Hystricidae – Old World porcupines

They don’t bite, neither they run away. Prepare to get spiked if you mess with a porcupine!

Old World porcupines, originating in the warmer regions of Asia before spreading into Europe and Africa, represent a unique and intriguing group of nocturnal rodents that have adapted to diverse habitats across these continents. Despite their relatively poor eyesight, Old World porcupines possess highly developed senses of smell and hearing, which they rely on to navigate their surroundings and detect potential threats or sources of food. These sensory adaptations are essential for their survival in a variety of environments, from dense forests to open grasslands.

One of the most striking features of Old World porcupines is their formidable defensive mechanism, characterized by long, sharp-pointed spines or quills that cover their bodies and tails. These quills serve as highly effective deterrents against predators, with the porcupine utilizing them as both a warning signal and a means of defense when threatened. When confronted by a predator, such as a carnivorous mammal or bird of prey, the porcupine raises its quills and may emit a rattling sound as a warning sign. If the predator persists, the porcupine may charge backward or sideways, using its spines to inflict painful injuries upon the attacker. The barbed nature of the quills ensures that they become embedded in the flesh of the predator, causing discomfort and discouraging further pursuit. Remarkably, the porcupine is capable of regrowing lost quills over time, allowing it to replenish its defensive arsenal and continue to ward off potential threats.

In addition to their defensive adaptations, Old World porcupines exhibit a variety of behaviors and ecological roles that contribute to their success as a species. These rodents are primarily herbivorous, feeding on a diet of bark, roots, fruits, and vegetation found within their habitats. Their foraging activities can have significant impacts on plant communities and ecosystems, influencing vegetation composition and nutrient cycling in their environments.