More than you maybe needed to know about the echidna

Echidnas are one of those weird Australian animals that seems to have been pieced together from leftover bits of other animals. Mammals that lay eggs, echidnas are covered in pointy hedgehog-like spines, but with a long snout and sticky tongue of an anteater.

Also, the males have a four-headed penis.

Not kidding. One shaft, four heads. Which is odd, because the female echidna reproductive tract only has two branches. Some of the stuff I've read this morning says that the male echidna mates using only two of his four heads at a time. Then, he'll find another lady echidna and let the other two heads have a turn. Another option, presented by National Geographic: He mates twice with each lady echidna, using first two heads, and then the other two.

National Geographic has helpfully provided visual evidence of this four-headed penis.

I'm putting the photo under a cut. Partly for comic effect, and partly because what is seen can never be unseen.

Read the rest of the National Geographic article on the lives and weird biology of the echidna. (That's the only penis shot. Promise.)


  1. Like the platypus, the echidna both lays eggs and gives milk, making it one of the rare animals that can make it’s own custard.

    1. Good thing I wasn’t eating custard just then, it’d have ended up all over my monitor.

  2. The echidna in the photo has a huge shit-eating grin plastered on him. As would we all if we could do what he does on a daily basis.

  3. Another factor for my “guess who posted the article on boing boing” game

    About Disney, Cory.
    About weird animal penises, Maggie.

    1. I play this game whenever an article is in the RSS, but not in the site.  Almost always Cory’s, for some reason.

      1.  Your best bet, scrutinize the light fixtures, wall graphics, bits of the castle, etc. for “details” that some wag slipped in there.

      2.  I don’t know about weird animal penis, but have you stood to the right of the Mickey and Walt statue at night and looked at it??

    2. given that i have set up specific feeds for Cory and Maggie, i do not have much of a guessing game to play.

  4. I’ve always put echidnas in the same category as jellyfish, giant squids, aardvarks, pangolins, and wolf spiders in that I want to know everything there is to know about them. There is no limit to my desire for more information about them.

    The picture almost made me rethink that view.

  5. That is a pretty bizarre-looking monotreme schlong. Do platypus dicks look similar I wonder? I had no idea the echidna was that large. I guess the similarity to hedgehogs had confused me.

  6. Most of the time when I hear the tale of the 4-headed echidna penis, the attached photo is a close-up of the head, er, heads.  This is the first time I’ve seen a picture of an echidna penis with the attached echidna in frame.

    1. What kind of life do you live that you hear the tale of the 4-headed echidna penis with any sort of frequency?

      1. For one thing, I read Maggie Koerth-Baker, so that ups my chances of hearing weird facts about animal penises already.  

        In general I like reading “weird fact” sites, and collect lots of weird information in the process.  Often the same facts will cycle around as one site discovers, e.g., baculums (penis bones), then a couple years later another site posts “holy shit, most mammals have bones in their penises!”.

        As Maggie has discovered, weird facts about animal penises are popular, so the same collection of facts will cycle through periodically (penis bones, snakes (and other reptiles, and sharks) having two penises (one served by each testicle), dolphins and whales having prehensile penises, etc).

        As an example of a 2010 sighting of the “echidna with 4-headed penis” story, take a look at, which includes the picture I most often see.

  7. Thanks a lot.

    Now some furry’s going to see this and Sonic the Hedgehog porn is going to get even MORE horrifying.

    1. I already started spreading the word an hour and a half ago. I also brought it to the attention of Bad Dragon.

      I figure that if one uses a Thor as a sword, having something like this might be a cool parrying dagger.

      1. I hope there are people reading these comments who haven’t heard of Bad Dragon until today.  They’re one of today’s lucky 10,000

      2. Using a Thor as a sword? What is that supposed to mean? I can’t envision fighting someone by trying to cut him in half with a Norse god of thunder. I must have missed something here…

    1. Why won’t the like button let me hit it ten times in a row for this comment?

  8. Scrolling down through this post is hilarious. Awww, look at that smiley face. He looks so 
    *scroll*  er… happy. 

    1. This species is nowhere near pre-sapient, the Galactic Uplift Institute would never allow it, especially since there are so many species on Earth ripe for Uplift.  

      This thing is, such a niche that it will likely never be a candidate for Uplift. Unless of course it is transplanted to another, preferably fallow planet and given the right conditions and at least, I dunno, five or so million years to achieve pre-sapience. 

      Of course, if we wipe out the whales, dolphins and chimps, and/or fail to Uplift them before we become known to Galactic civilization in a couple hundred years, we may be judged pre-sapient and ripe for Uplift ourselves, and be assigned a Galactic Patron who will genetically and socially engineer us to their version of sapience. Then we will be indentured to them for 100,000 years until granted our freedom. 

      Our achievement of space flight and use of FTL transit points might not be enough to save us from indenture in the absence of Uplifting other species, given our environmental crimes here on Earth.

      Of course, we will always be beholden to our Patrons, even after the period of indenture.

      (note: for source, Google “Brin Uplift Series”. Well worth checking out.)

    2.  They’re actually weirdly intelligent. They live for decades (five or more, apparently) and they are known for problem solving, like piling dishes into a stairway to escape cages.

  9. “I’m putting the photo under a cut. Partly for comic effect, and partly because what is seen can never be unseen.”

    Sadly, this didn’t work for those of us who use RSS readers (at least, for Google Reader).  We got the “full Monty” without any cut.  Must go wash my eyes now… :-/

  10. Echidna are bigger than I thought. I thought they might be the size of a guinea pig, or a rabbit. More nature shows should give us size comparisons with the animals they show.

  11. ‘heheh what a cute photo’ was my initial reaction. Then I scrolled down. What has been seen can’t be unseen!

    1. ‘heheh what a cute photo’ was my initial reaction. Then I scrolled down. What has been seen can’t be unseen!

      Edit: then I read the rest of the article.. Damn you! You knew!! Haha
      This comment system is warped as, great for filtering out crap! Comments on this site are great. These two got through though, and for that I apologise -_-

  12. You-lot have a much to answer for here at Boingboing.  First it was the shrinking Japanese lady sushi porn, then the duck penis video, now this.  There have been others too.  I would say 8 of the top ten horrible scarring mental images that torment me have come from this web site. Seriously, damn.

  13. Also, has any one researched the obvious mental illness of clicking on a link even though you have been warned?  

    1.  It’s like when you see a wet paint sign, and you have to touch the wet paint just to check.

      1.  Another one of my favourites is “Oh damn, this tastes horrible. Here, you gotta try it!” … and then people do. Every. Time.

  14. As an Australian, my first concern is this: We must move the Echidna from the five cent piece to the twenty cent piece as soon as possible. #maths

    1.  Or instead, have a special-edition 4-cent piece.  I mean, look at where the number is on that coin.  False advertising.

  15. Spare me the sexyal proclivities of the male  echidnas, I have enough problems already.

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