echid·​na | \ i-ˈkid-nə How to pronounce echidna (audio) \

Definition of echidna

: a spiny-coated toothless burrowing nocturnal monotreme mammal (Tachyglossus aculeatus) of Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea that has a long extensible tongue and long heavy claws and that feeds chiefly on ants also : a related mammal (Zaglossus bruijni) of New Guinea having a longer snout and shorter spines

Illustration of echidna

Illustration of echidna

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There are two species of echidna. Both are egg-laying mammals that are stocky and virtually tailless. They have strong-clawed feet and spines on the upper part of a brownish body. The snout is narrow and the mouth is small, with a tongue that is long and sticky for feeding on termites and ants, their chief food. New Guinea echidnas are 18–31 in (45–78 cm) long and piglike. Valued for their meat, they are declining in numbers. Echidnas of Australia and Tasmania are 14–21 in (35–53 cm) long. Echidnas exude milk from mammary openings on the skin, and the young lap it up.

Examples of echidna in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

For example, leading zoos around the world over the decades have managed to breed fewer than 50 echidnas — strange, egg-laying mammals that resemble hedgehogs. Rachel Nuwer, New York Times, "That Python in the Pet Store? It May Have Been Snatched From the Wild," 9 Apr. 2018 Working with the Taronga Zoo in suburban Sydney, Dr. Brandis has also tested the quills of captive and wild echidnas, in the hope of developing a similar tool that could identify animals that have been poached. New York Times, "Where Do Birds Flock Together? Australians Are Mailing In Feathers to Help Find Out," 21 Mar. 2018 Scientists say the samples can help them learn about echidna health, diet and stress levels. Mike Cherney, WSJ, "Scientists Want Regular People to Lend a Hand, Immediately Regret Asking," 8 Mar. 2018 Other notable animals include the platypus and echidna, both mammals that lay eggs. Andrea Rumbaugh, Houston Chronicle, "See unusual animals at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia," 12 Feb. 2018 After the kangaroos came milk formulas for echidnas (whose babies are called puggles), sugar gliders, wombats and other Australian native animals. Serena Solomon, New York Times, "Saving Koalas, and Other Marsupials, With Milk Almost as Good as Mom’s," 24 Feb. 2018 Fans of Sonic The Hedgehog are well acquainted with Knuckles, the red echidna made popular through a series of video games produced by Sega. Brett Molina, USA TODAY, "The Ugandan Knuckles, 'do you know de wey' meme explained," 9 Feb. 2018 The echidna, or spiny anteater, is a marvel of defensive self-preservation, from its impenetrable spikes to its amazing ability to breathe through bushfires., "Meet the Echidna, an Incredible, Fire-Proof Spiny Anteater," 30 Sep. 2017 Many birds lay white, unpigmented eggs—as do all lizards, turtles, crocodiles, and the only known egg-laying mammals, the platypus and the echidna. National Geographic, "Dinosaurs Laid Blue Eggs—And That's a Big Deal," 18 Sep. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'echidna.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of echidna

1832, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for echidna

New Latin, from Latin, viper, from Greek — more at ophitic

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The first known use of echidna was in 1832

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