Erethizon dorsatum

| 23 Comments

Photograph by Susan Bello.

Photography contest, Honorable Mention.

Bello.porcupine.jpg

Erethizon dorsatumNorth American porcupine, Schoodic Peninsula, Acadia National Park, Maine, June, 2006.

23 Comments

Fuzzy, but not snuggly. My mom knelt on a quill once when we were backpacking; something had killed a porcupine and scattered bits of hide around. Just a stub protruded from her skin; a friend got hold of it with her teeth and pulled it out, barb and all. A memorable trip, all round.

Lovely image.

Nice photo!

This must be a young porcupine. The adults that I have found in the woods have been much more scruffy and haggard looking. Also, it does not have the raised hind quarters of an adult.

Several years ago I tried, unsuccessfully, to tempt an adult with an apple core. I walked along side the little guy for about a half mile. Every 20 yards or so it would glance up sideways to see if I was still there, then grunt and waddle some more.

A surprise to me is that they climb using either both front or back legs at one time. They grasp the tree with one set, and lift with the other set, kind of like an electrical lineman or logger with a belt.

Truly a curious animal, and a great experience for me!

steve said:

A surprise to me is that they climb using either both front or back legs at one time. They grasp the tree with one set, and lift with the other set, kind of like an electrical lineman or logger with a belt.

Yeah, they look like tree-climbing machines: reach up with front claws, dig in, pull out rear claws and pull up, dig in rear claws again, release front claws and reach up.

I recall what fun it was to yank those quills out of our dog’s nose with pliers. She had problems learning that porkys had to be left along. BTW, that one in the photo is clearly an adolescent.

I always thought of porcupines as being “antisocial loners” until I saw this: “A porcupine who thinks he is a puppy” video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5I5[…]ture=related

Isn’t he just the cutest thing! It’s like a Brillo pad with feet!

Porcupines made it to the Texas hill country some years ago. I was driving down the highway between Llano and Mason and saw this puzzled turkey vulture by the side of the road. I was impressed that I could tell he was puzzled even when I was some distance away. As I drove by, I saw he was trying to figure out how to eat a dead porcupine.

Jim Thomerson said:

Porcupines made it to the Texas hill country some years ago. I was driving down the highway between Llano and Mason and saw this puzzled turkey vulture by the side of the road. I was impressed that I could tell he was puzzled even when I was some distance away. As I drove by, I saw he was trying to figure out how to eat a dead porcupine.

Shishkabob?

I think he’s kind of cute. Still, I’d prefer admiring him from a distance.

So adorable. The universe was obviously made for porcupines. Humans are just an after thought, the celestial equivalent of a laugh-track.

Hypatia’s Daughter said:

I always thought of porcupines as being “antisocial loners” until I saw this: “A porcupine who thinks he is a puppy” video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5I5[…]ture=related

Talk about cute.

Since porcupines are rodents (which are notorious for rapid and prolific reproduction) and since they have such a strong defense against predators, how come there are not TRILLIONS upon TRILLIONS of them all over the world and most predators (and indeed, other non-porcupines) are not going extinct?

YouTube - Porcupine who thinks he is a puppy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5I5[…]yer_embedded#!

steve said:

Nice photo!

This must be a young porcupine. The adults that I have found in the woods have been much more scruffy and haggard looking. Also, it does not have the raised hind quarters of an adult.

Thanks.

I think so too, it was traveling with what I assume was its mother (larger and scruffier individual). I spotted the 2 of them crossing the road in Acadia National Park and stopped to photograph them. As I was shooting her, I happened to glance down to see that this one had wandered out to take a good look at me.

Dale Husband said:

Since porcupines are rodents (which are notorious for rapid and prolific reproduction) and since they have such a strong defense against predators, how come there are not TRILLIONS upon TRILLIONS of them all over the world and most predators (and indeed, other non-porcupines) are not going extinct?

Well, first off, porcupines are not as prolific breeders like mice: New World porcupines give birth to single pups, or very rarely, twins, after a 7 month gestation. That, and as invincibly defended a porcupine may appear, they still have predators, like lions, tigers, bears, eagles, owls, and weasels.

