A baby short-beaked echidna is growing its spines behind the scenes at Perth Zoo, waiting until it can be officially unveiled.
The puggle hatched in September and is the 10th successfully bred echidna at the zoo since 2007.
The 1.6kg puggle met its sibling Cojin on Wednesday, as it has been living in a nursery burrow, where it will stay until it is six to seven months old.
Zookeeper Katie Snushall said the as-yet-unnamed puggle and Cojin made history as the first echidnas to have been bred from two zoo-born echidnas.
“It’s significant for the breeding program as they’re notoriously hard to breed,” she said.
“It will help with the long-beaked echidna found in Papua New Guinea because they’re an endangered species, so what we can learn here at Perth Zoo with their very closely related cousins will be very important.”
Echidnas have internal reproductive organs, so it is difficult to tell their gender, and the zoo will DNA-test the babies to determine if they are male or female.
Along with platypuses, echidnas are the only monotremes, or mammals that lay eggs.
It takes about 10 days for a baby echidna to hatch.
It then lives in a pouch for two months until its spikes begin to grow, then its mother transfers it to a burrow where it stays for several months.
Ms Snushall said echidnas produced milk from glands, similar to how people sweat, so puggles lick their mother’s skin to feed.
Meet our new arrival. Did you know we're a world leader in echidna breeding?! pic.twitter.com/JHfEZZaXQq
— Perth Zoo (@PerthZoo) February 8, 2017