Saturday, May 22, 2010

Creature Feature: Echidna

It's a porcupine! It's an anteater! It's...wait a sec, what the f*ck is that?!

The spiky fellow up there is a short-beaked echidna, AKA "spiny anteater." Like many of nature's weirdest creatures, it is native to Australia. A few other It shares the status of "weirdass egg-laying mammal" (or, for more science-y types, the order "Monotremata") with the platypus, but, due to it being slightly less ridiculous-looking, is not nearly as well-known.

Even though all echidnas may look the same to you, there are actually 2 extant genera of echidna and one extinct genus. They are primarily divided by area. The ones in the genus Zaglossis are native to the Guineas; the one most people know about, the short-beaked echidna, is the only member of the genus Tachyglossus.

If you have heard of the echidna, it was probably through Sonic the Hedgehog. That is about as much pop culture exposure as they get, despite being the most abundant native mammal in Australia.

I don't know WHAT genus this guy is in, but I hope it's one of the extinct ones.
At least nobody has taken advantage of the echidna's odd sexual aspects!

For the record, no, I have no idea why these little guys were named after a mythical 'mother of all monsters' character. The name "echidna" relates to snakes, not porcupines or anteaters. Maybe they were using it as a catch-all "OMG WTF IS THAT SPIKY THING?!" name.

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