Atelerix albiventris

Range: Africa in two distinct bands on the northern and southern fringes of the Sahara

Desert. Also found in arid lowlands of the Middle East.

Habitat: Semi-arid grasslands and savanna (forest to desert); doesn’t like damp.

Conservation status: Widespread; no serious threats. Well protected against natural predators and not widely hunted by humans. Smaller than the European hedgehogs which are protected.

African Hedgehog

  • • Class: Mammalia; Order: Insectovora; Family: Erinaceidae; aka “desert’ hedgehog
    • Diet: mostly insects, but also eat carrion, snakes, and probably fruits and roots. Favors scorpions, but must first bite the stinger from the tail. It approaches snakes slowly, then makes a dash, with its head spines erect. It bites the victim’s body to sever the spinal cord. Because its spines are usually longer than the snake’s fangs, it is rarely hurt. May also be immune to the venom. Consume 1/3 of their body weight per night.
    • Small mammals with long narrow snouts. There are 15 different species of hedgehogs.
    • Body is covered with close-set fur and spines (about 3000 of them). These are modified hairs. They are flexible tubes that bend without breaking. When alarmed, the spines criss-cross and point in all different directions. They have a set of dorsal muscles that contract to allow it to roll into a ball when threatened. When contracted, these muscles fit like a snug cap over the animal’s body and head.
    • Nocturnal and solitary. Courtship may last several days, then the pair stays together until she gives birth, at which point she chases the male away.
    • Fossorial (equipped for digging)
    • Four clawed digits on each limb – useful for burrowing in loose sand or soil. Cannot use its claws to groom its spiny back and is often riddled with hundreds of tiny pests and parasites. Walks squarely on the soles of its feet.

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