Fun Fact September 3, 2021.

What could be worse than a giant rodent?  How about a giant rodent with a billion pointy quills with barbed ends?  We’re talking about the porcupine.  There are 58 species of porcupine, but they are all in the rodent family.  They are found in most parts of the world.  They are herbivores, eating leaves, herbs, twigs, and green plants such as clover. In the winter, it may eat bark. It often climbs trees to find food.  When a porcupine feels threatened they will first raise their quills.  As the threat continues, you’ll notice teeth chattering followed by a malodorous air and then the attack.  Porcupines’ quills, or spines, take on various forms, depending on the species, but all are modified hairs coated with thick plates of keratin.  Each tiny arrow has a barbed end acting like anchors, making it more painful to remove a quill that has pierced the skin. The shape of the barbs makes the quills more effective, both for penetrating the skin and remaining in place.  The quills have inspired research for such applications as the design of hypodermic needles and surgical staples.