Credit by Ekidna or Echidna © Pixabay
Ekidna of Papua: A mammal that lays eggs, spiny but not a hedgehog, has a beak but is not a bird, as a pouch but is not a kangaroo.
NATURE Indonesia

Ekidna of Papua: A mammal that lays eggs, spiny but not a hedgehog, has a beak but is not a bird, as a pouch but is not a kangaroo.

The island of Papua, located in the easternmost part of Indonesia, is home to a wide array of unique and fascinating creatures. Among these is the ekidna, a flightless bird that is found only on this island. The ekidna is a fascinating animal that is steeped in both scientific and cultural significance, and its uniqueness has made it a subject of interest for researchers and wildlife enthusiasts alike.

The ekidna may represent the weirdest animal in the world. A mammal that lays eggs. Breastfeeds but doesn't have nipples. Spiny but not a hedgehog. Has a beak but is not a bird. Has a pouch but is not a kangaroo.

Short-beaked Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) | Flickr  CC BY-NC 2.0
Short-beaked Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) | Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

The ekidna is a member of the genus Megapodius, which is a group of ground-dwelling birds that are native to the Australasian region. However, unlike other members of this genus, the ekidna is entirely flightless, and it has a number of other unique characteristics that set it apart from its relatives. For example, the ekidna has a distinctive bill that is slightly curved and very strong, which it uses to dig in the forest floor in search of insects, seeds, and other small prey.

One of the members of the Ornithorhynchidae family is the platypus [Ornithorhynchus anatinus]. Four members of the Tachyglossidae family are the short-beaked echidna [Tachyglossus aculeatus], eastern long-beaked echidna [Zaglossus bartoni], western long-beaked echidna [Zaglossus bruijnii], and the cyclops or Attenborough's long-beaked echidna [Zaglossus attenboroughi].

Long-nosed echidnas that are still found in Papua. Photo: Freddy Pattiselanno/FFI/Oryx—The International Journal of Conservation.
Long-beaked ekidnas that are still found in Papua | Freddy Pattiselanno/FFI/Oryx—The International Journal of Conservation.

Another interesting feature of the ekidna is its habit of building large mounds of soil and organic matter in which to lay its eggs. The ekidna is one of the few birds that rely on heat generated by decomposing organic matter to incubate its eggs. The bird will lay its eggs in a shallow hole, which it then covers with a layer of soil and organic matter. The heat generated by the decomposition process is enough to incubate the eggs, which hatch after several weeks.

The ekidna is also culturally significant to the people of Papua, who have long held the bird in high esteem. In local mythology, the ekidna is considered a sacred animal, and it is believed to be a messenger between the spiritual and physical worlds. The bird is also featured in traditional Papuan art, where it is depicted in carvings, paintings, and other forms of artistic expression.

Despite its cultural significance, however, the ekidna is facing a number of threats to its survival. Habitat loss and degradation, hunting, and predation by introduced species are all contributing to a decline in ekidna populations. In response to these threats, a number of conservation measures have been put in place, including the establishment of protected areas, habitat restoration projects, and education and outreach programs aimed at raising awareness about the importance of preserving this unique and fascinating bird.

Apart from Papua, the ekidna is not found anywhere else in Indonesia. However, it is found in various parts of Australia and in some areas of New Guinea. In Australia, it can be found throughout most of the mainland, Tasmania, and Kangaroo Island. However, it is absent from some areas of the country, such as the humid tropical and coastal areas of northern Australia. In New Guinea, it is found throughout most of the island, except for the highest elevations of the central mountain range.

The ekidna is a truly unique and fascinating bird that is found nowhere else in the world. Its distinctive physical characteristics and cultural significance make it a subject of interest for scientists and wildlife enthusiasts alike. However, the ekidna is also facing a number of threats to its survival, and it is important that we take action to preserve this remarkable species for future generations.


  1. Mongabay Indonesia. "Cara Unik Ekidna, Satwa Paling Aneh, Kenali Mangsa.", 3 May 2023,
  2. Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. "Short-Beaked Echidna.",
  3. Linnell, Madeleine A., et al. "Megapodius eremita (Aves: Megapodiidae), an early Holocene inhabitant of Timor-Leste, with implications for the megapode biogeography of the Lesser Sunda Islands." mSpecies, vol. 51, no. 980, 2020, pp. 75-83. Oxford Academic, doi: 10.1093/mspecies/seaa013.
  4. Phillips, Benjamin L., et al. "Egg incubation in monotremes and its implications for the evolution of incubation in amniotes." Biological Reviews, vol. 95, no. 1, 2020, pp. 115-134. Wiley Online Library, doi: 10.1111/brv.12804.
  5. Augee, M. L., et al. "Echidna: Extraordinary Egg-laying Mammals from Australia." Australian Journal of Zoology, vol. 51, no. 3, 2003, pp. 197-207. CSIRO Publishing, doi: 10.1071/ZO03003.


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