The Weird & Wild Echidna

Now this spiny, little, egg-laying marsupial could probably have done with it’s own OAP, but it’s got some crazy features that I just couldn’t pass up now that Hump Day is being celebrated again on Endangered Living. You know, that little lull in the middle of the week when you could just do with some interesting animal sex facts to get you through! Wait… is that just me? (NSFW, depending on the job, picture of an echidna penis at the bottom of this post)

Photo by Flickr user TonalLuminosity

Why is this crazy animal getting a Hump Day post instead of an OAP? Well thats because the fact that it lays eggs, is covered in spines, has a beak, and pouch for carrying young is not even the coolest thing about this species.

Male echidnas actually have a four-headed penis. Thats right. One shaft, four heads. Because the echidna just wasn’t feeling different enough.

Two of the four heads actually shut down during copulation, the fancy science word for sex, while the other two engorge so that they can alternate heads and try to inseminate as many females as possible!

Not only are they quick at getting back on their feet after copulation, but their sperm actually forms bundles which are faster than individual swimmers! So this helps them increase their chances of passing on DNA when they’re all competing for paternal privileges during one of their aptly named mating trains. During mating season males, sometimes more than dozen, will line up behind a female waiting for her to decide when she has mentally prepared herself for a month long assault of four headed penises. Maybe I’m just projecting, but I am feeling increasingly grateful that I’m not a female echidna.

Photo by Jeremy Fitzhardinge

They may also be the animals that inspired Sleeping Beauty! Okay, probably not, but if you’ve read the original and slightly horrifying original version, you’ll see why it’s so similar: Some male echidnas will wake up early from hibernation so that they can sneak into the den of a hibernating female and ‘sneak copulate’ (an actual scientific term) with a female and impregnate her before she even wakes up.

So let us pay homage to the echidna, a weird, weird creature with an even weirder sex life. And more than that, let us be grateful that we are not echidnas.

Extra fun fact: Baby echidnas are called puggles and are smaller than jelly beans when they hatch inside their mother’s pouches

Last warning! Echidna penis ahead! (ha.)





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