Zaglossus bruijni

I don’t think there is anywhere else in the entire state of Montana that you are able to photograph a critically endangered monotreme from a place called Fakfak — there are a few perks to my volunteer position, and this is definitely one of them! 

Congratulations to  let-sleeping-bears-lie for being the first to identify Friday’s Freak of the Week as an echidna, and extra bonus points to  necromancersapprentice for narrowing that to the long-beaked echidna!  It belongs to the extremely rare western long-beaked echidna (Zaglossus bruijni), which lives in the highlands of New Guinea.  According to Animal Diversity Web, although these special monotremes (mammals that lay eggs, like the platypus) are toothless, they possess horny projections on their tongues that assist in catching and retaining their prey, which consists primarily of earthworms and insects.  

Long-beaked echidnas are currently considered an endangered species as they are still hunted legally for their meat, which is regarded as a delicacy.  Heavy farming and foresting is also contributing to their decline in numbers.  Species like this are a great reminder why natural history collections are so valuable; someday, perhaps unfortunately sooner than later, these creatures may be extinct and museums like ours may be the only place to see them again!