Earlier this month, the Zoological Society of London announced its picks for the most distinct and endangered mammals. Topping its list were several species of echidna, all three of which are considered to be critically endangered. The list is comprised of animals that the ZSL considers to be "evolutionarily distinct," "represent[ing] a huge amount of mammalian genetic diversity." The other animals on the top of this list include the aardvark, platypus, monito del monte (resembling a mouse-monkey cross), two types of Solendons (which resemble large elephant shrews), and the dugong.
The echidna, also called the spiny anteater, is one of only two species of egg-laying mammals (monotremes). Although babies, called puggles, are born from an egg, they hatch inside of their mother's pouch and return to her for breast-feeding. They primarily eat insects, using their long snout and sticky tongue to collect their dinner from anthills and logs. They live exclusively in Papau New Guinea, where they have been hunted to critical endangerment. Some designated areas exist where the echidna cannot be harmed, but more conservation is needed to protect these and all unique and endangered species from extinction.
For a complete listing of the 100 most endangered and unique mammals, visit EDGE.