Facts about Porcupines

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1. Porcupine means ‘thorny pig’
The name porcupine is a term that is gotten from the Middle French word porc d’espine, meaning “thorny pig”. Middle English variants include “porcupyne” and “porcapyne”.

2. Porcupine is the third largest rodent in the world
Porcupines are ranked third in terms of size among rodents. In North America, they are the second largest. Capybaras are the largest rodents in the world and are followed by the beaver.

3. Porcupines do not throw quills
Porcupines cannot throw their quills as people believe. When a porcupine feels threatened, it becomes tense and strikes predators with the swat of its tail, rooting quills into their skin. Only once in a while will loose quills fall out before it strikes, creating the illusion that the quills are being shot out.

4. Porcupine species
There are two different species of porcupines. The old world porcupines reside in Southern Europe, Asia, and Africa. New world porcupines are indigenous to North America and South America. Even though Old world porcupines are not good climbers, they are very good swimmers. New world porcupines, on the other hand, can cling to trees with their tails and catch surrounding branches if they fall.

5. Porcupines are nocturnal
Porcupines are nocturnal herbivores. Porcupines are predominant creatures of the night that rest in hollow logs, trees, and crevices during the day, and later come out to eat tree barks, grass, twigs, stems, berries, and the like.

6. Porcupine pre-medicated quills
A porcupine has about 30,000 quills on its body. Their quills are pre-medicated. Every quill has a topical antibiotic, so a porcupine’s strike will certainly not lead to an infection. This pre-medication, however, is a defense mechanism to avert accidental self-quilling. Baby porcupines have soft quills at birth, which harden within a few days. Porcupine quills have overlapping barbs at the end, making them hard to remove.

7. Porcupine mating ritual
The porcupine mating ritual involves a vicious battle and urination on females. A typical mating ritual entails two males fighting over a single female. The males are careful not to hurt themselves in the course of the fight, and the winner territorially urinates on the female species so that she knows to move her tail aside for safe, quill-free mating.

8. Porcupine statistics
There are approximately two dozen porcupine species, and all boast a coat of needle-like quills. Female porcupines have between one and four young, depending on the species. A single porcupine may have thirty thousand or more quills.

9. Porcupine are pungent
One of the olfactory gestures porcupines use is a pungent odor that lets prospective predators know they have raised their quills, and they’re not afraid to use them. The chemical compound is R-delta-Deca lactone, but the smell is indescribable as anything but a porcupine. They make chattering noises as a warning for predators to vacate. If they cannot get away, their muscles tighten compelling their quills to come out. The porcupines tuck their heads in, lean forward and thump the back feet while swinging their tails as a warning.

10. Porcupine habitats
Porcupines stick near trees. Beyond forests, they can be found alongside river undergrowth and possibly on trees by rocky ledges. These creatures live in dens located in rock piles, caves, fallen logs, and trees. They stay close to homes leaving their dens for food. Porcupines consume a variety of shrubs, barks, water plants, and they love anything salty.

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