Scientific Name: Crested porcupine (Hystrix cristata)
Size: 30 inches long
Weight: 44 pounds
Lifespan: 20 years
Group name: Family
What does a porcupine look like?
The porcupine is, of course, easily recognized by its most notable feature; its quills. Quill length on different parts of the body varies, from 1 inch up to 12 inches on the back. Usually the quills lie flat against the body, but if danger threatens, the porcupine raises and spreads them. Scales on quill tips lodge in the skin like fishhooks and are difficult to pull out. New quills grow in to replace lost ones.
The crested porcupine is the largest and heaviest of African rodents. The head is roundish and rather domed, with a blunt muzzle and small eyes and ears. The legs are short and sturdy, and each foot has five toes, all equipped with powerful claws.
Where do porcupines live?
As one of the largest living rodents, the porcupine can be found in Africa, the Americas and Asia.
Porcupines are most common in hilly, rocky country, but they can adapt to most habitats. Excessively moist forests and the most barren of deserts seem to be the only exceptions. They have even been found on Mt. Kilimanjaro, as high up as 11,480 feet. Natural shelters among roots and rocks are modified by porcupines to suit their needs. They will inhabit holes made by other animals but also dig their own. These burrows are most commonly occupied in family units.
What does a porcupine eat?
Porcupines primarily eat roots, tubers, bark and fallen fruit but have a fondness, too, for cultivated root crops such as cassava, potatoes and carrots. Sometimes porcupines will take carrion back to the burrow to nibble on.
Did You Know this about porcupines?
The word porcupine means "quill pig" in Latin; however, porcupines are large rodents and not related to pigs at all.
Porcupine quills have long been a favorite ornament and good-luck charm in Africa. The hollow rattle quills serve as musical instruments and were once used as containers for gold dust.
A typical adult porcupine has over 30,000 quills covering its body. The quills are actually modified hairs coated in thick plates of keratin.
There are 27 species of porcupine, ranging in size from the 2.2-pound Rothschild's porcupine of South America to the 44-pound crested porcupine of northern Africa.
Like monkeys, porcupines are divided into "New World" species and "Old World" species.
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Porcupine Coloring pages
Print free Porcupine coloring pages, click on the image to open the large version.