Porcupines are rodentian mammals with a coat of sharp spines, or quills, that protect against predators. The term covers two families of animals, the Old World porcupines of family Hystricidae, and the New World porcupines of family Erethizontidae. Both families belong to the infraorder Hystricognathi within the profoundly diverse order Rodentia and display superficially similar coats of quills: despite this, the two groups are distinct from each other and are not closely related to each other within the Hystricognathi.
Porcupines are the third-largest of the rodents, behind the capybara and the beaver. Most porcupines are about 60–90 cm long, with an 20–25 cm long tail. Weighing 5–16 kg, they are rounded, large, and slow, and use aposematic strategy of defense. Porcupines occur in various shades of brown, gray, and white. Porcupines’ spiny protection resembles that of the unrelated erinaceomorph hedgehogs and Australian spiny anteaters or monotreme echidnas.
Image: Ranger JJ van Wyk