Today is mountain day. Us 18 Uni Hall students have woken up at 4:00 am to climb Castle Hill in hopes of watching the sun rise over the majestic coast of Townsville.
So I put some clothes on, grabbed my bag, and shot a cup of tea in the microwave for a pre-hike pump. As I round the last stair case to the DTR (the hall lobby) I'm greeted by 8 of my good friends, Some running off 5-6 hours of sleep others running off 1 or 0 hours of sleep. Tiredness does weird things to people. Some of them were bouncing off the walls with energy, others couldn't keep their eye's open, and the people like me drowsily amble about but with the focus and reflex of a tiger.
Only a short drive stood between us and the base of the hill. But my group got side tracked. . .
"What's that?" Said someone.
Vidhu said, "Quick, pull the car over! Dylan catch it."
As I bailed out of the car, I muster the very basic knowledge I knew of the Echidna from mammalogy class and random videos I'd watched. As I approached the Echidna realized the threat and started digging. Echidna's are very similar to the porcupines we have in the USA because they are covered with spikes. I'd like to think the Echidna's spikes are more numerous and uniform than our porcupine. So when the Echidna feels threaten, it started to dig and wedge it's vulnerable belly side to the ground, holding itself in place with it's massive digging claws, while its formidable spikes do the defense bidding against potential predators. Catching Echidna is simple if you have tough hands, just flip them over onto one hand, and they curl up into a ball of spikes.
I was pleased to successfully catch my first Echidna. These special mammals are monotremes. They are egg laying mammals, and they are the oldest surviving mammals on earth. I'm nerding out holding this spike ball in my hand because I realize the years of ecological significance this species has been through.
After a few pictures, I set my Echidna friend down and bid him farewell. As we drove on up the hill, he ambled off to eat some more ants.