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Hedgehogs (family Erinaceidae) are a group of sturdy mammals that come from Africa, Asia and Europe. The hedgehog world is made up of 20 species in total. The critters generally inhabit settings such as woodlands, scrubby areas and deserts. Physically, they're hard to forget, what with their prickly exteriors.
Size and Build
Some hedgehogs are as big as 1 foot in length, while others are as small as merely 4 inches. The exact species of the hedgehog generally determines the overall length, and the same goes for weight. Most hedgehogs across the numerous species weigh between 5 and 56 ounces. Their physiques tend to be squat and short.
Hedgehogs are memorable for the many short spines that adorn their backs, similar to those featured on porcupines. They have roughly 6,000 of them. Hedgehogs' spines are referred to as "quills." Keratin is the main component in quills. The protein is the same thing that constitutes peoples' nails and hair. These rigid spikes help hedgehogs in self-defense. When hedgehogs are frightened, they roll their bodies up into balls. This essentially temporarily turns them into large lumps of painful spikes -- often effective for deterring predators. Despite sharing spiky looks, hedgehogs and porcupines are not one and the same. They're not even near kin.
Coloration and Fur
Hedgehogs appear in a handful of different colors, specifically deep brown, pale brown, white and black. They occasionally have black or deep brown markings on their faces, as well. The predominantly nocturnal animals' necks, tails, faces and stomachs all have short and roughly textured fur rather than spines.
Other Classic Hedgehog Features
Other signature physical features that are associated with hedgehogs are tiny ears, tiny mouths, lengthy snouts and small tails that are shaped similarly to cylinders. They're equipped with between 36 and 44 teeth. The majority of hedgehogs have five digits on their individual feet. Certain hedgehogs from the genus Erinaceus only have four of them on their back feet, however.
While physical appearance awareness is undeniably beneficial for identifying these prickly creatures, lifestyle components can be helpful, too. Hedgehogs generally live by themselves, and some of them exhibit turf-oriented behaviors. They stay on terra firma and aren't tree dwellers. In the daytime, they usually remain tucked away under piles of foliage, stones or logs. Insects are the biggest elements of their feeding plans. They also regularly consume other forms of sustenance such as scorpions, tiny rodents, reptiles, amphibians, foliage, fruit, seeds and fungi.
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Erinaceidae
- Wildlife Journal Junior: Erinaceidae - Gymnures, Hedgehogs
- Hedgehogs; Matthew M. Vriends
- The Complete Fauna of Iran; Eskandar Firouz
- Animal Planet: Hedgehog
- San Diego Zoo Animals: Hedgehog
- Hedgehogs; Sharon Vanderlip
- African Wildlife Foundation: Hedgehog
- John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images