Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.
What Is a Porcupine?
Imagine walking along and seeing what looks like a beaver with very long hair. The hair looks soft so you decide to get a closer look. Suddenly, the animal sees you and that hair promptly pops up, making the animal look much bigger than it really is. It may look soft, but that hair is needle-sharp and should not be touched. You've just met a porcupine!
A porcupine is a small animal that has a coat of needle-like spines mixed in with its fur. There are different kinds of porcupines, but they are all in the same rodent family and are related to other rodents, including mice, squirrels and rats.
Porcupines come in different sizes, and the biggest can grow to be as long as about 3 feet and weigh up to 77 pounds, which is about the same as a large dog. In the wild, they can live to be as old as 15 years.
Look But Don't Touch
Those needle-like spines we mentioned earlier are actually called quills. Quills are special hairs covered in thick material called keratin (the same material your fingernails are made of). Porcupines can have as many as 30,000 quills, and they are hollow and very sharp, covering most of a porcupine's body.
The porcupine uses these quills for protection against predators. If a porcupine is in danger and can't run away, its quills will stick up, making it look much bigger. The porcupine will also make a loud noise to scare off the enemy.
If that doesn't work, the porcupine will sometimes run backwards into an enemy and jam those pointy quills into its skin. The quills hurt, are hard to take out and usually send an enemy running, sometimes even killing it. Quills lost in battle will regrow, just like your hair.
What Do Porcupines Eat?
Porcupines are considered herbivores because they only eat plants. They are nocturnal, meaning they are most active at night, which is when they go in search of dinner.
These animals have big, sharp front teeth that keep growing as long as they are alive. They need them to eat things like tree bark, shrubs, flowers, berries, nuts and roots. They also chew on bones, which helps them keep their teeth sharp and gives them the salt they need.
Where Do Porcupines Live?
Porcupines are broken into two groups called Old World porcupines and New World porcupines, based on where they are found in the world. Old World porcupines live on the continents of Europe, Asia and Africa. New World porcupines live in North America, Central America and South America.
Porcupines can be found in areas like forests, deserts, rainforests and grasslands. The porcupine's feet and sharp claws make it great at climbing trees, and these animals will sometimes sleep in hollowed out trees during the day. They also snooze in places like logs and burrows.
Porcupines are small animals that are rodents and have sharp quills mixed in with their fur coats. Quills are a special kind of hair that are as sharp as needles and are used by the porcupine to protect itself from enemies. This animal is an herbivore, which means it eats plants, including tree bark, shrubs and berries.
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