks like. Although the echidna is larger, usually 12-30 inches in length, its body is also covered in spiky quills. These quills emerge from the animal's brown fur, and look and feel like very long fingernails! And they sure come in handy if danger is near. The echidna simply rolls into a pokey ball that no predator wants to mess with!

The spiky short-nosed echidna
Echidna

There are two types of echidnas: short-nosed and long-nosed. Both types have a tiny face with a long snout poking out, but the long-nosed echidna's snout is several inches longer than the short-nosed. Those long snouts have two large nostrils that help it sniff out its next meal.

What Does the Echidna Eat?

Tucked into the snout of the echidna is a very long, sticky tongue. The echidna uses its tongue to slurp up its favorite food: termites and ants! Does this sound like another animal you know of? That's right, the anteater. In fact, this way of eating has given the echidna a nickname: the spiny anteater! In addition, the long-nosed echidna loves worms. The echidna has short legs and powerful claws that are extremely effective at digging up those delicious morsels.

Echidna digging for food
Echidna

Here is another unusual fact: echidnas have no teeth! How do they chew their food? The echidna has a special secret weapon inside its mouth. Its tongue and mouth is covered in spines. Echidnas ''chew'' the small insects by grinding them with their tongue against the top of their mouth. It may sound uncomfortable to you, but it works for them!

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