One of the most curious animals on our planet is the short-beaked echidna found in Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea. This animal is a monotreme, a mammal that lays eggs. The echidna and the duckbill platypus are the best-known animals in this grouping. Echidnas eat ants, so they are also known as spiny anteaters. What you probably don’t know is that echidnas are extremely sensitive to heat.
An echidna’s body temperature is normally 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit). If the environmental temperature hits 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit), it can be fatal for echidnas. This may sound like an impossible situation since Australia can be very hot, especially in the Dryandra Woodland and Boyagin Nature Reserve. That is where a large echidna population lives about 170 km (105 miles) south of Perth.
Research published in Biology Letters studied 124 echidnas to see how the animals could handle the heat since they can’t dissipate it by panting, sweating, or licking. The researchers found that echidnas blow bubbles from their noses. The bubbles burst and wet the nose tip. As the moisture evaporates, it cools the animal. The evaporation of water at 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit removes 540 calories per gram of water evaporated. Even though echidnas are extremely sensitive to heat, evaporation protects them from injury.
In addition to the bubble-blowing snout, echidnas have quills to protect them from predators. The echidna’s unique design is very difficult to explain by chance evolution. Instead, God has designed creatures to survive as they deal with the varied conditions around the planet. Everywhere we look, we see that a wonder-working hand has gone before.
— John N. Clayton © 2023
Reference: Biology Letters and “This egg-laying mammal blows bubbles to cool off” by Ashley Strickland posted on CNN World January 18, 2023