Porcupine


Porcupine

Taxobox
name = Porcikupines|

image_caption = North American Porcupine
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Mammalia
ordo = Rodentia
subordo = Hystricomorpha
subdivision_ranks = General
subdivision = Family Erethizontidae
:"Coendou":"Sphiggurus":"Erethizon":"Echinoprocta":"Chaetomys"Family Hystricidae
:"Atherurus":"Hystrix":"Thecurus":"Trichys"

Porcupines are rodents with a coat of sharp spines, or quills, that defend them from predators. They are endemic in both the Old World and the New World. After the capybara and the beaver, Porcupines are the third largest of the rodents. Most porcupines are about convert|25|-|36|in|abbr=on long, with an convert|8|-|10|in|abbr=on long tail. Weighing between convert|12|-|35|lb|abbr=on, they are rounded, large and slow. Porcupines come in various shades of brown, grey, and the unusual white. The name "porcupine" comes from Middle French "porc d'épine" "thorny pig". Porcupines' spiny protection resembles that of the distantly related Erinaceomorph hedgehogs and more distantly related Monotreme Echidnas.

Species

A porcupine is any of 27 species of rodent belonging to the families Erethizontidae or Hystricidae. All defend themselves with hair modified into sharp spines.

Porcupines vary in size considerably: Rothschild's Porcupine of South America weighs less than a kilogram (convert|2.2|lb|abbr=on); the African Porcupine can grow to well over convert|20|kg|lb|abbr=on.

The two families of porcupines are quite different and although both belong to the Hystricognathi branch of the vast order Rodentia, they are not closely related.

The eleven Old World porcupines are almost exclusively terrestrial, tend to be fairly large, and have quills that are grouped in clusters. They are believed to have separated from the other hystricognaths about 30 million years ago, much earlier than the New World porcupines.

The twelve New World porcupines are mostly smaller (although the North American Porcupine reaches about convert|85|cm|in|abbr=on|disp=s in length and convert|18|kg|lb|abbr=on|disp=s), have their quills attached singly rather than grouped in clusters, and are excellent climbers, spending much of their time in trees. The New World porcupines evolved their spines independently (through convergent evolution) and are more closely related to several other families of rodent than they are to the Old World porcupines.

Quills

musculature. Old World porcupines (Hystricidae) have quills embedded in clusters, whereas in New World porcupines (Erethizontidae) single quills are interspersed with bristles, underfur, and hair.

Porcupine quills are as sharp as needles, detach very easily, and will remain embedded in an attacker. Unlike needles, however, the quills of New World porcupines have microscopic, backwards-facing barbs on the tip that catch on the skin making them difficult and painful to extract, though they must be removed. Quills are about convert|75|mm|in|1 long and convert|2|mm|in wide. If a quill becomes lodged in the tissues of a would-be attacker, the barbs act to pull the quill further into the tissues with the normal muscle movements of the attacker, moving up to several millimeters in a day. Predators have been known to die as a result of quill penetration and infection. Quills are still capable of penetrating animals and humans even after death. [cite web
url = http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Erethizon_dorsatum.html | title = North American porcupines | accessdate = 2008-03-19 | publisher = [http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/index.html University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, Animal Diversity Web]
] Quills are released by contact with them or they may drop out when the porcupine shakes them, they are not sprayed out.

Habitats

Porcupines a wide range of habitats in desert and hot temperate parts of Africa. they live in deserts,and grasslands. All porcupines stay on the ground. Porcupines can be found on rocky areas up to convert|3500|m|abbr=on high.

Salt licks

Porcupines in search of salt sometimes encroach on human habitats, eating plywood cured with sodium nitrate,cite news | last=Morrisson | first=Philip | coauthors=Morrisson, Phyllis | title=Wonders: The Needy Porcupine | url=http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=000B3425-FD09-1C70-84A9809EC588EF21 | publisher=Scientific American | month=March | year=2001 | accessdate=2007-06-29] certain paints, and tool handles, footwear, clothes and other items that have been coated in salty sweat. Porcupines are attracted to roads in areas where rock salt is used to melt ice and snow, and are known to gnaw on vehicle tires or wiring coated in road salt. Salt licks placed nearby can prevent porcupines from injuring themselves.

