Porcupines, like monkeys, are divided into old world and new world species. They are very peaceful yet territorial rodents and may become offensive when threatened. Still you will find them adorable at the first look and you might want to cuddle them. But don’t be mistaken as they have quills that will lodge inside your skin. This unique feature of porcupines keeps them apart from other rodents like mice, possum, and alike. You can differentiate a porcupine from other rodents just by its quills. These quills protect the porcupine from predators. These rodents are classified into two families: hystricidae family, which has 11 old world species and erethizontidae family, which has 12 new world species. The only difference between the two types is of size and weight, wherein former tends to be larger and latter tends to be smaller and weigh lesser. Porcupines come in different shapes, sizes and colours. Their colours vary from shades of grey, brown, and curious white. They are the finest tree climbers. Their quills have been used as power of a superhero; for example, in the marvel comics called X-Men, the superhero is known as spyke. Read some more interesting and amazing facts about this cute rodent.
Scientific Name: Hystricidae (Old World Porcupines), Erethizontidae (New World Porcupines)
Family: Hystricidae (11 species) and Erethizontidae (12 species)
Shape: Rounded, small ears and head, short legs, and large front teeth
Size: 1 inch to 40 inches
Weight: 1kg to 27 kg
Diet: Hemlock, fir, pine, maple, beech, birch, oak, elm, cherry, willow trees, grass, leaves, dandelions, pond weeds, water lilies, arrowhead, clover
Teeth: Approximately 20
Life Span: About 20 years
Natural Habitat: Forests, grasslands, and deserts
Call: Whistles, whines, grunts, snuffles, chattering, deep growls
Gestation Period: 25 to 29 months
Number of Offspring: 1to 4
Interesting And Fun Facts About Porcupine
- Porcupines are the third largest rodents in the world, followed by the capybara and the beaver.
- Porcupines are native to southern Asia, North America, South America and Africa.
- The word porcupine is derived from Middle French word porc espin that means ‘spined pig’. Quill pig is the name given by Americans; however, they are nowhere related to pigs instead they are a type of rodent.
- Porcupines love to eat herbs, twigs, leaves, skunk, clover, and cabbage and in winters they may eat bark.
- The porcupines found in North andSouth Americahave yellow bands on black or brown fur.
- The porcupines belonging to different regions adapt different ways to forage for food, for instance, the porcupines native to Africa roam on the ground to search food while those surviving in North America climb trees.
- Rothschilds Porcupine of South America is the smallest porcupine in the world that weighs less than one kilogram. It is mainly found inPanama, the southernmost country ofCentral America.
- Crested porcupine is the largest porcupine in the world whose weight lies between 13 kg and 27 kg. Its main habitats include North America, Sicily, and sub-Saharan Africa.
- A porcupine has quills all over its body except tail and face. The quills that are lost during defence are usually replaced with new ones.
- There is a difference between the quill patterns of old world and new world porcupines. The quills of old world porcupines are grouped in clusters while the new world porcupines have separated quills.
- Quills are like voluntary muscle type feature. They lie flat on their back and when a predator attacks, they spike up in defence.
- Quills are made of keratin that their body produces and are often in off-white and black colour. There are about 30,000 quills on the body of a porcupine.
- When porcupines shake their body, the quills fall. These are collected and then adorned by many African tribes as ornaments. They are believed to bring good-luck.
- These hollow quills sometimes serve as musical instruments and were once used to store gold dust.
- Some of the porcupines have prehensile tails that help to make a firm grip on the tree branches.
- Contrary to a popular myth, porcupines cannot throw their quills at predators; rather the quills get detached from their body when in proximity to other animal’s skin.
- Since these pests are exceptional climbers, they can be found searching for food on top of the trees.
- They have weak eye-sights but great olfactory senses. They sleep throughout the day and come out in the night for food search.
- Porcupines rely entirely on their nose for food search.
- They are known to be nocturnal herbivores but they have been found eating insects and small lizards.
- They don’t hibernate instead they hide themselves at a dark place; such as, caves, dens and trees, which can protect them from predators.
- They easily adapt to any living conditions and this is the reason why they are found in snowy areas as well as deserts.
- The babies of porcupines are called porcupettes and they are born with soft quills for an easy delivery. But these quills become hard within hours of delivery.
- The old world porcupines are social and they spend most of their life in pairs while the new world porcupines like to live alone or sometimes in pairs, they are not as much social as old world porcupines.
- Lions and humans are the main predators of old world porcupine while the new wild porcupines are threatened by pythons, eagles, wolverines, martens, and great horned owls.
- Porcupines are very peaceful and slow moving animals but they can lodge their quills without any delay, if threatened or attacked. These quills cause a lot of pain and can cause death in some cases.
- Salty is porcupine’s favourite flavour. So, it will eat anything salty; such as, axe handles, canoe paddles, outhouses, and automobile radiator hoses.
- Porcupines can accidentally stick themselves to a branch, or any other thing while falling from a tree.
- Porcupines were once considered as the longest living rodents in the world but recently they have been replaced by naked mole rat.
- Porcupines, which once created havoc amongst the Kenyan farmers and destroyed their crops, are now consumed as a delicacy there.