Especially weasels. And martens, which are fast enough to attack the porcupine’s vulnerable face.

Sue said:

steve said:

Nice photo!

This must be a young porcupine. The adults that I have found in the woods have been much more scruffy and haggard looking. Also, it does not have the raised hind quarters of an adult.

Thanks.

I think so too, it was traveling with what I assume was its mother (larger and scruffier individual). I spotted the 2 of them crossing the road in Acadia National Park and stopped to photograph them. As I was shooting her, I happened to glance down to see that this one had wandered out to take a good look at me.

Did this adorable little brillo pad assume you had some salty snacks on you?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porcupine#Species

A porcupine is any of 27 species of rodent belonging to the families Erethizontidae or Hystricidae. Porcupines vary in size considerably: Rothschild’s Porcupine of South America weighs less than a kilogram (2.2 lb (1.00 kg)); the African Porcupine can grow to well over 10 kg (22 lb). The two families of porcupines are quite different, and, although both belong to the Hystricognathi branch of the vast order Rodentia, they are not closely related. The eleven Old World porcupines are almost exclusively terrestrial, tend to be fairly large, and have quills that are grouped in clusters. They are believed to have separated from the other hystricognaths about 30 million years ago, much earlier than the New World porcupines.

The twelve New World porcupines are mostly smaller (although the North American Porcupine reaches about 85 cm/33 in in length and 18 kg/40 lb), have their quills attached singly rather than grouped in clusters, and are excellent climbers, spending much of their time in trees. The New World porcupines evolved their spines independently (through convergent evolution) and are more closely related to several other families of rodent than they are to the Old World porcupines. Porcupines have a relatively high longevity and had held the record for being the longest-living rodent,[4] which was recently broken by the Naked Mole Rat (Heterocephalus glaber).[5]

What means could be used to determine that the two families of porcupines are not that closely related? The principle of parsimony would lead one to assume they were each other’s closest relatives.

Dale Husband said:

What means could be used to determine that the two families of porcupines are not that closely related? The principle of parsimony would lead one to assume they were each other’s closest relatives.

Probably through anatomical features and gene-sequencing.

Perhaps they mean that the two families “are not closely related” in a poorly worded attempt to highlight that the Old World porcupines’ closest relatives are the Caviomorphs?

Stanton said:

Perhaps they mean that the two families “are not closely related” in a poorly worded attempt to highlight that the Old World porcupines’ closest relatives are the Caviomorphs?

From what I’ve heard, they’re not more closely related to each other than they are to other rodents – the exact tree relationship I admittedly do not know.

They are not as similar as they superficially seem. Old World porkys have a different quill scheme – they have long sharp quills that don’t come out. New World porkys have short quills that do come up and have a nasty grain that makes them hard to remove. A New World porky’s best defensive measure is to slap an intruder with its tail and bury a handful of quills in an attacker’s face.

PS: The two groups also have very different lifestyles. New World porkys typically hang around trees, Old World porkys are ground-oriented.

MrG said:

Stanton said:

Perhaps they mean that the two families “are not closely related” in a poorly worded attempt to highlight that the Old World porcupines’ closest relatives are the Caviomorphs?

From what I’ve heard, they’re not more closely related to each other than they are to other rodents – the exact tree relationship I admittedly do not know.

Then wouldn’t that merit the two groups being placed in two separate orders?

But aren’t both groups still in the rodent order, even if no closer to each other than to other families of rodents?

Henry J said:

But aren’t both groups still in the rodent order, even if no closer to each other than to other families of rodents?

Yeah, I think Stanton was just fussing about my phrasing. According to Wikipedia (OK not perfect source), New World porkys are more closely related to nutria, capybara, and even the adorable little chinchillas than they are to Old World porkys. The spiny configuration is parallel evolution.

Of course, the list also suggests that porkys are more closely related to guinea pigs, bringing up recollections of the fuss back in the 1990s that guinea pigs weren’t actually rodents.

Order, family, superfamily suborder… You all know what I mean, I hope.

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on August 2, 2010 12:00 PM.

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