Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Meet echidna - the strangest creature evah!

Here's a long-beaked echidna, one of the oldest, rarest, shyest, silliest-looking mammals on earth. They lay leathery eggs, as reptiles do, but then feed the so-called puggles that hatch with milk — though drizzled out of glands in the chest rather than expressed through nippled teats, and sometimes so enriched with iron that it looks pink. For reasons that remain mysterious, these monotremes have multiple sets of sex chromosomes, four or more parading pairs of XXs and XYs, or something else altogether: a few of those extra sex chromosomes look suspiciously birdlike. Another avianlike feature is the cloaca, the single orifice through which an echidna or platypus voids waste, has sex and lays eggs, and by which the group gets its name. Yet through that uni-perforation, a male echnida can extrude a four-headed penis. They are superior to humans at the other end of their bodies as well: Among humans, the neocortex that allows us to reason and remember accounts for 30 percent of the brain; in echidnas, that figure is 50 percent. And while we're on the subject, here's a short-nosed cousin: blowing a mucus bubble through his nose as he recovers at Taronga Zoo's wildlife clinic in Sydney from injuries received during a road accident. AFP PHOTO/Greg WOOD Source


manda said...

Awww I love them! We seem to find them everywhere where I live. We see them crossing the roads and the evidence of where they've been. They're fantastic little creatures! And even though they look quite prickly, are quite easy to handle when you know how.
The sad thing is, when their "beaks" are broken, whether buy a car accident or a dog attack, most of the time the damage is unreparable, and they have to be put to sleep. There are fantastic vets around now that are attempting a cement surgery to fix it, and it's worked a few times!!

Julie said...

I'd love to see one in the wild. I guess I'll have to visit Australia. Well, that's one reason anyway.