Muse Opiang was working as a field research officer when he became seized by a passion for the long-beaked echidna, or Zaglossus bartoni, which are found only in the tropical rain forests of New Guinea and a scattering of adjacent islands:
Some choice facts about this most elusive of mammals, pre-harvested for ease of assimilation:
- the young which are hatched from eggs are called puggles
- they fed milk which is sometimes so enriched with iron that it looks pink
- like all other monotremes, it has multiple sets of sex chromosomes, four or more parading pairs of XXs and XYs: and a few of those extra sex chromosomes look suspiciously birdlike ...
- another avianlike feature is the cloaca, the single orifice through which an echidna or platypus voids waste, has sex and lays eggs, and by which the group gets its name - yet through it, a male echnida can extrude a four-headed penis
- can live 50 years or longer
- a mighty brain: among humans, the neocortex that allows us to reason and remember accounts for 30 percent of the brain; in echidnas, that figure is 50 percent.