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Spiny Anteaters

Spiny Anteaters

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The spiny anteaters, or echidnas, make up four of the five species in the order Monotremata. These are primitive mammals that lay eggs like reptiles, but have hair and suckle their young. One species of spiny anteater, Tachyglossus aculeatus, lives in Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea. The other three species (in the genus Zaglossus spp.) live only in New Guinea (further study may actually find them to be one species). The sixth monotreme species is the platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus ), which bears little resemblance to the spiny anteaters, apart from the egg-laying characteristic.

Monotremes lay eggs and have an internal bone structure for limbs that emerge from the sides of their body. These features are similar to those of reptiles. Also, like reptiles (as well as birds), they have a cloaca, or a single chamber into which the intestine, bladder, and reproductive organs all empty. However, monotremes also have hair, produce milk, and are warm-blooded. Their ability to keep their body temperature constant is not always very successful, so these animals may hibernate during cool weather.

A small organ located on the hind legs of the male gave the spiny anteaters their name of echidna, which means adder, because it is connected to a poison gland. However, the fluid is not really very poisonous, and the animals are more likely to try to escape by digging when in danger. Spiny anteaters have powerful claws that let them furiously dig dirt, sending it flying sideways. As they do this they appear to sink into the ground, their back protected by tough, sharp spines.

A spiny anteater looks very much like a porcupine, and is often given that common name because it has numerous yellow-colored spines covering its brown furred body. Unlike porcupine spines, however, those of the spiny anteater do not have barbs that catch in the skin. When in danger, the 30-in (76 cm) long spiny anteater will often curl up into an impenetrable ball. Its face leaves no doubt that it is not a porcupine, being stretched forward into a slender, hairless snout with nostrils on the end. The tiny mouth, located on the bottom of the snout, opens only wide enough for a long, sticky tongue to emerge and haul in its food of termites and ants. A spiny anteater has no teeth. Instead, it chops up the tough bodies of its insect prey by smashing them against the roof of its mouth with its spiny tongue.

One New Guinea species (Zaglossus bruijni ) has an especially long and slightly curved snout, and is called the long-beaked or long-nosed echidna. It has so much hair that its whitish spines are not readily visible. The tongue of this endangered species may be 12 in (30.5 cm) long.

Unlike marsupials, spiny anteaters have a pouch only during the breeding season, when an extra fold of skin develops. The female lays one leathery-shelled egg, which she places into the pouch. It soon hatches into a partially developed baby, only about half an

inch long. The tiny offspring laps milk directly off the mothers fur, because monotremes have no nipples. The infant resides in the pouch only until its spines begin to grow and annoy the mother. It is then left in a hidden spot, where it continues to suckle and grow, and may hibernate. Spiny anteaters have been known to live in captivity as long as 50 years.

Resources

BOOKS

Augee, M.L., ed. Platypus and Echidnas. Mosman, Australia: Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, 1992.

Augee, M.L., and B. Gooden. Echidnas of Australia and New Guinea. Kensington, Australia: New South Wales University Press, 1993.

Kerrod, Robin. Mammals: Primates, Insect-Eaters and Baleen Whales. New York: Facts on File, 1988.

Nowak, Ronald M. Walkers Mammals of the World. 6th ed. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.

Rismiller, P.D. The Echidna: Australias Enigma. Southport, CT: Hugh Lauter Levin Associates, 1999.

Jean F. Blashfield

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Tachyglossidae

Tachyglossidae (echidna, spiny ant-eater; subclass Prototheria, order Monotremata) A family of insectivorous monotremes, now recognized as being more closely related to the placental mammals (see EUTHERIA) than to the platypus (see ORNITHORHYNCHIDAE), in which the limbs are modified for digging, the body is covered with hair modified except on the belly into barbless spines, the snout is long, and the tongue is long, sticky, and has horny serrations that grind against ridges in the palate. There are no teeth, and the lower jaw is much reduced. Echidnas occur only in Australia and New Guinea. There are two species, in two genera, Tachyglossus and Zaglossus; a third genus, Megaloglossus, is known from the Pleistocene.

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Spiny Anteaters

Spiny anteaters

The spiny anteaters , or echidnas, make up five of the six species in the order Monotremata. These are primitive mammals that lay eggs like reptiles but have hair and suckle their young. One species of spiny anteater, Tachyglossus aculeatus, lives in Australia , Tasmania, and New Guinea. A second, T. setosus, is slightly larger and resides only in Tasmania. The other three species (in the genus Zaglossus spp.) live only in New Guinea (further study may actually find them to be one species). The sixth monotreme species is the platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus), which bears little resemblance to the spiny anteaters, apart from the egg-laying habit.

Monotremes lay eggs and have an internal bone structure for limbs that emerge from the sides of their body. These characteristics are similar to those of reptiles. Also, like reptiles (as well as birds ), they have a cloaca, or a single chamber into which the intestine, bladder, and reproductive organs all empty. However, monotremes also have hair, produce milk, and are warm-blooded. Their ability to keep their body temperature constant is not always very successful, so these animals may hibernate during cool weather .

A small organ located on the hind legs of the male gave the spiny anteaters their name of echidna, which means "adder," because it is connected to a poison gland. However, the fluid is not really very poisonous, and the animals are more likely to try to escape by digging when in danger. Spiny anteaters have powerful claws that let them furiously dig dirt, sending it flying sideways. As they do this they appear to sink into the ground, their back protected by tough, sharp spines.

A spiny anteater looks very much like a porcupine, and is often given that common name because it has numerous yellow-colored spines covering its brown furred body. Unlike porcupine spines, however, those of the spiny anteater do not have barbs that catch in the skin. When in danger, the 30-in (76 cm) long spiny anteater will often curl up into an impenetrable ball. Its face leaves no doubt that it is not a porcupine, being stretched forward into a slender, hairless snout with nostrils on the end. The tiny mouth, located on the bottom of the snout, opens only wide enough for a long, sticky tongue to emerge and haul in its food of termites and ants . A spiny anteater has no teeth. Instead, it chops up the tough bodies of its insect prey by smashing them against the roof of its mouth with its spiny tongue.

One New Guinea species (Zaglossus bruijni) has an especially long and slightly curved snout, and is called the long-nosed echidna. It has so much hair that its whitish spines are not readily visible. The tongue of this endangered species may be 12 in (30.5 cm) long.

Unlike marsupials , spiny anteaters have a pouch only during the breeding season, when an extra fold of skin develops. The female lays one leathery-shelled egg, which she places into the pouch. It soon hatches into a partially developed baby, only about half an inch long. The tiny offspring laps milk directly off the mother's fur, because monotremes have no nipples. The infant resides in the pouch only until its spines begin to grow and annoy the mother. It is then left in a hidden spot, where it continues to suckle and grow, and may hibernate. Spiny anteaters have been known to live in captivity as long as 50 years.


Resources

books

Kerrod, Robin. Mammals: Primates, Insect-Eaters and BaleenWhales. New York: Facts on File, 1988.

Jean F. Blashfield

Cite this article
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  • Chicago
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"Spiny Anteaters." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Spiny Anteaters." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/spiny-anteaters

"Spiny Anteaters." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Retrieved September 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/spiny-anteaters

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.