Big Animals

Why do porcupines have spikes?

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Just like most animals have special ways of defending themselves or escaping from predators that might try to hurt them, porcupines have a special form of defense: spiky, prickly quills!

A porcupine's quills are made up of keratin, which is the same stuff that makes up your hair and nails (and the horns of certain animals)! Porcupines have quills on their backs and tails, though not on the underside of their bodies. Nevertheless, a porcupine can still have as many as 30,000 quills sometimes more!

The quills of a porcupine usually lie flat on the porcupine's body until the porcupine feels threatened or scared. When they perceive danger, the quills stand up and stick out from the porcupine's body. Any animal who knows better will back off right away when it sees these quills, because the sharp quills will stick easily into the skin of any predator who tries to attack! Being stuck by a porcupine quill can be very painful and even dangerous, so lots of animals have learned to stay away!

by Mya Kagan (Whyzz writer)

Exploration

Porcupine 101!

Aside from their quills, here are some other interesting facts about porcupines! Porcupines live in lots of different places around the world, such as Africa, Europe, Asia, and North and South America! There are approximately two dozen (24) species of porcupines. Certain types of porcupines have quills that can measure up to 20 inches long. Whoa! Can you guess what the name is for a baby porcupine?? -- The answer is "porcupette". What other neat things have you learned about these cool creatures?

Further Information

It used to be thought that porcupines could shoot their quills at predators when they felt threatened, although now we've learned this is not true; the quills simply detach and stick easily when they are touched by another animal.