Echidna vs Hedgehog
Both echidna and hedgehog are much similar looking but different animals with some noticeable differences exhibited between them. It would be possible for any average person to assume that both echidnas and hedgehogs are members of the same taxonomic order and family, but they are not. Therefore, it would be interesting to know and clarify the uncertainties about these two, and this article presents valuable information for that.
Echidna, aka spiny anteater, is a unique animal among all the spiny-skinned mammals. They belong to the Order: Monotremata and the Family: Tachyglossidae. There are four echidna species described under two genera, and they range in Oceania (Australia and surrounding islands) and Southeast Asia. Usually, an echidna has a body length of 35 – 50 centimetres and the bodyweight could range from four to ten kilograms. Echidnas, being an egg-laying mammal, are very distinctive. Their speciality becomes more distinct with the presence of spines all over the body with coarse hair. They have an elongated but small snout that functions as both the mouth and nose. Inside their snout, the presence of over 2,000 electro receptors is unique to them. Their tiny mouth does not have teeth. Echidnas have short and strong limbs as adaptations for digging the ground. Their reproduction is interesting as males have a four-headed penis, and the female echidna lays eggs and deposits those inside her pouch until hatching. The hatchlings, aka puggles, feed on the oozing milk from mother’s milk patches inside the pouch, and remain there for about 45 days. Puggles have developed spines by the time of coming out of the mother’s pouch, and they live up to 16 years in wild.
Hedgehog is a spiny-skinned mammal, naturally ranging in Asia, Africa, and mainly in Europe. There are introduced populations in New Zealand. It is a much popular animal as a pet in many places. However, there are 17 hedgehog species described under in five genera of the Family: Erinaceidae and Order: Erinaceomorpha. They have hairs made up of stiff keratin structures, that act as spines, and the interior of these spines are hollow. Additionally, their spines are not poisonous or barbed as in porcupines and do not easily detached from the body. When they get excited, they can roll the body as the spines are directed outward as a strategy to prevent from the predators. Hedgehogs are primarily active in the night, but some are diurnal, as well. These highly vocal animals are omnivorous and mostly prefer to feed on insects, small mammals, snails, roots, and fruits. The gestation periods of the females vary 35 to 58 days depending on the species. Usually adult male kills the weak newborn male animals. However, their lifespan is about 4 – 7 years in wild and more in captivity. They have been useful for humans as a pet as well as in pest controlling.
What is the difference between Echidna and Hedgehog?
• These two belong to two different taxonomic families and orders as described above.
• The diversity is more than four times higher among hedgehogs with 17 species compared to echidnas (four species).
• Natural range of hedgehogs is Asia, Africa, and Europe whereas echidnas are predominantly distributed in the Oceania and some Southeast Asian countries.
• The density of the spines on the skin is very high in hedgehogs but low in echidnas.
• Echidnas lay eggs, but hedgehogs deliver complete offspring.
• Echidna has more than 2,000 electro receptors inside the mouth, but not in hedgehogs.
• Lifespan in wild is higher in echidna, it has 16 years, but it is only 4 – 7 years for hedgehogs.