Spatial ecology of a ubiquitous Australian anteater, the short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus)
Nicol, SC and Vanpe, C and Sprent, J and Morrow, G and Andersen, NA, Spatial ecology of a ubiquitous Australian anteater, the short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus), Journal of Mammalogy, 92, (1) pp. 101-110. ISSN 0022-2372 (2011) [Refereed Article]
The only specialized ant-eating mammal in Australia and New Guinea is the egg-laying short-beaked echidna
(Tachyglossus aculeatus), and this single species occurs throughout Australia in a wide range of habitats.
Despite the diversity of habitats and density and distribution of prey species, home-range sizes throughout
Australia seem remarkably similar. We radiotracked echidnas in a population in Tasmania over a 13-year period
and calculated home-range sizes using the fixed kernel method and the minimum convex polygon method. No
relationship was found between body mass and home-range size, and mean annual home-range size of males
(90% kernels) was 107 ha 6 48 SD, twice that of females (48 6 28 ha). Male home ranges overlapped
considerably and also overlapped with those of several females. The echidna follows the pattern seen in many
solitary eutherian mammals: both sexes are promiscuous, and males have larger home ranges than females.
Echidnas show a high degree of home-range fidelity but can make rare excursions out of their normal area.
Hibernating echidnas move between shelters during their periodic arousals, resulting in home-range sizes
similar to those of the active period. Consistent with their very low metabolic rate, echidnas have home-range
sizes considerably smaller than predicted for carnivorous or omnivorous mammals. Examination of data from
other ant-eating mammals shows that as a group anteaters not only have smaller than predicted home ranges but
they depart significantly from the normal relationship between home-range size and body mass.