Porcupine

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Porcupine
PorcupineCabelasSpringfield0511.jpg
North American Porcupine
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Suborder: Hystricomorpha
Infraorder: Hystricognathi (part)
Families

Hystricidae (Old World porcupines)
Erethizontidae (New World porcupines)

Porcupines are rodentian mammals with a coat of sharp spines, or quills, that protect against predators. The term covers two families of animals, the Old World porcupines of family Hystricidae, and the New World porcupines of family Erethizontidae. Both families belong to the infraorder Hystricognathi within the profoundly diverse order Rodentia and display superficially similar coats of quills: despite this, the two groups are distinct from each other and are not closely related to each other within the Hystricognathi.

The Old World porcupines live in southern Europe, Asia (western[1] and southern), and most of Africa. They are large, terrestrial, and strictly nocturnal. In taxonomic terms, they form the family Hystricidae.

The New World porcupines are indigenous to North America and northern South America. They live in wooded areas and can climb trees, where some species spend their entire lives. They are less strictly nocturnal than their Old World relatives, and generally smaller. In taxonomic terms, they form the family Erethizontidae.

Porcupines are the third-largest of the rodents, behind the capybara and the beaver. Most porcupines are about 60–90 cm (25–36 in) long, with an 20–25 cm (8–10 in) long tail.[dubious ] Weighing 5–16 kg (12–35 lb), they are rounded, large, and slow, and use aposematic strategy of defense. Porcupines occur in various shades of brown, gray, and white. Porcupines' spiny protection resembles that of the unrelated erinaceomorph hedgehogs and Australian spiny anteaters or monotreme echidnas.

Etymology

The name "porcupine" comes from Latin porcus pig + spina spine, quill, via Old Italian—Middle FrenchMiddle English.[2] A regional American name for the animal is quill pig.[3]

Evolution

Fossils belonging to the Hystrix genus date back to the late Miocene of Africa.[4]

Species

Taxonomy

A porcupine is any of 29 species of rodents belonging to the families Erethizontidae (genera: Coendou, Erethizon, and Chaetomys) or Hystricidae (genera: Atherurus, Hystrix, and Trichys). Porcupines vary in size considerably: Rothschild's porcupine of South America weighs less than a kilogram (2.2 lb); the crested porcupine found in Italy, Sicily, North Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa can grow to well over 27 kg (60 lb). 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.

Old World compared with New World species

The 11 Old World porcupines tend to be fairly large, and have spikes grouped in clusters.

The two subfamilies of New World porcupines are mostly smaller (although the North American porcupine reaches about 85 cm or 33 in in length and 18 kg or 40 lb), 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 rodents than they are to the Old World porcupines.

Longevity

Porcupines have a relatively high longevity and had held the record for being the longest-living rodent, with one individual living to 27 years,[5] until the record was recently broken by a naked mole-rat living to 28 years.[6]

Diet

The North American porcupine is an herbivore; it eats leaves, herbs, twigs, and green plants such as clover. In the winter, it may eat bark. It often climbs trees to find food.[7]

The African porcupine is not a climber and forages on the ground.[7] It is mostly nocturnal,[8] but will sometimes forage for food in the day, eating bark, roots, fruits and berries, as well as farm crops. Porcupines have become a pest in Kenya and are eaten as a delicacy.[9]


Defence

Defence behaviour displays in a porcupine depend on sight, scent and sound. Often, displays are shown when a porcupine becomes agitated or annoyed. There are four main displays seen in a porcupine which are quill erection, teeth clattering, emitting of odour, and attack[10]. These displays are ranked from least aggressive to most aggressive respectively. A porcupines colouring aids in part of it’s defence as most of the predators are nocturnal and colour blind. A porcupine’s markings are black and white. The dark body and coarse hair of the porcupine are a dark brown/black and when quills are raised, present a white strip down it’s back mimicking the look of a skunk. This, along with the raising of the sharp quills, deters predators. Along with the raising of the quills, porcupines clatter their teeth causing warning noise to let predators know not to come closer. The incisors vibrate against each other, the strike zone shifts back and the cheek teeth clatter. This behaviour is often paired with body shivering which is used to further display the dangerous quills[10]. The rattling of quills is aided by the hollow quills at the back end of the porcupine[11]. The use of odor is when the sight and sound have failed. An invasive scent is produced from the skin above the tail in times of stress, and is often seen with quill erection[12]. If the above processes fail, the porcupine will attack by running sideways or backwards into predators. A porcupines tail is also able to swing in the direction of prey. If contact is made, the quills could be impaled into the predator causing injury or death[13].

