Friday, February 20, 2015

Extreme Monotremes - pt. 1: The Echidna

Valentine's Day is over and (can you believe it?) springtime is almost here! I can't believe it myself. Anyway, I thought I'd do an animal article today because...well, I love animals...which you probably are already pretty aware of if you've been reading my blog for a while. Also, I am not sure if I've reported this already or not, but my family and I are doing another theatrical drama for Easter! It's called Victory at the Cross and unlike the other Easter drama, The King on a Cross, it goes beyond the epic account of Christ's crucifixion. This drama also takes place in the 21st century and the audience will be introduced to three people who's lives were changed upon accepting Jesus Christ. These three testimonies were not invented by the writer of this drama (who is yours truly, by the way), but are actual things that happened to three people we know from our church. Pretty cool, huh? But wait, it gets better! The crucifixion scenes will be filmed on location in the Arizona desert and shown upon a big screen in the theater we're using for the drama! That's awesome!

Days till:
It is: 25 days till St. Patrick's Day
It is: 40 days till April Fool's Day
It is: 59 days till Patriots Day

In the Spotlight:
Another great thing about the upcoming Jurassic World finally due for release is that in addition to a great video game to accompany it, it will also be accompanied by several brands of toys, some of which I've already shown on this blog. Here are some of Hasbro's toys from the JW line.

The dreaded Indominus rex!

Rexy, everyone's favorite Tyrannosaurus rex!


I can almost hear the Jurassic Park theme music with this Hasbro set!

This might be an Allosaurus, or a Metriacanthosaurus. We are unsure as of yet.

Will Ceratosaurus appear in Jurassic World?

Rumor has it that Dilophosaurus will be seen in Jurassic World.

Mosasaurus, the awesome giant marine lizard, will be a star attraction in Jurassic World.
Pachycephalosaurus, which we haven't seen since The Lost World: Jurassic Park, will make a reappearance into the franchise in Jurassic World.

Among these awesome Hasbro dinosaurs are some stunning releases of Jurassic World Lego sets! How exciting! These sets are said to be based on key scenes from the movie, so they might hint at what we can expect to see when the movie is released (however, I doubt they reveal any major plot spoilers). Here are the Lego sets below:
Dilophosaurus Ambush

Could this set reveal Dilophosaurus has a major scene in the film?
Pteranodon Capture

It looks like Simon Masrani has a big action scene coming up featuring a Pteranodon!
Raptor Rampage

The raptors in this set are two of Owen's raptor squad: Blue and Delta. Are they attacking the vehicle Claire is driving or are these clever girls up to something else?
T. rex Tracker

When the T. rex escapes, someone has to track her down and put her back where she belongs!
Indominus Rex Breakout

"So you just went and made a new dinosaur? Probably not a good idea." - Owen Grady

In additional news, via the movie's Instagram, the full names of two characters have been revealed: Owen Grady and Claire Dearing.

Topic of the Week by Christian Ryan

Monotremes, such as the echidna, are some of the weirdest mammals on the planet!
Mammals have a certain set of features that we use to tell them apart from other animals. Mammals:

  • Give birth to live young
  • Nurse their babies with their mother's milk
  • Have hair
  • Are endothermic (warm-blooded)

This is typically how mammals are defined. But several animals break these rules – either a mammal will have features that are not known to most other mammals, or other animals that are not mammals have one or more features usually attributed to mammals (e.g. pigeons produce a milk-like liquid to feed their young). This is definitely the case with two of God's most peculiar creations: monotremes! Monotremes are mammals with very un-mammal-like features that, today, only exist in Australia in the wild. While several species used to exist on the planet, the only two living types today are the echidna and the platypus. Perhaps the strangest difference between monotremes and other mammals is that instead of giving birth to live young, they lay eggs! This first part of my series will be all about the echidna.

The echidna is one of only two living mammals that lay eggs.
Despite often being referred to as the “spiny anteater”, echidnas are not related to anteaters. They're rather small, stretching 14-30 inches long (that's about a 1-2 ½ feet long) and weighs 5.5-22 pounds. Upon looking at the echidna, the first thing you're likely to see are the prickly spines covering its body; at first glance, you might mistake it for a hedgehog or a porcupine, but the echidna is unrelated to them as well. Echidnas also have a long, slender snout and sharp claws on their feet for digging. As a land-dwelling creature, we know that God created this “extreme monotreme” on the 6th day of the Creation week, about 6,000 years ago as recorded in the first chapter of the Bible's book Genesis. Echidnas get their name from “Echidna”, the Mother of Monsters straight from Greek mythology. In Greek mythology, “Echidna” is half-woman, half-snake, sort of like how the echidna has features of other animals, despite being a mammal.

