We all have tricks for keeping cool when it gets a bit too toasty out. Maybe it’s a wet cloth on our necks or a kiddie pool with some cold water for our feet. A spiny, egg-laying mammal found in Australia and New Guinea has its own tricks.
The echidna, which has a lower body temperature than most mammals, often deals with warm temperatures across its home range. Researchers at Curtin University in Perth, Australia, decided to use thermal vision to observe the species’ tactics for cooling down. Their findings were recently published in the journal Biology Letters.
Dr. Christine Cooper, lead author from Curtin’s School of Molecular and Life Sciences, says, “We observed a number of fascinating methods used by echidnas to manage heat and which allow the animal to be active at much higher temperatures than previously thought.”
Among these methods was blowing bubbles from their nose, which burst on the tip to wet it. The evaporation of that moisture then cools their blood. The team also learned that the echidnas’ spines serve as insulation to retain body heat, while the spineless areas of their body – on their underside and legs – can lose that heat.
Cooper explains that the animals can’t cool down in ways that other animals do, like panting, sweating, or licking, so it could be more challenging for them as global temperatures continue to rise. However, the research was able to show that they have their ways of managing.
Dr. Cooper says, “Our work highlights how technological advances that allow for non-contact study of animal physiology, such as the thermal vision used in this study, can give us a better understanding of the physiological capacity of animals in their natural environment.”
The echidna is one of only two mammals – the other being the platypus – that lay eggs. They also lack teeth, but their impressive tongues make up for it. Their tongues, which measure up to six inches, deftly snatch up ants, worms, termites, and insect larvae for a quick meal.Whizzco