Quills

Quills grow in varying lengths and colors, depending on the animal's age and species.

Porcupines' quills, or spines, take on various forms, depending on the species, but all are modified hairs coated with thick plates of keratin,[14] and embedded in the skin musculature. Old World porcupines have quills embedded in clusters, whereas in New World porcupines, single quills are interspersed with bristles, underfur, and hair.

Quills are released by contact or may drop out when the porcupine shakes its body. New quills grow to replace lost ones.[14] Porcupines were long believed to have the ability to project their quills to a considerable distance at an enemy, but this has since been proven to be untrue.[15][16]


There are some possible antibiotic properties within the quills, specifically associated with the free fatty acids coating the quills[11]. The antibiotic properties are believed to aid a porcupine that has suffered from self injury.

Uses

In nature

Porcupine guardhair headdress made by native peoples from Sonora displayed at the Museo de Arte Popular in Mexico City

Porcupines are only occasionally eaten in Western culture, but are very popular in Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam, where the prominent use of them as a food source has contributed to significant declines in their populations.[17][18][19]

More commonly, their quills and guardhairs are used for traditional decorative clothing. For example, their guardhairs are used in the creation of the Native American "porky roach" headdress. The main quills may be dyed, and then applied in combination with thread to embellish leather accessories such as knife sheaths and leather bags. Lakota women would harvest the quills for quillwork by throwing a blanket over a porcupine and retrieving the quills it left stuck in the blanket.[20]

Porcupine quills have recently inspired a new type of hypodermic needle. Due to backward-facing barbs on the quills, when used as needles, they are particularly good at two things – penetrating the skin and remaining in place.[21] The presence of barbs acting like anchors makes it more painful to remove a quill that has pierced the skin of a predator.[14]

In politics

The Libertarian porcupine

In 2006, Kevin Breen created a political mascot, a porcupine, similar to the animals that represent the two major political parties in the United States; the Democratic Party donkey and the Republican elephant. The porcupine image is often used to represent the U.S. Libertarian party, and even used by some official state Libertarian parties and candidates; however it is not an official party logo.[22]

Habitat

A pair of North American porcupines in their habitat in Quebec

Porcupines occupy a short range of habitats in tropical and temperate parts of Asia, Southern Europe, Africa, and North and South America. They live in forests and deserts, and on rocky outcrops and hillsides. Some New World porcupines live in trees, but Old World porcupines stay on the rocks. Porcupines can be found on rocky areas up to 3,700 m (12,100 ft) high. They are generally nocturnal, but are occasionally active during daylight.

Hunting porcupine near the town of Cassem, The Book of Wonders by Marco Polo (first book), illumination stored at the French national library (manuscript 2810)

Classification

North American porcupine eating grass and clover

Porcupines are distributed into two evolutionarily independent groups within the suborder Hystricomorpha of the Rodentia.[23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30]

