All throughout Australia and the lowlands of New Guinea, you will find an abundance of the furry and spiny little shit that is the Echidna, also known as the spiny ant eater. It’s as rad as little creatures come; it comes fully equipped with a snout, a long tongue for eating, short little limbs with claws for digging, and an insanely terrifying penis. One of the only two monotreme species on Earth today, the echidna is a hardy guy, being described as an extant species, meaning “still alive” as compared to “extinct.” Extant is like a fancy word for an animal that scientists are just tired of.
“Sooo… the Echidna is still a thing.”
“Seriously? It’s still alive?”
Furry Little Ball of Spikey Death
Made up mostly of hair and spines, echidnae range from around 30 to 45 cm in length, a little less than twice the size of a bowling ball. They weigh somewhere between 2 and 5 kg, about two thirds that of a bowling ball. When stressed and on hard ground, they curl up into a shape resembling a bowling ball. Note: do not use echidnae as bowling balls. Not only it is highly ineffective (I didn’t try I just assume), it’s horribly rude.
When stressed and on soft ground, the echidna uses it’s perfectly designed claws (what-up to God) to burrow itself down into the ground and leave only it’s spiny body revealed above the dirt, shooing off any potential predators like eagles or Tasmanian devils (did you know those are actually a thing?). To eat, the echidna uses its claws to pry open logs and dig through ant nests to feast on the cuisine known as bugs in some circles and ew gross in people who need to grow up.
There are two kinds of echidnae, one with a long beak and one with a short beak. Both have tongues of about 15cm covered in a thick mucus to help pick up little bugs. Once inside the mouth, lacking teeth, the echidna crushes the bugs between hard plates in its jaw. Just like grandma when she takes her dentures out. Your grandma eats bugs, right? Yeah.
The echidna is one of two members of the monotreme family of animals, the other being the platypus. A monotreme is an egg-laying mammal and refers to the one hole for peeing, pooping, and sex stuff. When an echidna lays an egg, it holds it near it’s underbelly for a while until it hatches. The baby, called a puggle, hangs out there until it is old enough to grow its own spines, and then bursts out to the new world. Since the echidna is a monotreme animal, this means that it does not have nipples. It just, like, secretes milk out of these weird patches of skin and the puggle just drinks it up like it isn’t the grossest thing you’ve ever seen. Seriously the milk just wells up and makes the entire spot look like a giant pimple and the thing just DRINKS it.
A Penis From Your Nightmares
Four. Heads. The echidna penis has four heads. So imagine a dick, right. Then add three more heads to that dick in your mind. Here, look at it (super NSFW and super gross). Not only does it look like it can drag you straight to hell, it’s slightly prehensile, which means that it can totally grab your finger and stuff. That should be the main defense weapon for an echidna; the spines are old hat. The penis is where it’s at.
Lore: The Snake Lady
Echidnae take their name from a half snake half nymph known as Echidna, said to be the “Mother of all Monsters.” She was said to have spawned several famous monsters, such as Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guards the underworld, and the Chimera, the half goat half lion half snake mystical creature from your nightmares. It seems it can also be spelled Ekhidna, because English is stupid.
Prog Death Metal
Hey, what happens when you Google Echidna? You find a prog death metal band from Greece that shares a name with the animal you’re researching on the front page. Nothing has been posted to their site since July of 2012, so I can only assume the band is now defunct. But it is right to ask the question, did they take the name for their prog death metal band from Ekhidna, the mother of all monsters, or the echidna, the spiny furry animal that you totally shouldn’t use as a bowling ball. You can buy the CD from their site and find out yourself, if that’s your thing.
From not having nipples to guitars that are way too loud, the echidna is a thoroughly interesting animal. It continues to be a staple in Australian and New Guinea ecosystems and hopefully will be for many years to come. If you’d like to find out more about the echidna, you should go find one, because I’ve already given you all the information you’re going to find by just Googling it.