Echidnas (World’s Weirdest Animals), by Marcia Zappa
One of the things that is not well understood is that weirdness is generally a sign of the oddness of creators, as opposed to the dull uniformity that comes from emergent processes lacking in design elements. Be that as it may, echidnas are certainly proper subjects of a series on odd and weird animals as they are certainly weird animals. For one, they are monotremes, egg-laying mammals, one of only three species (two of which are echidnas, the other being the platypus). In addition to having the egg laying which makes them odd, there are other aspects which make the echidna odd animals as well, including the look of their beaks (and the fact that it is made up of bone and is an integral part of its skeletal structure). And then there is the fact that echidnas are themselves animals whose identity is not known well and which is frequently confused with other species, such as the hedgehog or porcupine, and all of these things combined tends to make the echidna a natural animal when it comes to being an odd or strange one.
This book is a short book of 32 pages. It begins appropriately enough with a picture that shows the echidna as wildly weird, in part for its bald and prominent snout. After that comes a look at the bold bodies of the echidna with four legs splayed about and spines spiking through their fur that can be individually controlled by the echidna through muscles. This is followed by a look at the habitat of the echidna in Australia and New Guinea. Then comes a look at the life of the echidna as well as how it maintains safety against its few natural predators. The author then includes a look at the favorite foods, namely worms and insects, of the echidna, as well as the weird phenomenon of echidna trains by which a mating female is followed by as many as ten male echidnas who follow it around for days waiting for the chance to mate, which goes to the first in line at the end. This is followed by a discussion of echidna eggs, which are about the size of a dime coin, and the life cycle of echidnas, which include a lot of time spent as a puggle in a temporary pouch and then in a well-hidden burrow where the baby puggle eats for a couple hours every five days while the mother forages until the animal gets big enough to go out on its own at about seven months of life or so. This is followed by discussions about echidnas as being threatened animals, as many of them die as roadkill, a glossary, websites, and an index.