See also

References

  1. ^ Porcupine on biblehub.com
  2. ^ Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, s.v. "porcupine" . Retrieved March 26, 2015.
  3. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. "quill" . Retrieved July 20, 2010.
  4. ^ Barthelmess, E.L. (2006). "Hystix africaeaustralis". Mammalian Species. 788 (788): 1–7. doi:10.1644/788.1. 
  5. ^ Parker, SB (1990) Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals, vol. 4, McGraw-Hill, New York.[page needed]
  6. ^ Buffenstein, Rochelle; Jarvis, Jennifer U. M. (May 2002). "The naked mole rat—a new record for the oldest living rodent". Science of Aging Knowledge Environment. 2002 (21): pe7. doi:10.1126/sageke.2002.21.pe7. PMID 14602989. 
  7. ^ a b "Porcupines, Porcupine Pictures, Porcupine Facts". National Geographic. Retrieved 2012-02-20. 
  8. ^ "North American porcupine – Erethizon dorsatum (Linnaeus, 1758)". Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Retrieved July 26, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Porcupines raise thorny questions in Kenya". BBC News. August 19, 2005. Retrieved September 21, 2009. 
  10. ^ a b Roze, Uldis (2009). The North American Porcupine Second Edition (Second ed.). Cornell University, United States of America: Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-4646-7. 
  11. ^ a b Roze, Locke, Uldis, David (March 1990). "Antibiotic Properties of Porcupine Quills". Journal of Chemical Ecology. 16 (3). 
  12. ^ Guang, Li (1997). "Waring Odor of the North American Porcupine". Journal of Chemical Ecology. 23 (12). 
  13. ^ Mori, Emiliano (October 2013). "The defense strategy of the crested porcupine Hystrix cristata". ResearchGate. 
  14. ^ a b c David Attenborough (2014). Attenborough's Natural Curiosities 2. Armoured Animals. UKTV. 
  15. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica: Or, A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Miscellaneous Literature, Enlarged and Improved. Archibald Constable. 1823. pp. 501–. 
  16. ^ Shepard, Thomas Goodwin (1865). The natural history of secession. Derby & Miller. pp. 78–. 
  17. ^ "Wild Southeast Asian porcupines under threat due to illegal hunting, researchers find". Sciencedaily.com. 2010-08-25. Retrieved 2012-02-20. 
  18. ^ Brooks, Emma G.E.; Roberton, Scott I.; Bell, Diana J. (2010). "The conservation impact of commercial wildlife farming of porcupines in Vietnam". Biological Conservation. 143 (11): 2808. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2010.07.030. 
  19. ^ Ettinger, Powell (2010-08-30). "Wildlife Extra News – Illegal hunting threatens Vietnam's wild porcupines". Wildlifeextra.com. Retrieved 2012-02-20. 
  20. ^ "Lakota Quillwork Art and Legend". Retrieved 29 June 2013. 
  21. ^ Cho, W. K.; Ankrum, J. A.; Guo, D.; Chester, S. A.; Yang, S. Y.; Kashyap, A.; Campbell, G. A.; Wood, R. J.; Rijal, R. K.; et al. (2012). "Microstructured barbs on the North American porcupine quill enable easy tissue penetration and difficult removal". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 109 (52): 21289. doi:10.1073/pnas.1216441109. PMC 3535670Freely accessible. PMID 23236138. 
  22. ^ Benedict, Wes (July 10, 2015). "2014 LPHQ Grand Opening Nicholas Sarwark speech". Retrieved November 18, 2017. 
  23. ^ Huchon D., Catzeflis F. & Douzery E. J. P. (2000). "Variance of molecular datings, evolution of rodents, and the phylogenetic affinities between Ctenodactylidae and Hystricognathi". Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B. 267 (1441): 393–402. doi:10.1098/rspb.2000.1014. PMC 1690539Freely accessible. PMID 10722222. 
  24. ^ Murphy W. J.; Eizirik E.; Johnson W. E.; Zhang Y. P.; Ryder O. A.; O'Brien S. (2001). "Molecular phylogenetics and the origins of placental mammals". Nature. 409 (6820): 614–618. doi:10.1038/35054550. PMID 11214319. 
  25. ^ Huchon D.; Chevret P.; Jordan U.; Kilpatrick C. W.; Ranwez V.; Jenkins P. D.; Brosius J.; Schmitz J. (2007). "Multiple molecular evidences for a living mammalian fossil". Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 104 (18): 7495–7499. doi:10.1073/pnas.0701289104. PMC 1863447Freely accessible. PMID 17452635. 
  26. ^ Blanga-Kanfi S.; Miranda H.; Penn O.; Pupko T.; DeBry R. W.; Huchon D. (2009). "Rodent phylogeny revised: analysis of six nuclear genes from all major rodent clades". BMC Evol. Biol. 9: 71. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-9-71. PMC 2674048Freely accessible. PMID 19341461. 
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  28. ^ Meredith R. W.; Janecka J. E.; Gatesy J.; Ryder O. A.; Fisher C. A.; Teeling E. C.; Goodbla A.; Eizirik E.; Simao T. L.; Stadler T.; Rabosky D. L.; Honeycutt R. L.; Flynn J. J.; Ingram C. M.; Steiner C.; Williams T. L.; Robinson T. J.; Burk-Herrick A.; Westerman M.; Ayoub N. A.; Springer M. S.; Murphy W. J. (2011). "Impacts of the Cretaceous terrestrial revolution and KPg extinction on mammal diversification". Science. 334 (6055): 521–524. doi:10.1126/science.1211028. PMID 21940861. 
  29. ^ Fabre P.-H.; Hautier L.; Dimitrov D.; Douzery E. J. P. (2012). "A glimpse on the pattern of rodent diversification: a phylogenetic approach". BMC Evol. Biol. 12: 88. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-12-88. PMC 3532383Freely accessible. PMID 22697210. 
  30. ^ Upham N. S. & Patterson B. D. (2012). "Diversification and biogeography of the Neotropical caviomorph lineage Octodontoidea (Rodentia: Hystricognathi)". Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 63 (2): 417–429. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2012.01.020. PMID 22327013. 

External links

  • Wildlife Conservation: Porcupine African Wildlife Foundation
  • "Resource Cards: What About Porcupines?" Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
  • Porcupine control in the western states University of North Texas Digital Library
  • The Complete Resource To Keeping Porcupines As Pets
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