Lessons in life from an ancient Australian

At 120 million years old, the echidna is the longest-surviving mammal on earth - and scientists think it may carry lessons in living for the human race. That is, as long as it can survive the next few hundred years.

At 120 million years old, the echidna is the longest-surviving mammal on earth - and scientists think it may carry lessons in living for the human race. That is, as long as it can survive the next few hundred years.

The small, spiny, egg-laying mammal lives only in Australia and New Guinea, but it was on the planet at the same time as the dinosaurs. "They are very intriguing, because they never over-populate an area, they never rely on just one source of food, they never deplete any single food source, they cultivate the land they live on and they're very non-offensive,"Peggy Rismiller, senior researcher at the University of Adelaide, told the British Association meeting. "They really don't cause trouble. Some people even say that they're the archetypal Aussie.

"The echidna is being recognised internationally as a model for species sustainability," Dr Rismiller said. "Using our knowledge of its behaviour could give us strategies that would benefit humankind, nature and technology. They're a living, working model for sustainable lifestyles."

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