Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
In This Section


Editor-in-Chief: Denys, Christiane

6 Issues per year

IMPACT FACTOR 2016: 0.805
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 1.000

CiteScore 2016: 0.89

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2015: 0.482
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2015: 0.555

See all formats and pricing
In This Section
Volume 78, Issue 2 (May 2014)


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

Emiliano Mori
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Life Sciences, University of Siena, Via P.A. Mattioli 62, 53100 Siena, Italy
  • Email:
/ Ivan Maggini
  • Advanced Facility for Avian Research, University of Western Ontario, Richmond St. 1151, London, ON N6G 1G9, Canada
/ Mattia Menchetti
  • Department of Biology, University of Florence, Via Madonna del Piano 6, 50019 Sesto Fiorentino (Florence), Italy
Published Online: 2013-10-30 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/mammalia-2013-0126


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


  • Alkon, P.U. and D. Saltz. 1988. Influence of season and moonlight on temporal activity patterns of Indian crested porcupines (Hystrix indica). J. Mammal. 69: 71–80.

  • Amori G., L. Contoli and A. Nappi. 2009. Istrice. In: (G. Amori, L. Contoli, A. Nappi, eds.) Mammalia II: Erinaceomorpha, Soricomorpha, Lagomorpha, Rodentia. Il Sole 24 Ore, Edagricole, Calderini. pp. 694–706.

  • Boitani, L. and P. Ciucci. 1995. Comparative social ecology of feral dogs and wolves. Ethol. Ecol. Evol. 7: 49–72.

  • Breuer, T. 2005. Diet choice of large carnivores in northern Cameroon. Afr. J. Ecol. 43: 97–106.

  • Cantini, M., M. Menchetti, A. Vannini, G. Bruni, B. Borriand E. Mori, E. 2013. Checklist of amphibians and reptiles in a hilly area of Southern Tuscany (Central Italy): an update. Herpetol. Notes 6: 223–228.

  • Caro, T. 2009. Contrasting coloration in terrestrial mammals. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B Biol. Sci. 364: 537–548.

  • Chapman, D.M. and U. Roze. 1997. Functional histology of quill erection in the porcupine, Erethizon dorsatum. Can. J. Zool. 75: 1–10.

  • Corsetti L. 1989. Atlante ornitologico dei Monti Lepini 1982–1988. Ypothèkai. Bollettino del Consorzio Biblioteche dei Monti Lepini, Anno V, Cori (Latina): pp. 222.

  • Corsini, M.T., S. Lovari and S. Sonnino. 1995. Temporal activity patterns of crested porcupines Hystrix cristata. J. Zool., London 236: 43–54.

  • Ellerman, J.R. 1940. The families and genera of living rodents: rodents other than Muridae. British Museum (Natural History), London, UK.

  • Fattorini, N. and C.P. Pokheral. 2012. Activity and habitat selection of the Indian crested porcupine. Ethol. Ecol. Evol. 24: 377–387. [Web of Science]

  • Harris, S. 1978. Age determination in the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) – an evaluation of technique efficiency as applied to a sample of suburban foxes. J. Zool., London 184: 91–117.

  • Johnson, M.D., K.D. Magnusson, C.L. Shmon and C. Waldner. 2006. Porcupine quill injuries in dogs: a retrospective of 296 cases (1998–2002). Can. Vet. J. 47: 677–682.

  • Kerbis-Peterhans, J.C. and L.K. Horwitz. 1992. A bone assemblage from a striped hyaena (Hyana hyaena) den in the Negev desert, Israel. Isr. J. Zool. 37: 225–245.

