What the blazes have we got here then? Many moons ago if one wanted to bag a new species it was simple… make it up. Get on a boat and bob round to some hitherto unknown bit of the planet, and if you don’t find something smashing you could treat yourself to some port and stilton have a snooze and sketch down whatever you dreamed up. Despite looking like some snoozy apparition of a rakish naturalists of yore, this chap is in fact bonafide.


The echidna lays eggs like a bird, has a pouch like a kanga-roo, and feeds its young with milk like a mammal, making this beaky spiky milky fellow a rather special addition to the collection. The echidna, both short- and long-beaked, along with the duck-billed platypus, make up the three surviving monotremes. These monotremes (meaning “one hole”) are so-called as they have a cloaca. The cloaca, as discussed previously, is used to drop everything out: waste, babies, and whatnot. Having said that, a cloaca is not the only thing this curious bunch have in common with birds. These mammals actually lay eggs—a rather odd behavior from our warm-blooded brethren until we note that their young puggles, yes their young are called puggles, are fed with milk.

The breeding rituals of the echidna are really rather magnificent. Once a female is nearly ready to take a mate she begins omitting pher- omones that are irresistible to the males, and for over a month a train of wanton suitors begin to follow her around. This convoy of up to eleven males will trot along after her until the day she finally decides she is ready for some action. A rut forms among the males, and they gently jostle each other for hours, all the while creating a deep donut shaped trench around the female. Eventually, when a winner is decided, the game female moves into position and the winning- suitor unsheaths his four-headed penis ready for nuptials.

Which begs the question. Why with animals so bally bizarre did rakish early naturalists need to invent animals? Beggars belief.

Published in: on June 9, 2009 at 10:36 am  Leave a Comment  

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