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When quills kill: the defense strategy of the crested porcupine Hystrix cristata L., 1758

1 / Ivan Maggini2 / Mattia Menchetti3

1Department of Life Sciences, University of Siena, Via P.A. Mattioli 62, 53100 Siena, Italy

2Advanced Facility for Avian Research, University of Western Ontario, Richmond St. 1151, London, ON N6G 1G9, Canada

3Department of Biology, University of Florence, Via Madonna del Piano 6, 50019 Sesto Fiorentino (Florence), Italy

Corresponding author: Emiliano Mori, Department of Life Sciences, University of Siena, Via P.A. Mattioli 62, 53100 Siena, Italy, e-mail:

Citation Information: mammalia. Volume 0, Issue 0, Pages 1–6, ISSN (Online) 1864-1547, ISSN (Print) 0025-1461, DOI: 10.1515/mammalia-2013-0126, October 2013

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Quills represent specialized morphological structures evolved by some mammal species to deter predators. Among quilled mammals, crested porcupines Hystrix spp. exhibit the most complex armor. The antipredator behavior of these rodents is poorly known. In this study, we describe in detail the defense strategies of Hystrix cristata when attacked by hunting dogs. We identified four kinds of display exhibited by porcupines. Tail rattling seems to be sufficient to repel solitary predators, while backyard/sideways attacks are exhibited only in extreme situations, or when numerical disparity among potential prey and predators occurs. We also report four cases of wild species killing by porcupines.

Keywords: antipredator behavior; backyard/sideways attacks; quill armor; tail rattling

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