The Echidna
Australia's Enigma

by Peggy Rismiller

A fascinating look at this curious animal, its lifecycles, habitat,
and the contradictions of its continued existence.

What is an echidna? In addition to being the oldest surviving mammal on the planet (fossils have been found dating back 120 million years!), echidnas are a tenacious and versatile animal about which much is still being discovered. The Echidna tells the story of this intriguing creature, beginning with tribal legends of the Aboriginal people and progressing to the latest biological and scientific research being conducted today.

Native to Australia and New Guinea, echidnas, belonging to the order of monotremes, are a biological anomaly. Their physiology is a unique combination of mammalian, marsupial, and reptilian traits. For example, they are milk-producing but egg-laying; they have hair and spines; they nurture their young in a modified pouch; they have four appendages, but two of them point backwards! The Echidna not only reveals these facts and corrects common myths about echidnas, but also explains why these seemingly contradictory traits exist and how they have served to sustain the echidna through millions of years of biological and geological change.

Peggy Rismiller is the world's foremost echidna expert. Her knowledge of this animal and her quick wit have combined to create a text which will intrigue readers of all ages. It is accompanied by more than 100 outstanding, never-before-published color photographs of echidnas in their environment and observed by scientists and naturalists in and around the Pelican Lagoon Research and Wildlife Centre on Kangaroo Island, Australia. In this book see a newborn echidna, weighing in at approximately 1/3 of a gram, or 1/8 the weight of a dime; echidna young who can consume up to 40% of their own body mass at a single feeding; and even echidna mating trains, where up to 6 male echidnas follow one female, hoping to be the one selected for the lucky moment.

This animal tale is more than a collection of scientific data and unusual observations; The Echidna makes us consider how and why this peculiar creature who mingled with the dinosaurs has been such a survivor, and teaches us a greater lesson about endurance and sustainability in the world around us.


8 3/4 x 8 3/4 in., 128 pages
ISBN: 0-88363-788-X
$25.00 U.S., $34.00 Canada

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