Hedgehogs are cute spiky mammals. There are 17 species of them, which are found in Asia, Europe, Africa and New Zealand. Across dessert, forest and gardens, now they are also famous in internet videos as adorable pets and ‘Sonic the hedgehog’.
1. Hedgehogs were firstly known as Urchins. But, their unique foraging method through the hedges and the pig like grunt they make give the name Hedgehog.
These creatures are approximately 125 million years old. In 2015, a group of scientists were researching on fossil remains related to hedgehogs. They got surprised by the Mesozoic mammals, which are similar to mice with spine like keratin structures.
They have unique appearance like a Porcupine. The whole body covered up by 5000-7000 spines, which are actually modified hairs. Unlike porcupine, these spikes are not quills or venomous. Quills are barbed and can be detached but, spines don’t. These are like hollow spikes, light yet strong and attached with muscles that can be raised up, giving the creatures a formidable defensive capability.
Must Read: Hermit Crabs
4. Other dissimilarities with porcupines are, hedgehogs are much smaller but, not herbivores.
When they feel threatened, they curl themselves into spiny little balls to protect themselves. In this rolled shape, they are much less appealing to badgers, foxes, and other predators. While all of their spines point out, the face, chest, legs, and stomach stay protected.
Their diet mainly consist of fruits, berries and mainly insects. But surprisingly, the protein in their blood provides natural immunity against snake venom. So, they not just hunt but eat snakes also.
7. They are nocturnal creatures, as their poor eye sight only gives good vision at night. But, their sense of smell and hearing is quite strong and use these to hunt. Hence, daytime is for rest or sleep.
A group of Hedgehogs are called an Array, while they are solitary creatures and pair for mating only.
All of them don’t hibernate, but some do. Species from desert regions may remain awake all year or experience torpor state lasting 24 hours or less, but some species need to hibernate to get through the cold winters. In the coldest regions, hedgehogs may hibernate for as long as six months.
Also Read: Sea Horse
10. They are terrestrial, and spend all of their life time on the ground even they couldn’t climb.
Baby hedgehogs are called ‘Hoglets‘. They born blind and after 32 days their eyes get open with developing the spikes. But, the main reason we are putting the point is to show you their of their cuteness.
It is a myth that, they can’t swim. In fact, they have been seen swimming up-to 2kms in search for food. But, they generally bask in water for fun rather than necessity.
13. These creatures are Monyphyodonts, meaning they grow only one set(44 number) of teeth in their lifetime. The teeth fully developed by the age of 3 weeks and if one get broken, it will never grow back.
In the wild, they usually build large nests made of grass, leaves, and other plant debris in the base of hedges or thick bush.
15. The European hedgehog species is largest, growing up-to 10-14 inches. Whereas, the African pygmy hedgehogs are the smallest(7-9 inches), but very popular as pets.