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  • Like most hedgehogs, the Amur hedgehog (Erinaceus amurensis) is a solitary animal. They typically come together only during mating season. Amur hedgehogs are covered in long, sharp spines, or quills, made of keratin that serve as a defense mechanism. When threatened, they curl up into a ball to protect their head and belly, leaving their quills facing outward. Hedgehog quills are much stronger than porcupine quills and don’t easily break or fall out. Though the presence of quills may suggest that Amur hedgehogs are related to porcupines, they aren’t actually closely related. Their closest relatives, in addition to other species of hedgehogs, include moonrats and gymnures.

    The Amur hedgehog is found in lowland China, just south of the Yangtze, along the Amur River basin, and into Korea. They are not considered to be threatened, as they are common within their geographic range. They often live along the border between mixed coniferous and broadleaf forests and open spaces, in valleys and lowlands. They prefer tall grasses or bushes and hedges.

    These hedgehogs are primarily insectivores, though they will sometimes eat small animals and fruit. Amur hedgehogs are nocturnal and usually feed at night. They don’t rely on their vision when they hunt. Instead they hunt using smell. As they root for food, they make a snuffling sound, similar to that made by hogs, which is where they got their name.

    1. Though porcupines and hedgehogs share the very distinctive characteristic of quills, they aren’t classified into the same genus or species. What are some reasons they might be classified differently?

      Answers will vary, but students should express that classification depends on multiple physical characteristics, geographic distribution, diet, and other factors. Different species can’t successfully breed with each other.

    2. What is the geographic range of the Amur hedgehog? What is its habitat? What is the difference between the two?

      Its geographic range is lowland China, just south of the Yangtze, along the Amur River basin, and into Korea. Its habitat is along the border between mixed coniferous and broadleaf forests and open spaces, in valleys and lowlands, and in tall grasses or bushes and hedges. The range is the geographic area throughout which an animal can be found, while the habitat describes the physical home of an animal. This can include characteristics such as the range of temperatures, typical moisture and rainfall, and the types of plants found there.

    3. What are some other mammals that have quills or spines? Do they all use their spines in the same way?

      Other animals with quills or spines include echidnas, tenrecs, and several types of rodents, including porcupines and spiny rats. All animals with spines or quills use them for defense in some way, though exactly how they use them differs. Some animals also use them for other purposes, such as communication or protection from rain.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    broadleaf forest Noun

    land covered by trees with wide, flat leaves.

    coniferous forest Noun

    land covered by trees with thin needles instead of flat leaves.

    defense Noun

    protection or resistance to attack.

    gymnure Noun

    primitive tropical hedgehog native to Southeast Asia that eats primarily insects. Also called the moonrat.

    insectivore Noun

    organism that mostly eats insects.

    keratin Noun

    sulfur-containing proteins that make up tissues such as horns, hair, wool, nails, and feathers.

    mating season Noun

    time when animals mate, give birth and sometimes raise young.

    nocturnal Adjective

    active at night.

    quill Noun

    hollow sharp spine.

    root Noun

    part of a plant that secures it in the soil, obtains water and nutrients, and often stores food made by leaves.