Indian Crested porcupine
The Indian porcupine is an ‘Old World’ porcupine and one of the world's largest porcupines. This rodent has rather long quills of up to 16 inches. Unlike the 'New World' porcupines, this porcupine is a ground-dwelling and burrowing animal. The amazingly strong front feet allow the animal excavate substantial burrows. The substantial incisors of Indian porcupine never stop growing, so that the animal has to wear down its teeth, which it does through chewing bark, trees, chain link fence and sometimes cement.
The range of Indian porcupine covers a huge territory, stretching across southeast and central Asia and some parts of the Middle East. This animal is capable of living in a wide variety of habitats, inhabiting heights of up to 2400 meters in the Himalayan Mountains. It mainly occurs on rocky hill sides, but is also found in tropical and temperate scrublands, grasslands and forests.
Habits and lifestyle
As nocturnal animals, Indian porcupines spend their daytime hours in their dens. They rarely live alone, but always forage alone. Both mature individuals and weaned young spend about 7 hours foraging per night on average. During the winter, they tend to avoid moonlight in order to escape predators. During this period of year, they sometimes come out of their dens and can be observed basking in the sun. During the summer, they protect themselves by remaining close to their dens and usually don't avoid moonlight. These porcupines either live in natural caves or excavate burrows themselves. When irritated, they usually raise the quills on their body and vibrate the hollow spines on their tail. If these actions don't work, they attack the opponent back first. Indian porcupines are accomplished swimmers. However, they are neither good climbers nor jumpers, so they prefer living on or under the ground.
Diet and nutrition
Indian porcupines are herbivores, they primarily feed upon fruits, grains, roots and other vegetable material, supplementing their diet by chewing bones, which provide them with required minerals such as calcium, which, in turn, enhance growth of their spines.
Indian porcupines have a monogamous mating system. Mating occurs in February-March. Females produce a single litter per year. The gestation period is 240 days, yielding 2 - 4 young. Newborn porcupines have open eyes and exhibit short, soft quills, which start hardening during the first few hours after birth. Young live in a den for about a year, during which both parents care for them. Complete weaning occurs at 13 - 19 weeks old, although young continue living in the den until they are sexually mature at 2 years old.
In some areas of their range, Indian porcupines are hunted for their meat. They are also commonly trapped by local people due to being considered a pest species. On the other hand, these rodents currently face habitat degradation because of urbanization, infrastructure development and use of pesticides.
The Indian porcupine is a very widespread species. The overall number of this species' population is presently unknown, but stable. The Indian porcupine is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.
Fun facts for kids
- The word 'porcupine' is a combination of Latin words “porcus” (pig) and “spina” (thorn).
- On their back, these rodents possess long and formidable quills, which are an important mean of self-defense. As a matter of fact, these long and thin quills on their back are known as ‘rattle quills’. When angry or annoyed, the porcupine usually vibrates its quills, emitting a rattling sound, which serves as a warning before the attack. Meanwhile, the thicker and shorter spines have small hooks, which point backwards and can penetrate skin and muscles of the opponent. These sharp quills of the Indian porcupine have been known to cause serious injuries to tigers and leopards.
- Males of this species are called 'boars', females are known as 'sows', offspring is referred to as 'pups', whereas a group of Indian porcupines is called a 'prickle’.
- When looking for food, porcupines usually emit a grunting sound.
- Quills of these animals have greasy coverage, containing antibiotics, which neutralize infection if porcupines are accidentally pricked by their own quills.