Are you curious about those spiky little creatures? Are you wondering, “Are hedgehogs rodents?”
This seemingly simple question opens up a fascinating animal classification and characteristics world. Hedgehogs, often mistaken for rodents due to their size and appearance, belong to a different family.
Let’s delve into the intriguing differences that set hedgehogs apart from rodents. In this article, we’ll explore:
- What distinguishes hedgehogs from rodents in terms of physical traits and behavior?
- Are hedgehogs and porcupines related, and how do they differ from each other?
- What are the common misconceptions about hedgehogs, including their diet and habitat?
Get ready to unravel the mystery behind these adorable creatures.
Although rodents are also mammals, belonging to the Rodentia family, the main difference is in their teeth. A rodent’s incisors continue growing, being worn down as they gnaw through wood etc. whereas a hedgehog’s teeth do not.
What is the difference between a hedgehog and a rodent?
As stated above a rodent’s teeth continue to grow throughout their lives as they become worn down by gnawing but a hedgehog’s teeth are a permanent size.
Another difference between a hedgehog and a rodent is their diet:
- Hedgehogs eat a great variety of foods, which also include insects. As they are insectivores, they have canine teeth to facilitate this. They have even been known to eat small snakes and seem to have quite a high tolerance to venom.
- Rodents are generally exclusively herbivores. Because of that they have a specific part of their digestive system, called a caecum, which helps to digest the cellulose in plants, which hedgehogs do not possess.
Rodents include squirrels, beavers, chipmunks, guinea pigs, mice and rats.
Are hedgehogs and porcupines related?
Hedgehogs and porcupines are not related. Many people assume they are related as they both have spiky quills for protection.
Hedgehog quills are much shorter than that of a porcupine, at no more than an inch long.
Hedgehogs roll into a tight ball when attached which hides the soft parts of their bodies and makes their quills stand up all around their bodies. The quills of hedgehogs do not fall out when used in defense.
A porcupine’s quills can be many inches long.
When attacked, a porcupine does not roll into a ball. It points its tail and the quills in it towards the predator. If any stick into the attacker, the ends of the quills have barbs, which cause the quill to detach and remain stuck into the attacker, causing them to flee.
Porcupines belong to the rodent family, oddly enough, even though they probably look less like rodents than hedgehogs do.
Hedgehogs are generally much smaller than porcupines, too, and have nowhere near as many quills.
Are hedgehogs marsupials?
As well as being considered rodents by some, others believe hedgehogs to be marsupials. Hedgehogs are not marsupials, but I imagine that perhaps because they may look a little like opossums, this may be where the confusion comes from.
Hedgehogs do not have pouches to rear their young in, so they are not marsupials. They are, in fact, mammals of the Erinaceidae family.
There is, however, an animal in Australia called an Antechinus, which is a marsupial and resembles a hedgehog in that it has a similar face and prickly fur. Although it may sometimes be confused with a hedgehog, it is not one.
Are hedgehogs related to echidnas?
Echidnas, also known as spiny anteaters, do have spines that cover their bodies, which they use for defense, rather like hedgehogs (and porcupines), but they are not actually related.
Echidnas do not give birth to live babies as hedgehogs do but instead lay eggs.
Are hedgehogs related to tenrecs?
They live in Africa and some islands close to Africa, such as Madagascar and Mauritius, and their closest relatives are otter shrews.
What are hedgehogs’ closest relatives?
The closest relatives to hedgehogs are moles, shrews and moonrats. Many people also believe shrews to be rodents as they look so similar to mice.
Hedgehogs are also closely related to the Gymnure, a small shrew-like mammal in southeast Asia.
Are hedgehogs native to Australia and New Zealand?
Hedgehogs are not naturally found in either country.
They are not even allowed to be imported into Australia as they are banned as exotic animals.
They are found throughout New Zealand because they were introduced in the 1870s. They have no natural enemies in New Zealand, so they have thrived and are now considered a pest, and it is believed they are destroying some native animal species.
A program of trapping, hunting and poisoning them to eradicate them has begun.
Ironically, there are plans to send some hedgehogs back to the UK (where they came from originally) as they are becoming a threatened species there.
Do hedgehogs shoot quills?
Hedgehogs cannot shoot their quills at all. Although it is a common misconception that porcupines do this, they cannot shoot their quills either.
Perhaps people believe they can because sometimes they are seen doing this in cartoons, but the reality is that they cannot.
Another reason why people may believe porcupines can shoot them could be that as porcupine quills have barbs on their tips if they puncture a predator’s skin, they will detach themselves from the porcupine and remain embedded in the predator. Hedgehog quills do not have barbs and do not detach themselves, either.