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The life history of an egg-laying mammal, the echidna

Nicol, SC and Andersen, NA 2007 , 'The life history of an egg-laying mammal, the echidna' , Ecoscience, vol. 14, no. 3 , pp. 275-285 .

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Echidnas have a low metabolic rate, and energy expenditure is reduced even further by the use of torpor and hibernation. Thus echidnas appear to lie at the slow extreme of the fast-slow continuum, and this is reflected in many aspects of echidna life history: a long life, a long lactation period, and a single young which matures late. Reproductive activity occurs in mid-winter, shortly after arousal from hibernation. After a pregnancy of about 3 weeks the female lays a single egg into her pouch, which hatches after 10 – 11 days. Initially the young is incubated in the pouch before being left in the nursery burrow while the mother forages for ants, termites and other invertebrates. Lactation lasts for 150 - 200 days, the duration differing significantly between geographic regions. Growth rates during late lactation are very high, and, when weaned, the young has reached about 40% of adult mass. The young loses mass before entering its first hibernation, which extends from early autumn to late spring. The young echidna reaches adult mass after about 3 - 5 years.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Nicol, SC and Andersen, NA
Keywords: Echidna, egg-laying, growth, hibernation, life history, metabolic rate, monotreme.
Journal or Publication Title: Ecoscience
ISSN: 1195-6860
Additional Information:

Based on a paper presented at the symposium "Mammalian life histories: the basics revisited" held during the Ninth International Mammalogical Congress, Sapporo, Japan, August 1-5, 2005.

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