Do prickles run in the family?
Although porcupines and hedgehogs both have prickly backs, they are not biologically related. Porcupines are rodents, like mice and rats, while hedgehogs are relatives of shrews and moles. Furthermore, the spiny defences of these animals are only superficially similar.
The prickles on a hedgehog are much shorter than a porcupine’s quills, which can be up to 51 centimetres (20 inches) long. While hedgehogs can roll up their bodies for protection, porcupines will revert
to shaking their quills and stamping their feet to intimidate predators. If this fails they will charge backwards in self-defence. Contrary to popular belief, porcupines do not fire their quills, although they can shed any that lodge in an attacker’s flesh.
Both are native to parts of Africa, Asia and continental Europe, and porcupines also occur in North America. Hedgehogs are usually seen on the ground, where they hunt for invertebrates. Porcupines, however, can climb trees and are herbivores.
For more answers to your animal questions, pick up your copy of Issue 59 of World of Animals in store or online!
Cover photo: Denali National Park and Preserve/flickr