Overview

Distribution

Zaglossus attenboroughi is endemic to Papua, New Guinea. Sir David's long-beaked echidnas may once have been distributed along the North Coast Ranges, but they are now restricted to the tops of the Cyclops Mountains near Jayapura.

Biogeographic Regions: australian (Native )

Other Geographic Terms: island endemic

  • Flannery, T., C. Groves. 1998. Revision of the Genus Zaglossus (Monotremata, Tachyglossidae), with Description of New Species and Subspecies. Mammalia, 62/3: 367-396.
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Range Description

This species is known from one specimen collected in 1961 at 1,600 m asl, from a single mountain of Berg Rara in the Cyclops Mountains in extreme northern Papua Province, Indonesia. It has not been located in the adjacent mountain ranges of Torricelli and Bewani (there are fossil records from the Bewani range). It could be found in the Foja Range, which has not been adequately surveyed. An expedition to the Cyclops Mountains in May 2007 found evidence of the species (recent digging activity and burrows), and there was local knowledge of the species that implied its continued existence there, although no echidna was sighted (J. Baillie, in litt.). This expedition concluded that the species probably occurs also at lower elevations than previously thought; 166 to 1,600 m.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Sir David's long-beaked echidnas are the smallest echidna species, weighing 2 to 3 kilograms. The rostrum is approximately 70 mm long and is somewhat straighter than other echidna species. The short rostrum and their size makes them appear similar to short-beaked echidnas (Tachyglossus aculeatus). They have 5 claws on each foot and adult males have a small non-venomous spur on the inside of each ankle. Adult females lack these spurs. The fur is distinctive, short, fine, and dense, unlike other echidnas, and raw umber brown in color. There is short fur that covers the few spines on the middle back of this species. The spines are almost white and are most dense nearest the tail. Adults have no teeth, but the tongue is covered in teeth-like spikes. Like other Zaglossus species, they have no external genitalia; making sex determination difficult.

Range mass: 10 (high) kg.

Average mass: 2-3 kg.

Average length: 30 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

  • The Zoological Society of London. 2009. "EDGE: Mammal Species Information" (On-line). EDGE of Existence: Evolutionarily Distinct & Globally Endangered. Accessed January 27, 2012 at http://www.edgeofexistence.org/.
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Ecology

Habitat

Sir David's long-beaked echidnas live in forested mountainous areas of the Cyclops Mountains, an area of approximately 50 square kilometers.

Range elevation: 200 to 1700 m.

Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: rainforest ; mountains

  • Baillie, J., S. Turvey, C. Waterman. 2009. Survival of Attenborough's Long-beaked Echidna Zaglossus attenboroughi in New Guinea. Cambridge Journals, 43/1: 146-148.
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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
It is found in tropical montane moss forest. It is likely that this species lays eggs (given what is known of its congeners and from local reports) and the primary food is worms.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Trophic Strategy

It is mostly unknown what Sir David's long-beaked echidnas feed on in the wild, but it is thought that they feed on worms. Researchers have identified holes in the ground made by their rostra as they poke for food.

Animal Foods: insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; terrestrial worms

Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore , Eats non-insect arthropods, Vermivore)

  • Leary, T., L. Seri, T. Flannery, D. Wright, S. Hamilton, K. Helgen, R. Singadan, J. Menzies, A. Allison, R. James, K. Aplin, L. Salas, C. Dickman. 2011. "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species" (On-line). Zaglossus attenboroughi. Accessed January 27, 2012 at www.iucnredlist.org.
  • Phillips, M., T. Bennett, M. Lee. 2009. Molecules, Morphology, and Ecology Indicate a Recent, Amphibious Ancestry for Echidnas. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106/40: 17089-17094.
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Associations

Ecological roles of this species are completely unknown, as they have never been seen alive in the wild.

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It is unknown if Zaglossus attenboroughi has any natural predators.

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Sir David's long-beaked echidnas most likely relies on their sense of smell to find worms and larvae to eat. They use their beak to find food. Like other echidnas, they are likely to use electroreception to find food. They have electroreceptors on the tips of their snouts, which they can press to the ground or other objects to detect living organisms and to perceive the environment.

Forms of social communication are unknown in this species.

Communication Channels: tactile ; chemical

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; chemical

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Life Expectancy

The lifespan of Zaglossus attenboroughi is unknown.

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Reproduction

Not much is known about the reproductive or mating behaviors of Zaglossus attenboroughi because only one specimen has been found to date. It is unknown when these animals breed or whether they are promiscuous.

It is thought that the reproductive behavior might be similar to that of other Zaglossus species. The number of offspring during a breeding cycle is unknown, as is the gestation period and the age at which sexual maturity is reached. Most likely, as with other Zaglossus species, when females reach sexual maturity the non-venomous spurs on their ankles usually disappear.

Breeding interval: Breeding interval is unknown.

Breeding season: Breeding season is unknown.

Key Reproductive Features: semelparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous

It is thought that Sir David's long-beaked echidnas females care for and protect their young after laying the eggs and after their hatching. Young stay in dens. Not much else is known about parental involvement in the species.

Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)

  • Baillie, J., S. Turvey, C. Waterman. 2009. Survival of Attenborough's Long-beaked Echidna Zaglossus attenboroughi in New Guinea. Cambridge Journals, 43/1: 146-148.
  • Flannery, T., C. Groves. 1998. Revision of the Genus Zaglossus (Monotremata, Tachyglossidae), with Description of New Species and Subspecies. Mammalia, 62/3: 367-396.
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Conservation

Conservation Status

The species was thought to be extinct until 2007, when an expedition led by EDGE team members discovered evidence that Zaglossus attenboroughi still existed. Currently, Sir David’s long-beaked echidnas are critically endangered and there is a conservation effort underway where the original specimen was found. The Cyclops Mountains Strict Nature Reserve was created to protect the habitat of Zaglossus attenboroughi. Currently, it is believed that hunting and loss of habitat due to farming and mining are the main reasons for the threat to their survival.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: appendix ii

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
CR
Critically Endangered

Red List Criteria
B1ab(iii,v)

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Leary, T., Seri, L., Flannery, T., Wright, D., Hamilton, S., Helgen, K., Singadan, R., Menzies, J., Allison, A., James, R., Aplin, K., Salas, L. & Dickman, C.

Reviewer/s
Lamoreux, J. & Hilton-Taylor, C. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Critically Endangered because its extent of occurrence is less than 100 km2, all individuals are in a single location, there is continuing decline in the extent and quality of its habitat, and a decline in the number of mature individuals due to hunting.
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Population

Population
This species has not been recorded since 1961. An expedition to the Cyclops Mountains in May 2007 found evidence of the species (recent digging activity and burrows), and there was local knowledge of the species that implied its continued existence there. It is thought to have been distributed more widely. It is a large animal that probably occurred at low density and would not have existed in such a small area naturally.

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
Hunting by local people continues to be a major threat (J. Baillie, in litt.). The habitat is also being degraded by logging and by the expansion of small-scale agriculture.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
This species is listed on Appendix II of CITES. The area from which the single specimen was collected has been declared a reserve (Flannery and Groves 1998). There is a need to enforce the protection of this area and conduct additional surveys in suitable habitat for remaining populations on Berg Rara and in the Foja Range. Further research is needed into the natural history of the species and into conservation measures to protect it.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Because the adult males of Zaglossus attenboroughi have a spur on each ankle, they can cause some harm to humans by sticking them with the spurs. However, the spurs are not venomous.

Negative Impacts: injures humans (bites or stings)

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Sir David's long-beaked echidnas have cultural importance in the communities surrounding the Cyclops Mountains. Sometimes disputes are resolved by having the two fighting parties share a meal of echidna. At other times, people are punished by either having to pay a fine or by having to find an echidna in the mountains.

Positive Impacts: food

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Wikipedia

Sir David's long-beaked echidna

Sir David's long-beaked echidna (Zaglossus attenboroughi), also known as Attenborough's long-beaked echidna or the Cyclops long-beaked echidna, is one of the three species from the genus Zaglossus that occurs in New Guinea. It is named in honour of Sir David Attenborough, the eminent naturalist. It lives in the Cyclops Mountains, which are near the cities of Sentani and Jayapura in the indonesian province of Papua.

It is the smallest member of the genus, being closer in size to the short-beaked echidna than are the other members of the genus. The male is larger than the female, and can be differentiated by the spurs on its hind legs. The echidna is not a social animal, and comes together with its own kind only once a year, in July, to mate. The female will lay the eggs after about eight days, and the babies will stay in the mother's pouch for around eight weeks or until their spines develop.

The creature is nocturnal, and can roll up into a spiny ball when it feels threatened, somewhat in the manner of a hedgehog. It weighs from 5 to 10 kilograms (11 to 22 lb).[3]

The echidna is endangered by hunting and habitat loss. In fact, in the 1900s, it was thought to be extinct until some of their "nose pokes" were found in the mountains of New Guinea. These "nose pokes" are very distinct and represent the echidna's feeding techniques.[4] The diet of this hardy-built animal consists of earthworms, termites, insect larvae and ants.

The species was described from a single damaged specimen collected in the Dutch colonial era (c. 1961), and has apparently not been collected since then.[5] Given the ongoing anthropogenic disturbance of the Cyclops Mountain forest habitat, this has raised concern that Z. attenboroughi populations may already be endangered or even locally extirpated. However, biological surveys of Papua province are notoriously incomplete; it is possible that the animal still exists there or in related mountain ranges.

This animal is so high in the endangered-species list that locals are being educated on this creature and asked to stop their tradition of hunting and killing it and sharing it with rivals as a peace offering.[6]

As reported on July 15, 2007, researchers from EDGE visiting Papua's Cyclops Mountains had recently discovered burrows and tracks thought to be those of Zaglossus attenboroughi. Furthermore, communication with local people revealed that the species had perhaps been seen as recently as 2005.[7]

In 2007, Sir David's long-beaked echidna was identified as one of the top-10 "focal species" by the Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) project.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Groves, C. P. (2005). "Order Monotremata". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  2. ^ Leary, T., Seri, L., Flannery, T., Wright, D., Hamilton, S., Helgen, K., Singadan, R., Menzies, J., Allison, A., James, R., Aplin, K., Salas, L. & Dickman, C. (2008). Zaglossus attenboroughi. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 28 December 2008. Database entry includes justification for why this species is listed as critically endangered.
  3. ^ "New hope over 'extinct' echidna". BBC News. 2007-07-15. Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  4. ^ http://www.edgeofexistence.org/mammals/species_info.php?id=2
  5. ^ Flannery, T.F.; C.P. Groves (1998). "A revision of the genus Zaglossus (Monotremata, Tachyglossidae), with description of new species and subspecies". Mammalia 62 (3): 387–390. doi:10.1515/mamm.1998.62.3.367. 
  6. ^ http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/07/070718-echidna.html
  7. ^ BBC News (2007-07-15). "New hope over 'extinct' echidna". Retrieved 2007-07-16. 
  8. ^ "Protection for 'weirdest' species". BBC. 2007-01-16. Retrieved 2007-05-22. 
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