Echidnas are super cool!
This spiky mammal lays eggs. There are five monotremes – four of them are echidnas and the other mammal is the fascinating platypus. Echidnas have hard flat eyes and the claws on the hind limbs are curved backwards to help them dig burrows.
Yet, their snout, sometimes called a beak, is perhaps the most amazing thing.
Echidnas are electroreceptive!
This most fascinating creature has many electroreceptor cells in its snout. These are like little tracking cells that help echidnas trail the movements that their prey make when they are moving. The sniffs can detect even the tiniest muscle movements so that the echidna can capture their prey with razor accuracy.
Nearly all animals that can detect electric current are living in water, for example, sharks, rays, catfish and axolotls. Echidnas get all their food on land so it is a bit of a mystery why they have electroreceptors. Echidnas may detect the electric currents produced by ants and termites in wet and moist soil. But ants and termites try to avoid wet soil so echidnas might not catch a lot of food if they rely on their electroreceptor cells. Echidnas belong to the family Tachyglossidae, and their only living relative is the platypus. Some researchers have suggested that echidnas evolved from platypuses. Playtupuses also have electroreceptors but they have many more electroreceptors compared to echidnas – 40 000 compared to 400. Platypuses spend most of their time in the water.
Why not make some great drawings of this amazing creature while you are pondering over how you can use what you know to invent the most fantastic sniff detector or . . .