When Against A Raging Bushfire The Echidnas Will Simply Go To Sleep

Grace Higgins | January 18th, 2020

In the tinder-dry Australia which is currently so much on the news due to the huge bushfires raging the country, one animal has figured out a survival technique that has fascinated biologists for decades. Wildfire can tear through any sort of vegetation in minutes and grow at terrifying speeds, the fires incinerate nearly everything in their path and leave behind a black desert of char.

bbci.co.uk

Most animals have a fear of fire that is ingrained in their brain, this will lead them to try to outrun the blaze for survival. There is however one strange anteater that has a very peculiar tactic when it comes to surviving the fires, it just does nothing and goes to sleep.

The short-beaked echidnas, which look like bigger hedgehogs that lay eggs and survive off eating insects with their massive sticky tongues, can enter a hibernation technique which is referred to as torpor. This is a state that many animals can enter, it is used to conserve energy. When the echidnas enter torpor, they can reduce their metabolic rate and lower their body temperature massively.

Torpor also lets them survive massive fires, it is one of the reasons the creature is still alive today as its ancestors were able to survive. It was first discovered in 2013 after the terrible fire that swept all through the Warrumbungle Nation Park, Julia Nowack a biologist from the University of New England studied the aftermath the fire had on the local wildlife. And she noticed with her colleagues that the prickle insect eaters were still running around quite normally, they were among the survivors as if nothing had happened.

Echidnas can do this because of they when faced with fire they burrow down into the ground, and because they enter a state of torpor, they do not need as much oxygen to survive. Torpor also allows them to save precious energy while they wait for insects to return to the areas burnt down by the fires. It is odd because most examples of torpor being used to survive extreme regions are in places where it becomes very cold, during a deep freeze food can be scarce and it takes even more energy to just keep the body warm.

As it seems the echidnas have figured out how to apply this strategy to survive extreme heat.

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