Do you like hedgehogs? But it’s a safe bet that you do not know how many species of hedgehogs are recorded in the world. And apart from the quills, what characterizes a hedgehog? In this article, we tell you the basics of what you need to know about hedgehogs.
The “real” hedgehogs and the others
Do you know what the hedgehog female is called? The hedgehog. Well, that was easy… Now, harder: what’s the name of the little hedgehog? In fact, it does not have a specific name: some love to use the term “choupisson” which, it must be admitted, suits this adorable little ball of fur, while others are content with “hedgehog. ”. The most scientific qualify it as a “juvenile hedgehog”. Make your choice !
The large family of hedgehogs is that of Erinaceidae: all its members are characterized by a form of skull particular. The shape of the molars of these animals is also specific: they have four main tubercles with a smaller, middle fifth.
This family is made up of two large groups: the Erinaceinae, which we call “true” hedgehogs and the Galericinese, called Gymnures, which are kinds of hedgehogs without spines. Here we are only interested in the first ones.
The different species of hedgehog
True hedgehogs are divided into 5 genera:
- The hedgehogs of the woods,
- Long-eared hedgehogs,
- African hedgehogs,
- The hedgehogs of the steppes,
- The hedgehogs of the deserts.
They form a total of fifteen species because depending on where they evolve, they constitute a distinct species.
The family of woodland hedgehogs (Erinaceus) is located in Europe. These hedgehogs are protected: to contribute to their conservation, tunnels are built under the highways. The common hedgehog, the one most commonly found in Europe, is an old animal: it has been found in fossil form in layers dating from the Quaternary, a period that began 2.8 million years ago. . This hedgehog has between 5,000 and 7,000 quills. They measure between 2 and 3 cm in length. Their lifespan is only 18 months as they grow continuously, like our hair. They rise up under the effect of a muscle contraction. Its color, like that of other genera, generally offers it good camouflage from the environment in which it evolves.
The long-eared hedgehogs (Hemiechinus) are also called ear hedgehogs. They are distinguished by the size of their ears, which stand up nicely on their heads. They are covered with long hairs, like its head and body, except for the dorsal area covered with quills. They are used to regulate its temperature : this is why it can live in hot and dry environments. It is found mainly in the countries of Central Asia and the regions of the Eastern Mediterranean. Its quills are dark at the base and white at the ends. Unlike the European hedgehog, its spines when resting are directed backwards. Its small size makes it lighter than the wood hedgehog; it is therefore faster to escape attacks from predators. The big-eared hedgehogs are often hunted by the population, accused of carrying diseases. However, it is still very effective for eating scorpions, slugs and termites.
The African hedgehogs (Atelerix) are the only hedgehogs allowed as pets. company in Canada, and since 2002. This hedgehog needs 10 hours of sun or light per day minimum and an environment between 23 and 27 degrees, otherwise it goes into hibernation. In freedom, it can travel up to 9 km per night. He must therefore be guaranteed the possibility of doing the same in captivity. Like all hedgehogs, the basis of their diet is made up of insects. This one has a particular appetite for crickets and mealworms. All of this shows that the hedgehog is not an easy pet to make happy. You can be seduced by the animal without taking the step to deprive it of freedom, which, in some ways, is a rather poor way of showing that you love this animal.
The steppe hedgehogs (Mesechinus) are found in Russia, China and Mongolia. It is difficult to find information about these hedgehogs, as if they were not studied or at least very little known.
The desert hedgehogs (Paraechinus aethiopicus) live in the deserts of North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. These hedgehogs are very hardy and can stay in the burrow if food and water are scarce without hibernating. They eat small vertebrates and scorpion eggs.
Hibernation of the common hedgehog
There is always something fascinating about the hibernation process. It is to survive without food that hedgehogs go into hibernation, when temperatures drop and the environment becomes less rich in insects. A temperature below 10 ° C triggers hibernation.
The hedgehog’s nest is about two feet in diameter and an average of six inches thick. It is made up of dry leaves cleverly arranged one on top of the other and then packed together to form a fairly waterproof so that the temperature does not drop below 1 ° C. Otherwise the hedgehog will have to wake up to speed up the circulation of blood so as not to die.
The principle of hibernation is a drop in body temperature to 5 ° C instead of the usual 35 ° C: hedgehogs go into hypothermia. It is essential that they have sufficient reserves to pass the winter and spring because they will lose 30% of their weight, not waking up until April. During hibernation, the pituitary gland prompts the pancreas to release more insulin, so that the stored starch is transformed into sugar which will support the main functions of the body.