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Each time it copulates, it alternates heads in sets of two.It is a challenge to study the echidna in its natural habitat and they show no interest in mating while in captivity.Breeding season begins in late June and extends through September.Males will form lines up to ten individuals long, the youngest echidna trailing last, that follow the female and attempt to mate. When they feel endangered they attempt to bury themselves or if exposed they will curl into a ball similar to that of a hedgehog, both methods using their spines to shield them.Contrary to previous research, the echidna does enter REM sleep, but only when the ambient temperature is around 25 °C (77 °F).At temperatures of 15 °C (59 °F) and 28 °C (82 °F), REM sleep is suppressed. The mother digs a nursery burrow and deposits the young, returning every five days to suckle it until it is weaned at seven months.They have very short, strong limbs with large claws, and are powerful diggers.
The echidnas' sex can be inferred from their size, as males are 25% larger than females on average.
They have elongated and slender snouts that function as both mouth and nose.
Like the platypus, they are equipped with electrosensors, but while the platypus has 40,000 electroreceptors on its bill, the long-beaked echidna has only 2,000 electroreceptors, and the short-beaked echidna, which lives in a drier environment, has no more than 400 located at the tip of its snout.
The reproductive organs also differ, but both sexes have a single opening called a cloaca, which they use to urinate, release their faeces and to mate.
Due to their low metabolism and accompanying stress resistance, echidnas are long-lived for their size; the longest recorded lifespan for a captive echidna is 50 years, with anecdotal accounts of wild individuals reaching 45 years.