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Animal Info - Long-beaked Echidna

(Other Names: 原针鼹, Bogoso, Domu, Echidné à Bec Courbe, Echidné à Nez Long, Echidné de Nouvelle-Guinée, Echidnos Narilargos, Egil, Equidna-de-Bruijn, Equidna de Nueva Guinea, Laimup, Langschnabeligel, Long-nosed Echidna, Long-nosed Spiny Anteater, Malabiso, Micun, Namakolo, Natafem, New Guinea Long-nosed Echidna, Saangi, Siaburu, Spiny Anteater, Yakeil)

Zaglossus bruijni

Status: Endangered


Contents

1. Profile (Picture)
2. Tidbits
3. Status and Trends (IUCN Status, Countries Where Currently Found, Population Estimates, History of Distribution, Threats and Reasons for Decline)
4. Data on Biology and Ecology (Weight, Habitat, Birth Season, Birth Rate, Early Development, Maximum Age, Diet, Behavior, Social Organization, Density and Range)
5. References


Profile

Pictures: Long-beaked Echidna #1 (9 Kb JPEG) (Czech Web Site); Long-beaked Echidna #2 (47 Kb JPEG) (Wildlife Images); Long-beaked Echidna #3 (38 Kb JPEG) (Terrambiente)

The long-beaked echidna weighs 6 - 16 kg (average 9 kg) (13 - 35 lb (average 20 lb)). It has spines of varying length interspersed with fur on its back, sides and tail. The snout is tubular with a very small mouth, through which the long tongue can be rapidly extruded and retracted. Its lack of teeth is compensated for by rows of "spikes" (horny teeth-like projections on the tongue). It is found in humid montane forests on New Guinea and is mainly nocturnal, feeding on earthworms and other invertebrates on the forest floor. It shelters in hollow logs, cavities under roots or rocks, and burrows. A female long-beaked echidna usually lays 1 egg into a pouch.

The long-beaked echidna is found in New Guinea (Indonesia (Irian Jaya) and Papua New Guinea), where it is widespread. However, it appears to be extinct in large areas of the Central Highlands, and it is absent from the trans-Fly plains and from most of northern New Guinea at altitudes below 1200m elevation, as well as all of the North Coast Range.

The long-beaked echidna has declined greatly in numbers where it interacts with man, and it is found only where human population densities are low. The major reason for its decline appears to have been traditional hunting - it is a highly prized game animal. Current threats include hunting with specially trained dogs and loss of forest habitat to logging, mining and farming.


Tidbits

*** "The echidnas possess some remarkable features. Perhaps most striking is their extraordinarily large and complex brains and relatively high intelligence, characteristics entirely unexpected in the world's most reptile-like mammals." (Flannery 1995)

*** The front of the long-beaked echidna's tongue is equipped with "spikes" located in a groove. The echidna probes with its long beak until the end of a worm is found. The tongue is then extruded and the worm hooked by these spikes. The worm and tongue are then withdrawn and the worm swallowed by muscular action of the tongue.

*** The echidnas and the duck-billed platypus differ from all other mammals in that they lay shell-covered eggs that are incubated and hatched outside of the body of the mother.

*** The spines on its body can be erected and its arms and legs withdrawn, as a hedgehog does.


Status and Trends

IUCN Status:

  • 1970's: Indeterminate
  • 1980's: Vulnerable
  • 1994: Endangered
  • 1996 - 2004: Endangered (Criteria: A1ac) (Population Trend: Decreasing) (IUCN 2004)

Countries Where the Long-beaked Echidna Is Currently Found:

2004: Occurs in Indonesia (Irian Jaya) and Papua New Guinea. (IUCN 2004)

Population Estimates:

[Note: Figures given are for wild populations only.]

History of Distribution:

As of 1983 the long-beaked echidna was found in New Guinea (Indonesia (Irian Jaya) and Papua New Guinea) and possibly on nearby Salawati Island. It is widespread in New Guinea, having been reported from both the western and eastern extremities of the island. However, it appears to be extinct in large areas of the Central Highlands, although it was hunted there within living memory, and it is absent from the trans-Fly plains and from most of northern New Guinea at altitudes below 1200m elevation, as well as all of the North Coast Range. It occurs in the Lorentz National Park and in the Arfak Mountains, Tamrau Selatan, and Salawati Utara Strict Nature Reserves.

Threats and Reasons for Decline:

The long-beaked echidna has declined greatly in numbers where it interacts with man, and it is found only where human population densities are low. The major reason for its decline appears to have been traditional hunting - it is a highly prized game animal. It appears to have declined in the Telefomin area over the past 20 years, at least partly because traditional taboos against eating it have begun to break down under missionary influence. Current threats include hunting with specially trained dogs and loss of forest habitat to logging, mining and farming.


Data on Biology and Ecology

Weight:

The female long-beaked echidna weighs 7.4 - 9.8 kg (average 8.6 kg; N = 2) (16 - 22 lb (average 19 lb)); males weigh 5.9 - 8.0 kg (average 7 kg; N = 8) (13 - 17 lb (average 15 lb)); and animals with undetermined sex have weighed 10 - 16.5 kg (average 13.3 kg; N = 4) (22 - 36 lb (average 29 lb)).

Habitat:

The long-beaked echidna has been reported from a wide variety of altitudes, including locations at sea level, in rainforest at 600 m (1970'), and at 4150 m (13,600'), where the area is comprised principally of alpine meadows.

It occurs in the Maoke Range Alpine Heathlands and the New Guinea Montane Forests Global 200 Ecoregions. (Olson & Dinerstein 1998, Olson & Dinerstein 1999)

Birth Season:

Reproductively active animals have been caught in July.

Birth Rate:

A female long-beaked echidna usually lays 1 egg into its pouch.

Early Development:

The eggs of the long-beaked echidna are soft-shelled and hatch after 10 days, whereupon the young remain in a pouch, dependent on the mother's milk for about 6 months.

Maximum Age:

At least 31 years (captivity).

Diet:

The long-beaked echidna is insectivorous. Its diet consists almost exclusively of earthworms. Termites and other worms are also eaten.

Behavior:

The long-beaked echidna is primarily nocturnal. It forages on the forest floor and is a powerful digger. In southern Chimbu, local people say that the long-beaked echidna digs short, shallow burrows with no nesting material inside. (Flannery 1995)

Social Organization:

The long-beaked echidna apparently is solitary.

Density and Range:

1.6 individuals/sq km (4.2 individuals/sq mi) of suitable habitat (data tabulated in 1982) (Cross 1997)


References

Arkive, Burton & Pearson 1987, Cross 1997, Czech Web Site, Flannery 1995, IUCN 1994, IUCN 1996, IUCN 2000, IUCN 2003a, IUCN 2004, Kennedy 1992, Macdonald 1984, Monash Univ., Nowak & Paradiso 1983, Olson & Dinerstein 1998, Olson & Dinerstein 1999, Terrambiente, WCMC/WWF 1997, Wildlife Images


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Last modified: January 9, 2005;

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