Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Hedgehog, cute as can be, and Billy Gibbons

A North African Hedgehog, Atelerix algirus, looking like some sort of bizarre cocoon with a face. I had the good fortune to cross paths with one of these strange beasts on a recent excursion, and just had to share some photos. Normally I avoid blogging about captive fare such as this, but this little critter is just too cool. This one was part of a small collection at an animal research and conservation facility.

North African Hedgehogs are indigenous to the northernmost rim of Africa, and apparently are plentiful in the right areas. When threatened, they instantly roll into a perfect ball, and all one sees is an orbicular spiny mass. When wrapped up tight, the hedgehog resembles a spiky baseball. In this shot, the animal just poked his face out, to see what's going on.

I really know next to nothing about hedgehogs, and from a quick perusal of various literature sources, this little guy may actually be a cross with the aforementioned North African Hedgehog and one of the other species, such as the Four-toed Hedgehog, Atelerix albiventris. Whatever its lineage, the little animal is cute as a wink. Hedgehogs resemble porcupines of the Americas, but are quite unrelated, being most closely allied to shrews.

Many predators would no doubt enjoy noshing on a tasty little hedgehog, hence the evolution of the spiny exterior and the ability to instantly transform into a largely impenetrable jumble of stiff spinyness. Those spines really aren't that stiff to the touch, though - certainly nothing like a porcupine's quills. To up their odds of predator avoidance, wild hedgehogs typically do their foraging at night.

It didn't take this little fellow long to decide his new visitors were not going to eat him, and he quickly thrashed himself from his tightly wrapped ball. If all hedgehogs are like this one, they're a bit on the spastic side, and one strange movement could send him back into a tightly packaged sphere in a nanosecond.

Yes, it does have legs, and quite the snout. Hedgehogs are primarily insectivores, and use that Pinnocchio nose for rooting out bugs, although apparently they are not selective and will eat nearly anything they can choke down.

Once on its feet, the hedgehog actually looks like a mammal, albeit an odd mammal.

And now I know where ZZ Top's guitarist, Billy Gibbons, got the inspiration for that goofy cap. Hey, peace brother, any PR is good PR, as they say.

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4 comments:

~ said...

Awesome entry...thanks for shariing!!! Fun stuff...

Jane Sorensen said...

http://www.dyrenesbeskyttelse.dk/nyheder/pindsvin-i-haven-i-vinterhalv%C3%A5ret

more about European hedgehogs here - use the Translate option in Chrome to read it.

zippiknits said...

This is way better than a bug. hehehe. I do love bugs though.

I have the pattern for that hat, it's Cat Bord Bordhi's Anemone Hat. It looks great on Billy!

becky said...

Awwww!!!! When I was still teaching 2nd grade we had a pet hedgehog, Spike. We shared him with a junior high teacher. We had pooled our PTA money and purchased him at the Columbus Reptile Show. Made a fantastic classroom pet!