Do Hedgehogs Have Quills?
The answer is yes! Hedgehogs are covered in an array of protective spines, or “quills”, that they can curl up into when they feel threatened.
What Are Hedgehog Quills?
Hedgehog quills are made of keratin, the same protein that makes up human hair and fingernails. They are about one centimetre long and around 2-3 cm in diameter. The tips of the quills are curved and sharp, helping to protect hedgehogs from predators in the wild.
Functions of Quills
Hedgehog quills are multifunctional! Their role is not only to protect hedgehogs from harm, but also to:
- Provide camouflage: Hedgehogs’ quills can help them blend into their natural environment, making it more difficult for them to be spotted by predators.
- Help cool hedgehogs down: Quills help to increase hedgehogs’ surface area, allowing them to cool down faster.
- Sense danger: Quills can act as receptors, helping hedgehogs to detect vibrations in the ground and know when a nearby predator is approaching.
Can Hedgehogs Lose Quills?
Yes, hedgehogs can lose their quills like any other animal. Quills naturally shed and regrow, but if a hedgehog is feeling particularly stressed or threatened, it can shed more quills than usual. Shed quills can often be found around the habitats of wild hedgehogs, or on pet hedgehogs if they encounter anything that startles them.
Hedgehog Quills in Summary
Hedgehogs have a unique defence system in the form of their quills, which are made of keratin, as strong and flexible as human hair and fingernails. Quills serve multiple purposes, providing camouflage, helping hedgehogs cool down, and sensing danger from nearby predators. While quills are able to protect hedgehogs and help them survive in their natural environment, they can also be lost due to stress or fear caused by an external source.