There are two types of echidna throughout the continent of Australia and on the islands of Tasmania and New Guinea alive today: the long-beaked echidna and the short-beaked echidna. The difference between the two is rather distinct and not hard to figure out:

The long-beaked echidna

The short-beaked echidna, which will be the echidna species we will mainly focus on.
The echidna is not very picky about where it lives and is often found in deserts, forests, highland areas and woodlands. However, they don't like harsh weather; when unfavorable weather conditions do occur, echidnas hide in caves or rock crevasses to use as shelter. They also use the burrows of other animals, such as wombats or rabbits. Technically, these mammals are solitary, only living with other echidnas when raising young (though they do come together for mating, obviously), they aren't anti-social and have overlapping territorial ranges. Here's another interesting fact about echidnas: they're not warm-blooded! At least, they're not warm-blooded in the sense of most mammals. But they're not cold-blooded either. In fact, they're classified as mesotherms. Mesothermic animals are rather rare today, but, by a more layman definition, are animals rather in between warm and cold-blooded. Great white sharks, leatherback sea turtles and quite possibly dinosaurs are mesotherms. Unlike warm-blooded animals, their body temperature doesn't stay generally the same (it tends to fluctuate), but they also have some control over how much energy they use to create heat for their bodies.

The short-beaked echidna lives throughout Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania.
As their nickname, “spiny anteater” might suggest, echidnas are insectivores. Like so many animals, the first thing on an echidna's mind in the morning is finding food. However, this creature's tiny eyes give it poor eyesight. Therefore, as it is mostly unable to use its sight to find its next meal, it uses its acute sense of smell. It also uses its sensitive snout. On the long-billed echidna's snout are 2,000 electroreceptors, and the short-billed echidna has 400 electroreceptors on its snout. Electroreceptors are used by several types of animals to pick-up the electrical fields given off by other animals. An echidna can sense the electric field of its favorite food and home in on it in a flash!

The short-beaked echidna has 400 electroreceptors on its snout in order to detect its food!
What do echidnas like to eat, anyway? Long-billed echidnas prefer to snack on worms and insect larva. Short-billed echidnas on the other hand like eating ants and termites, hence their informal name. Once finding an ant or termite nest, a short-billed echidna uses its sharp hand claws to rip it open. Since it lacks teeth, it has a long, sticky tongue in order to lap up its food. Its tongue can be six inches long! The long-billed echidna also uses its tongue to collect food, but its tongue is covered in tiny spikes to ensure the prey does not escape. Yikes!

The skull of the long-beaked echidna is designed to contain that six-inch tongue. Like an anteater, the tongue helps the animal slurp up insects.
As a monotreme, the echidna lays eggs instead of giving birth to live young like most mammals do. At the end of her three to four week gestation period, the mother echidna will lay a single egg (occasionally two or three eggs are laid). The jelly bean-sized, 0.02-ounce baby, called a puggle, hatches ten days later. And as if this mammal wasn't weird enough, the puggle is kept in a pouch (like kangaroo joeys!) until it grows spines. The spines do not grow in until the puggle is about 53 days old; after spines grow in, the mother keeps her baby in a burrow. Amazingly, this little puggle is already capable of holding onto its mother's hair in the pouch using tiny, transparent claws. Most mammals feed their babies milk from their teats, something the mother echidna lacks. Instead, the milk just oozes through the skin out of special glands in her pouch. After the baby is dependent of its mother's pouch, the mother echidna continues to return to the burrow every five to ten days for a feeding until the baby is ready to go off on its own at 7 months of age.

One cannot look at the echidna without eyeing those prickly quills!
Echidnas are rather long-lived for an animal of their size, living up to 58 years old in zoos (the lifespan of wild animals is unknown), but this is only so long as they can stay safe from predators! For protection, you probably guessed they use their sharp quills. They tend to take great care of their quills, often using their claws to remove insects and dirt that might be stuck in the quills. Predators of the echidna include dingoes, foxes, goannas and domestic dogs and cats. Fortunately, God created echidnas with all the necessary tools to defend themselves. Sometimes, echidnas will dig themselves into the ground until only their quills are exposed. Other times, they will simply curl themselves up into a spiny ball. No predator wants a mouthful of quills, so they leave the echidna alone. Despite its appearance, the echidna is an accomplished swimmer and tree climber if the need to do these activities arose.

Echidnas will curl up into a spiky ball if threatened by a predator.
Spiky, ant-and-termite eating, egg-laying and just plain weird, the echidna wonderfully demonstrates what our amazing God can create out of nothing more than...well, nothing! In the second part of this series, we will look at the other monotreme: the platypus!

Put a fedora on him and this short-billed echidna looks ready to become Perry the Platypus' sidekick!


DisclaimerMany (or in some cases all) of the photographs and images above are not mine. If you own one or more of them and would like them to be removed, please kindly let me know.

No comments:

Post a Comment