Echidna study focus on scat

Gippslanders are being invited to be on the lookout for echidna poo in the local environment for an Adelaide university study into their behavior. photograph michelle slater.

Gippslanders are being invited to be on the lookout for echidna poo in the local environment for an Adelaide university study into their behavior. photograph michelle slater.

Gippslanders are being invited to join an Australia-wide hunt for echidna poo for an Adelaide university study into the spiny monotreme's mating habits.

Adelaide university PhD student Tahlia Perry needs the public's help to collect as many echidna scat samples as she can from across the country.

The university has launched an Echidna CSI phone app which people can download to register and use to keep a look out for the distinctively-shaped poo.

"Echidnas are incredibly hard to study in the wild. We have little information about them – we want to know what is happening to them around the country," Ms Perry said.

Echidnas breed between July and September and each female is chased by multiple males in what is known as a mating train.

"During breeding season they have high concentrations of hormones in their scats. We will be looking at the hormone and DNA in their scat as well as the DNA in the food they eat," she said.

"By studying their scats, we can find out when they are coming into breeding season and how many echidnas are breeding in a particular area."

She said the majority of research into echidnas has been done on Kangaroo Island populations which were in decline but not much is known about them anywhere else.

Ms Perry said the little prickly characters could be hard to find as they scuttle off into the bush very quickly and were good at burrowing out of sight when frightened.

The animal, which is featured on the five-cent-piece, is found across Australia in all types of habitats and climates but little is known about their actual living conditions.

Ms Perry said echidna poo was long and cylindrical and usually filled with ant remains which is the echidnas' favourite food.

She said people could put the echidna poo into a plastic bag and store it in a freezer until it is ready to be sent off for analysis.

For more information, visit the Echidna CSI Facebook page. 

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