Natural sources of salt consumed by porcupines include varieties of salt-rich plants (such as yellow water lily and aquatic liverwort), fresh animal bones, outer tree bark, mud in salt-rich soils, and objects imbued with urine.cite book | last=Olson | first=Rich | coauthors=Andrea M. Lewis | title=Porcupine Ecology and Damage Management Techniques for Rural Homeowners | url=http://ces.uwyo.edu/PUBS/B1073.pdf | pages=4 | publisher=University of Wyoming, Cooperative Extension Service | month=May | year=1999 | accessdate=2007-06-29|format=PDF]

Etymology and Mythology

* The name "porcupine" comes from Middle French "porc d'épine" which could be translated as "thorny", "spined", or "quilled" "pork" or "pig", hence the nickname "quill pig" for the animal. A group of porcupines is called a "prickle" [Animal Collectives http://www.hintsandthings.com/kennel/collectives.htm] .
* From ancient times it was believed that porcupines can throw their quills at an enemy. This has long been refuted, being the result of loose quills being shaken free. [ [http://books.google.com/books?id=Is0nAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA501 Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1823 Edition. Page 501. Google Book Search] ] [ [http://books.google.com/books?id=MTA5AAAAMAAJ&pg=PA78 Goodwin, Thomas Shepard. Natural History, a Manual of Zoology. New York, 1865. Page 78. Google Book Search ] ]

Order Rodentia
* Suborder Hystricomorpha
** "'Infraorder Hystricognathi
*** Family Hystricidae: Old World porcupines
**** African Brush-tailed Porcupine, "Atherurus africanus"
**** Asiatic Brush-tailed Porcupine, "Atherurus macrourus"
**** African Porcupine, "Hystrix cristata"
**** Cape Porcupine, "Hystrix africaeaustralis"
**** Himalayan Porcupine, "Hystrix hodgsoni"
**** Indian Porcupine, "Hystrix indicus"
**** Malayan Porcupine, "Hystrix brachyura"
**** Sunda Porcupine, "Hystrix javanica"
**** Sumatran Porcupine, "Hystrix sumatrae"
**** Bornean Porcupine, "Thecurus crassispinis"
**** Philippine Porcupine, "Thecurus pumilis"
**** Long-tailed Porcupine, "Trichys fasciculata"
*** Family Thryonomyidae: cane rats
*** Family Petromuridae: Dassie Rat
*** Family Bathyergidae: African mole-rats
*** Family Hydrochaeridae: capybara
*** Family Caviidae: cavies
*** Family Dasyproctidae: agoutis and acouchis
*** Family Erethizontidae: New World porcupines
**** Brazilian Porcupine, "Coendou prehensilis"
**** Bicolor-spined Porcupine, "Coendou bicolor"
**** Koopman's Porcupine, "Coendou koopmani"
**** Rothschild's Porcupine, "Coendou rothschildi"
**** Mexican Tree Porcupine, "Sphiggurus mexicanus"
**** South American Tree Porcupine, "Sphiggurus spinosus"
**** Bahia Hairy Dwarf Porcupine, "Sphiggurus insidiosus"
**** Pallid Hairy Dwarf Porcupine, "Sphiggurus pallidus" (extinct)
**** Brown Hairy Dwarf Porcupine, "Sphiggurus vestitus"
**** Orange-spined Hairy Dwarf Porcupine, "Sphiggurus villosus"
**** North American Porcupine, "Erethizon dorsatum"
**** Stump-tailed Porcupine, "Echinoprocta rufescens"
**** Bristle-spined Porcupine, "Chaetomys subspinosus" (sometimes considered an echymid)
*** Family Chinchillidae: chinchillas and allies
*** Family Ctenomyidae: tuco-tucos
*** Family Myocastoridae: Coypu
*** Family Octodontidae: octodonts
*** Family Ctenodactylidae: gundis

References

External links

* [http://www.awf.org/wildlives/179 Porcupines: Wildlife summary from the African Wildlife Foundation]
* [http://science-ed.pnl.gov/pals/resource/cards/porcupines.stm "Resource Cards: What About Porcupines?"] Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
* [http://digital.library.unt.edu/permalink/meta-dc-1544:1 "Porcupine control in the western states"] hosted by the [http://digital.library.unt.edu/browse/department/govdocs/ UNT Government Documents Department]
* [http://www.freestateproject.org/about/faq.php#why Why the porcupine is the logo of the Free State Project]


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  • porcupine — [pôr′kyə pīn΄] n. pl. porcupines or porcupine [ME porkepyn < MFr porc espin, spinous hog, spine hog < OIt porcospino < L porcus, pig (see FARROW1) + SPINE] any of a terrestrial Old World family (Hystricidae) or an arboreal New World… …   English World dictionary

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  • porcupine — ► NOUN ▪ a large rodent with defensive spines or quills on the body and tail. ORIGIN from Latin porcus pig + spina thorn …   English terms dictionary


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