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The life history of an egg-laying mammal, the echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus)


Nicol, SC and Andersen, NA, The life history of an egg-laying mammal, the echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus), Ecoscience, 14, (3) pp. 275-285. ISSN 1195-6860 (2007) [Refereed Article]

DOI: doi:10.2980/1195-6860(2007)14[275:TLHOAE]2.0.CO;2


Echidnas have a low metabolic rate, and energy expenditure is reduced even further by the use of torpor and hibernation. Thus, echidnas appear to lie at the slow extreme of the fast-slow continuum, and this is reflected in many aspects of echidna life history: a long life, a long lactation period, and a single young that matures late. Reproductive activity occurs in mid-winter, shortly after arousal from hibernation. After a pregnancy of about 3 weeks the female lays a single egg into her pouch that hatches after 10-11 d. Initially, the young is incubated in the pouch. Later, it is left in the nursery burrow while the mother forages for ants, termites, and other invertebrates. Lactation lasts for 150-200 d, the duration differing significantly between geographic regions. Growth rates during late lactation are very high, and, when weaned, the young has reached about 40% of adult mass. The young loses mass before entering its first hibernation, which extends from early autumn to late spring. The young echidna reaches adult mass after about 3-5 years.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Population ecology
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in the environmental sciences
UTAS Author:Nicol, SC (Associate Professor Stewart Nicol)
UTAS Author:Andersen, NA (Dr Niels Andersen)
ID Code:49445
Year Published:2007
Web of Science® Times Cited:32
Deposited By:Zoology
Deposited On:2007-08-01
Last Modified:2009-09-24

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