Saturday, February 28, 2009

Porcupine

Porcupines are large, spine or quill-bearing rodent in the families Hystricidae (Old World) and Erethixontidae (New World) of the mammalian order Rodentia. The often large spines, or sharp hairs, which act as defense organs, are controlled by erectile muscles in the skin. The arboreal North American porcupine, Eretizon dorsatum, ranges across Canada and most of the United States into northern Mexico. It is about 58 cm (23 in) long, weight up to 18 kg (40 lb), and eats bark, buds, twigs, and leaves. The prehensile-tailed porcupines, genus Coendou, of Mexico and Central and South America, comprise about 20 species. The spines are shorter but denser than those of the North American porcupine. The Old World porcupines include the common or crested porcupine, Hystrix cristata, found in sourthern Europe and Africa. A large nocturnal rodent, about 61 cm (2 ft) long, it has a crest of white tipped quills. After a gestation period of nearly four months, the female gives birth to two or three young, which initially have soft fur rather than quills.


The north America porcupine defends itself by raising its barbed quills and thrashing its fail to drive them into an attacking animal.

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