Porcupine

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iPorcupines
Image:Porcupine-BioDome.jpg
North American Porcupine
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Suborder: Hystricomorpha
Genera

Family Erethizontidae

Coendou
Sphiggurus
Erethizon
Echinoprocta
Chaetomys

Family Hystricidae

Atherurus
Hystrix
Thecurus
Trichys

This article is about the rodent mammal. For other uses of the term "porcupine" see Porcupine (disambiguation).

Porcupines are rodents best known for their coat of sharp spines, or quills, that defend them from predators. The porcupines include the fourth largest rodent, after the capybara, mara, and beaver, and are not to be confused with hedgehogs which are insectivores. Most porcupines are about 60-90 cm (25-36 inches) long, with a 20-25 cm (8-10 inch) long tail. Weighing between 5-16 kg (12-35 pounds), 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'espine "thorny pig", hence the nickname "quill pig" for the animal.

Contrary to popular belief, porcupines are not capable of throwing their quills.

In parts of Africa, porcupines are eaten as a form of bush meat. Porcupine meat is also appreciated in some regions of Italy and Vietnam.

[edit] Habitat

Porcupines occupy a wide range of habitats in tropical and temperate parts of Asia, Italy, Africa and the Americas. Porcupines live in forests, deserts and grasslands. Some live in trees, others stay on the ground.

Porcupines in search of salt sometimes encroach on areas inhabited by people and eat tool handles, clothes and many other items that have been coated in salty sweat.

[edit] Species

A porcupine is any of 330 species of rodent belonging to the families Erethizontidae and Hystricidae. All defend themselves with sharp spines (which are actually modified hairs) rather like those of the hedgehogs, which are part of the order Insectivora and more closely related to shrews and moles than they are to the rodents, and the echidnas, which as monotremes are very distantly related indeed.

Porcupines vary in size considerably: Rothschild's Porcupine of South America weighs less than a kilogram; the African Porcupine can grow to well over 20 kg.

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 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 85 cm in length and 18 kilograms), 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.

ORDER RODENTIA

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[edit] External links

eo:Histriko es:Puerco espín fi:Piikkisika fr:Porc-épic he:דרבן (מכרסם) io:Porkespino ja:ヤマアラシ ms:Landak nl:Stekelvarkens no:Hulepinnsvin pt:Porco espinho sv:Piggsvin

Porcupine

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