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Animal Database
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Animal Database
Erinaceinae
1280px-Erinaceus europaeus LC0119
European Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus)
Scientific Classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Erinaceomorpha
Family Erinaceidae
Erinaceinae

Erinaceinae or hedgehogs, is a subfamily of spiny mammals. There are seventeen species of hedgehogs in five genera, found through parts of Europe, Asia, Africa and New Zealand (by introduction). There are no hedgehogs native to Australia, and no living species native to the Americas. Hedgehogs share distant ancestry with shrews (family Soricidae), with gymnures possibly being the intermediate link, and have changed little over the last 15 million years. Like many of the first mammals, they have adapted to a nocturnal way of life. Hedgehogs' spiny protection resembles that of the unrelated rodent porcupines and monotreme echidnas.

The name hedgehog came into use around the year 1450, derived from the Middle English heyghoge, from heyg, hegge ("hedge"), because it frequents hedgerows, and hoge, hogge ("hog"), from its piglike snout. Other names include urchin, hedgepig and furze-pig. The collective noun for a group of hedgehogs is array or prickle.

Physical Description[]

Hedgehogs are easily recognized by their spines, which are hollow hairs made stiff with keratin. Their spines are not poisonous or barbed and unlike the quills of a porcupine, cannot be easily plucked from the body. However, the immature animal's spines normally fall out as they are replaced with adult spines. This is called "quilling". Spines can also shed when the animal is diseased or under extreme stress.

A defense that all species of hedgehogs possess is the ability to roll into a tight ball, causing all of the spines to point outwards. Since the effectiveness of this strategy depends on the number of spines, some desert hedgehogs that evolved to carry less weight are more likely to flee or even attack, ramming an intruder with the spines; rolling into a spiny ball is for those species a last resort. The various species are prey to different predators: while forest hedgehogs are prey primarily to birds (especially owls) and ferrets, smaller species like the long-eared hedgehog are prey to foxes, wolves and mongooses.

Hedgehogs are primarily nocturnal, though some species can also be active during the day. Hedgehogs sleep for a large portion of the day under bush, grass, or rock, or most often in dens dug in the ground, with varying habits among the species. All wild hedgehogs can hibernate, though not all do, depending on temperature, species, and abundance of food.

The hedgehog's back contains two large muscles that control the position of the quills. The average hedgehog has about 5,000 to 6,500 quills that are strong on the outer surface but filled with air pockets on the inside. When the creature is rolled into a ball, the quills on the back protect the head, feet, and belly, which are not quilled. This is the hedgehog's last but most successful form of defense.

Hedgehogs are fairly vocal and communicate through a combination of grunts, snuffles and/or squeals, depending on species.

Hedgehogs occasionally perform a ritual called anointing. When the animal encounters a new scent, it will lick and bite the source, then form a scented froth in its mouth and paste it on its spines with its tongue. The specific purpose of this ritual is unknown, but some experts believe anointing camouflages the hedgehog with the new scent of the area and provides a possible poison or source of infection to predators poked by their spines. Anointing is sometimes also called anting because of a similar behavior in birds.

Like opossums, mice, and moles, hedgehogs have some natural immunity against snake venom through the protein erinacin in the animal's muscular system, although it is only available in small amounts and a viper bite may still be fatal. In addition, hedgehogs are one of four known mammalian groups with mutations that protect against another snake venom, α-neurotoxin. Pigs, honey badgers, mongooses, and hedgehogs all have mutations in the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor that prevent the snake venom α-neurotoxin from binding, though those mutations developed separately and independently.

Diet[]

Although traditionally classified in the now abandoned order Insectivora, hedgehogs are omnivorous. They feed on insects, snails, frogs and toads, snakes, bird eggs, carrion, mushrooms, grass roots, berries, melons and watermelons. Berries constitute a major part of an Afghan hedgehog's diet in early spring after hibernation.

Predators[]

Hedgehog bones have been found in the pellets of the Eurasian eagle-owl. In Britain, the main predator is the badger. Hedgehogs in the UK have demonstrably lower populations in areas where badgers are numerous, so that British hedgehog rescue societies will not release hedgehogs into known badger territories.

Classification[]

Subfamily Erinaceinae
 Genus: †Amphechinus
  †Amphechinus akespensis
  †Amphechinus arverniensis
  †Amphechinus baudelotae
  †Amphechinus edwardsi
  †Amphechinus ginsburgi
  †Amphechinus golpeae
  †Amphechinus horncloudi
  †Amphechinus intermedius
  †Amphechinus kreuzae
  †Amphechinus major
  †Amphechinus microdus
  †Amphechinus minutissimus
  †Amphechinus robinsoni
  †Amphechinus taatsiingolensis
 Genus: Atelerix
  Four-toed Hedgehog (Wagner, 1841) (Atelerix albiventris)
  North African Hedgehog (Lereboullet, 1842) (Atelerix algirus)
  Southern African Hedgehog (A. Smith, 1831) (Atelerix frontalis)
  Somali Hedgehog (Anderson, 1895) (Atelerix sclateri)
 Genus: Erinaceus
  Amur Hedgehog (Schrenk, 1858) (Erinaceus amurensis)
  Southern White-breasted Hedgehog (Martin, 1838) (Erinaceus concolor)
  European Hedgehog (Linnaeus, 1758) (Erinaceus europaeus)
  Northern White-breasted Hedgehog (Barrett-Hamilton, 1900) (Erinaceus roumanicus)
 Genus: Hemiechinus
  Long-eared Hedgehog (S. G. Gmelin, 1770) (Hemiechinus auritus)
   Hemiechinus auritus auritus
   Hemiechinus auritus albulus
   Hemiechinus auritus aegyptius
   Hemiechinus auritus libycus
   Hemiechinus auritus megalotis
  Indian Long-eared Hedgehog (Gray, 1830) (Hemiechinus collaris)
 Genus: Mesechinus
  Daurian Hedgehog (Sundevall, 1842) (Mesechinus dauuricus)
  Hugh's Hedgehog (Thomas, 1908) (Mesechinus hughi)
 Genus: Paraechinus
  Desert Hedgehog (Ehrenberg, 1832) (Paraechinus aethiopicus)
  Brandt's Hedgehog (Brandt, 1836) (Paraechinus hypomelas)
  Indian Hedgehog (Blyth, 1846) (Paraechinus micropus)
  Bare-bellied Hedgehog (Horsfield, 1851) (Paraechinus nudiventris)
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