As we welcome Nancy and Ellie, the two Crested Porcupines, we would like to celebrate their awesomeness by sharing some amazing facts about this species. The porcupine is the prickliest of rodents, though its Latin name means “quill pig.” There are more than two dozen porcupine species, and all boast a coat of needle-like quills to give predators a sharp reminder that this animal is no easy meal. Some quills, like those of Africa’s crested porcupine, are nearly a foot long.
- Porcupines have soft hair, but on their back, sides, and tail it is usually mixed with sharp quills. These quills typically lie flat until a porcupine is threatened, then leap to attention as a persuasive deterrent. Porcupines cannot shoot them at predators as once thought, but the quills do detach easily when touched.
- The largest porcupine is the North African crested porcupine. It grows up to 36 inches (90 centimeters) long. The smallest is the Bahia hairy dwarf porcupine. It grows up to 15 inches (38 cm) long. Porcupines weigh 2.5 to 77 lbs. (1.2 to 35 kilograms), depending on species, and their tails can grow up to 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm).
- Porcupines are herbivores, eating leaves, plants, fruit, and the tender layer of tissue beneath the bark of trees. A porcupine can fell a whole tree if it removes too much bark.
- Porcupines are surprisingly skillful swimmers. In at least some porcupine species, the air-filled quills on the animals’ backs can give them a buoyancy boost as they move through water, like a permanent life jacket. While the quills help it stay afloat, the porcupine propels itself forward with a stroke similar to dog paddling.
- Porcupine quills are coated with potent natural antibiotics, which have been shown to strongly inhibit the growth of several gram-positive bacterial strains. That might seem odd, as if porcupines are protecting their predators from infection, but their quills are most likely medicated for their own safety. Porcupines can accidentally stab themselves in a variety of situations — such as falling out of trees, which research suggests may happen fairly often — and having antibiotic-coated quills could limit the damage.
- Baby porcupines are known as porcupettes. They are born with soft, bendable quills that begin to harden within a few days after they are born. Porcupine mothers typically have only one baby at a time, but their offspring tend to grow up quickly. In some species, a porcupette may be ready to live independently just a few months after being born.
Make sure you visit our two new gorgeous Porcupines at Paradise Wildlife Park. They can be found next to our camels, opposite the Rainforest building! Book your tickets today!