Echidnas and platypuses are the only monotremes - mammals that lay eggs - in the world.
Echidnas are common in the dry, open country of Tasmania's east coast. They are also found in open heathlands and forests and can sometimes be seen slowly wandering along roadsides with their characteristic rolling gait.
Echidnas are shy and move slowly and carefully. Tread quietly and you may be able to get quite close. If disturbed, echidnas will lower their head and with vigorous digging sink rapidly into the ground, leaving only their spines exposed. On hard surfaces they will curl into a ball.
Echidnas have poor vision but a good sense of hearing and smell. They are toothless, preferring a diet of ants, termites and other small invertebrates that they catch with a long sticky tongue.
The cream-coloured spines, which reach 50 millimetres (two inches) in length, are in fact modified hairs and cover the entire body apart from the underside, face and legs. Insulation is provided by fur between the spines. Like the platypus, males have a venomous spur on their hind legs.
Usually one egg is laid at a time and carried in the pouch for 10 to 12 days. Young are fed with milk secreted from areas of skin inside the pouch. When the spines develop after two months, the young are left in a concealed nest during the day.
Drive carefully... many cars are so low that they clip echidnas if driving over them. Drive around them if it is safe to do so.