  • Klare, U., Kamler, J.F. and D.W. Macdonald. 2011. A comparison and critique of different scat analysis methods for determining carnivore diet. Mammal Rev. 41: 294–312. [Web of Science]

  • Lovari, S., M. Ventimiglia and I. Minder. 2013. Food habits of two leopard species competition, climate change and upper treeline: a way to the decrease of an endangered species? Ethol. Ecol. Evol. 25: 305–318. [Web of Science]

  • Lucherini, M., S. Lovari and G. Crema. 1995. Habitat use and ranging behaviour of the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) in a Mediterranean rural area: is shelter availability a key factor? J. Zool. Lond. 237: 577–591.

  • Mills, M.G.L. and T.M. Shenk. 1992. Predator-prey relationships: the impact of lion predation on wildebeest and zebra. J. Anim. Ecol. 61: 693–702.

  • Mohr, E. 1965. Altweltliche Stachelschweine. A. Ziemsen Verlag (Eds.), Wittenburg Lutherstadt, Germany. pp. 164.

  • Monetti, L., A. Massolo, A. Sforzi and S. Lovari. 2005. Site selection and fidelity by crested porcupines for denning. Ethol. Ecol. Evol. 17: 149–159.

  • Neal E. and C. Cheeseman. (1996). Badgers. T and A D Poyser, London.

  • Revilla, E., M. Delibes, A. Travaini and F. Palomares. 1999. Physical and population parameters of Eurasian badgers (Meles meles L.) from Mediterranean Spain. Z. Säugetierkunde 64: 269–276.

  • Sever, Z. and H. Mendelssohn. 1989. Paternal behavior in porcupines. Isr. J. Zool. 36: 172–173.

  • Sweitzer, R.A. and J. Berger. 1997. Sexual dimorphism and evidence for intrasexual selection from quill impalements, injuries, and mate guarding in porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum).Can. J. Zool. 75: 847–854.

  • Van Aarde, R.J. 1998. An ecological perspective of reproduction in the Cape porcupine. Trans. R. Soc. S. Afr. 53: 237–243.

  • Woods, C.A. and E.B. Howland. 1977. The skin musculature of Hystricognath and other selected rodents. Anat. Hist. Embryol. 6: 240–264.

  • Zherebtsova, O.V. 2000. Spiny cover and defence strategy of mammals. Trans. Zool. Inst., Russian Ac. Sci. 286: 169–174.

About the article

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

Received: 2013-06-14

Accepted: 2013-09-20

Published Online: 2013-10-30

Published in Print: 2014-05-01

Citation Information: Mammalia, ISSN (Online) 1864-1547, ISSN (Print) 0025-1461, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/mammalia-2013-0126. Export Citation

Citing Articles

Here you can find all Crossref-listed publications in which this article is cited. If you would like to receive automatic email messages as soon as this article is cited in other publications, simply activate the “Citation Alert” on the top of this page.

Todd Katzner, Tricia A. Miller, Jane Rodrigue, and Steven Shaffer
The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 2015, Volume 127, Number 1, Page 102
Emiliano Mori, Andrea Sforzi, Mattia Menchetti, Giuseppe Mazza, Sandro Lovari, and Benoît Pisanu
Parasitology Research, 2015, Volume 114, Number 6, Page 2223
Emiliano Mori, Mattia Menchetti, Sandro Bertolino, Giuseppe Mazza, and Leonardo Ancillotto
Mammal Research, 2015, Volume 60, Number 2, Page 189
Emiliano Mori, Sandro Lovari, Andrea Sforzi, Giorgia Romeo, Caterina Pisani, Alessandro Massolo, and Lorenzo Fattorini
Behavioural Processes, 2014, Volume 107, Page 112
E. Mori, D. H. Nourisson, S. Lovari, G. Romeo, and A. Sforzi
Journal of Zoology, 2014, Volume 294, Number 1, Page 31
Emiliano Mori, Mattia Menchetti, and Alessandro Balestrieri
acta ethologica, 2015, Volume 18, Number 2, Page 121
E. Mori, M. Menchetti, and F. Dartora
Italian Journal of Zoology, 2014, Volume 81, Number 3, Page 471

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in