Short-beaked Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus)

Today’s UNE Natural History Museum ‘Lockdown Specimen of the Day’ is the Short-beaked Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus).
This wonderful old display specimen from the UNE Natural History Museum is a teaching tool that has allowed generations of students to see the forelimb structure and pectoral girdle of the short-beaked echidna – Australia’s only echidna species, and one of two monotremes (egg-laying mammals) that occur here. The forelimbs are really interesting for a number of reasons – first, you can see that great excavating machinery that allows echidnas to tear into termite mounds and underground ant galleries. But most interesting of all, it shows how monotremes move with limbs splayed out to the side – more like a lizard, rather than limbs under the body – such as in a cat. This illustrates the ancient reptilian ancestry of all mammals, in line with their egg-laying peculiarity, and other reptile-like feature of monotremes, such as a cloaca – fun fact: ‘Monotremata’ literally means ‘one hole’ – not something you perhaps want to be named after!