The only specialized ant-eating mammal in Australia and New Guinea is the egg-laying short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus), and this single species occurs throughout Australia in a wide range of habitats. Despite the diversity of habitats and density and distribution of prey species, home-range sizes throughout Australia seem remarkably similar. We radiotracked echidnas in a population in Tasmania over a 13-year period and calculated home-range sizes using the fixed kernel method and the minimum convex polygon method. No relationship was found between body mass and home-range size, and mean annual home-range size of males (90% kernels) was 107 ha ± 48 SD, twice that of females (48 ± 28 ha). Male home ranges overlapped considerably and also overlapped with those of several females. The echidna follows the pattern seen in many solitary eutherian mammals: both sexes are promiscuous, and males have larger home ranges than females. Echidnas show a high degree of home-range fidelity but can make rare excursions out of their normal area. Hibernating echidnas move between shelters during their periodic arousals, resulting in home-range sizes similar to those of the active period. Consistent with their very low metabolic rate, echidnas have home-range sizes considerably smaller than predicted for carnivorous or omnivorous mammals. Examination of data from other ant-eating mammals shows that as a group anteaters not only have smaller than predicted home ranges but they depart significantly from the normal relationship between home-range size and body mass.
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Vol. 92 • No. 1