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Porcupines are known for their sharp quills covering their whole body, and the largest porcupine in the North African crested porcupine grown up to 36 inches (90 centimeters) long, while the smallest is the Bahia hairy dwarf that is only 15 inches (38 centimeters) long. And accordingly, the length of the quills varies by type. You may have heard that porcupines shoot quills, but Really? Can porcupines shoot quills? The interesting thing about them is quills, and you can find many facts about them. Continue reading to know more about porcupines and their quills. 

What are porcupines? 

What are porcupines? 

Porcupines are a type of rodent and are considered the prickliest. Porcupine is a Latin name that means Quill pig. They have soft hair, but the soft hair and sharp quills are mixed on their backsides and their tails. They are short with stocky legs. The quills take various forms depending on the species. Their coloration ranges from grayish brown through dark brown to blackish. 

New World vs Old World porcupines

Porcupines are mammals that are considered a type of rodent and grouped as old-world porcupines or new-world porcupines because they can be found in two main regions of the world. Europe, Africa, and Asia have the old world porcupines, while the new world porcupines live in North, Central, and South America. The Old World porcupines have quills fixed in clusters, and the New World porcupine‘s single quills scatter with bristles, hair, and underfur. 

The old-world porcupines are North African crested porcupine, Indian crest porcupine, and African brush-tailed porcupine. And the New World porcupines, Canadian porcupine, Mexican Hairy dwarf porcupine, and Brazilian porcupine. 

What are the habitats of porcupines?

What are the habitats of porcupines?

Porcupines are nocturnal as they stay active during the night and sleep during the day. During the night they go search for food. They are not that social and typically stay alone. A mother and her young are considered a family called a prickle. The Old World porcupines stay on the ground, and the New World porcupines spend their time in the trees.

They live in terrain, including deserts, grasslands, rainforests, mountains, and forests. The porcupine’s home can be found in the tree branches, or tangles of roots, brush, or logs.

They are skillful swimmers, and for some porcupine species, the air-filled quills on their back help them a boost similar to a life jacket when they move through the water. The quills will help them float and the porcupine propels itself forward with a stroke. 

Porcupine quills

The quills are coated with potent natural antibiotics, and it shows a strong hindrance to the growth of several gram-positive bacterial strains. The quills are mostly medicated for their own safety. When porcupines accidentally stab themselves like falling out of trees, the antibiotic-coated quills could limit the damage. 

Can porcupines shoot quills?

Can porcupines shoot quills?

Some porcupines have as many as 30,000 quills. These quills are loosely connected, letting them detach easily when they get threatened and escape while the attacker deals with the quills. Porcupines use to have them like armor but can porcupines shoot quills? The answer is no, and it is just a longstanding myth. They cannot shoot their quills like arrows. Instead, they get detached easily when touched. 

The end of each quill has a barb-like fish hook, making it difficult to remove. The quills prevent conflict in the first place. The quills on the tail of some species rattle when shaken, and warns the potential predators so that they will move away and would not take any risk. When their quills get stuck in another animal’s skin, it will be hard to remove them. Porcupines grow new quills to replace the ones they lose. So that this animal is no easy meal for any predators. 

What is the diet of porcupines? 

What is the diet of porcupines? 

Porcupines are herbivores, and so they mostly eat vegetation. They eat a lot of bark, stems, and wood. They also eat seeds, fruit, buds, tubers, leaves, nuts, and grass. Although they do not eat meat, they use to chew on bones to sharpen their teeth. The bones give them important minerals like salt, and calcium, to keep them healthy. They are known to eat bugs and small lizards every now and then.  

How long will they live? 

Usually, the rodents often live fast and die at a young age. Porcupines can stick for more than 20 years, and porcupine families have the longest-lived rodents known to science. At least three species of Old World porcupines have maximum life spans of 27 to 28 years. 

Quills cannot protect porcupines from every predator. Porcupines, especially the New world ones are known to be preyed on by a variety of animals like great-horned owls, bobcats, wolverines, and martens. The fishers are adept at neutralizing their quills and know how to flip North American porcupines onto their backs. Even lions prey on them and some human hunters attack them for bushmeat.

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