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Body mass, age and sexual maturity in short-beaked echidnas, Tachyglossus aculeatus.

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  • 1Department of Anatomical Sciences, University of Adelaide, Adelaide SA 5005, Australia.


During the course of this 12 year field study body masses of 11 hatchling echidnas (Tachyglossus aculeatus multiaculeatus) and 25 pouch young between the ages of 5 and 60 days were recorded. Body mass increased from 0.3 to approximately 50 g in the first half of pouch life. It then quadrupled before young were placed in a burrow at 45 to 55 days of age. There was a positive correlation between the body mass of the female and that of her young at weaning. From 33 subadult echidnas located, tagged and radio tracked during this study, body masses of 10 were monitored to sexual maturity, i.e. when first encountered in a courtship train. Minimum age of sexual maturity ranged between 5 and 12 years. As subadults, there was no difference between mean body masses of males and females. At sexual maturity, mean body mass of females was significantly higher. No correlation was found between age at sexual maturity and body mass nor was there a significant difference in age of males and females at sexual maturity.

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