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Porcupines are the third largest rodents on earth. In fact, in North America they are outsized only by the beaver. Porcupines have about 30,000 quills, but contrary to popular belief, they cannot shoot them at will into predators. Instead they tense up, making the quills stand out, and swing their tail in the direction of danger. It’s not just enemies that can get injured by a quill, the porcupine can occasionally sting itself. To prevent infection, the quills are actually covered in a natural topical antibiotic.

You might have seen porcupines on the ground, but can you imagine that spine creature climbing a tree? To be fair, the terrestrial and arboreal version belong to the same evolutionary branch, but they aren’t as closely related as the shared name suggests. The Old World porcupines are indigenous to Europe, most of Africa, India and the maritime southeast Asia. The rodents look like guinea-pigs with spikes and live on the ground. New World porcupines live in the remains of the original forest in the USA and Canada and can also be found in the tropical South America and Mexico.

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