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Posted by on Jan 17, 2016 in Tell Me Why |

Do Porcupines Throw Their Quills?

Do Porcupines Throw Their Quills?

Porcupines are small forest animals famous for their bristling armor of sharp quills, which are long, stiff hairs. When danger threatens, the porcupine defends itself by raising its quills and charging backward, stabbing a dozen or so of those needle-sharp quills deep into its attacker’s flesh.

The quills make painful wounds, and are difficult to pull out because they have small barbs at their tips. The violent lashing of its quilled tail as it defends itself loosens the lightly-attached quills. But the porcupine doesn’t “throw” its quills as has sometimes been claimed.

The prickliest of all rodent species, the porcupine’s Latin name means “quill pig.” There are over two dozen different types of porcupines, but they all have coats covered in sharp quills that help protect them from predators. The quills are modified hairs made of keratin, which is the same material that your hair and fingernails are made from.

Although they’re designed to deter predators, porcupine quills stick porcupines themselves more often than other animals! Luckily, porcupine quills have another feature that prevents them from being a deadly nuisance. Each quill has a greasy coating that contains an antibiotic material. This protects the porcupine from developing infections when it accidentally sticks itself!

Content for this question contributed by Laura Justice, resident of Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio, USA