Cover

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Contents

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pp. vii-x

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Acknowledgments

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p. xi

In preparing this work, I am greatly indebted to Louise Emmons, Research Associate in the Division of Mammals at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, who read through two versions of the manuscript and gave invaluable help both with biological information and with style. For...

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Introduction

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pp. xiii-xiv

My involvement with porcupines started with a single species: the North American porcupine. I have spent nights sleeping under a porcupine high above in its forest feeding tree, have hiked through mountain forests tracking far-flung individuals, and have lived through both triumphs and tragedies of individual...

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Chapter 1. Introducing Porcupines

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pp. 1-23

Porcupines rank among the world’s most widely recognized animals. Everyone knows these slow-moving, quilled creatures of fairy tales and movie cartoons. Despite porcupines’ dangerous side, people who work with them will testify that they have sweet temperaments and sensitive facial expressions. What many...

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Chapter 2. Form and Function of Porcupines

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pp. 24-50

The largest porcupines are the three Old World species of true crested porcupines (Hystrix cristata, H. indica, and H. africaeaustralis). Their weights range from 26 to 53 pounds (12–24 kg), and head and body lengths reach about 3 feet (93 cm). Hystrix are the largest rodents found on the African continent. Their large size...

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Chapter 3. Porcupine Colors

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pp. 51-59

The quills of the larger porcupines—the Old World Hystrix and Atherurus, and the New World Erethizon (eastern subspecies), Coendou prehensilis, and C. bicolor—are black and white or brown and white, though individual animals with all-black and almost all-white quills are also found. In the western subspecies of the North...

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Chapter 4. Porcupine Behavior

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pp. 60-75

Among North American porcupines studied in New York, females are territorial and exclude other females from their ranges but allow males to wander freely. Males interact amicably with local males but battle males outside the local group. Local males may also battle each other for access to females during...

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Chapter 5. Porcupine Ecology

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pp. 76-96

The New World tropics are the most species-rich in porcupines. Robert Voss recognizes 15 species of New World porcupines. Fourteen of these have a tropical distribution, ranging from central Mexico to southern Brazil. The tropics of Central and South America in which porcupines are found are almost...

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Chapter 6. Reproduction and Development

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pp. 97-111

The standard answer “very carefully!” is correct but not enlightening. An unwilling female can do as much damage to an aggressive male as she can to a predator within tail’s reach. Because the female cannot be forced to copulate, the male must bring her to a state of willingness. This he does by urinating...

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Chapter 7. Foods and Feeding

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pp. 112-122

The North American porcupine, like all other porcupines of the world, is a herbivore. It consumes plant foods, mostly tree leaves and bark, as well as seasonal fruits and mast. Though it encounters birds’ nests with eggs and nestlings, it is not known to prey on them as a squirrel or chipmunk might. Porcupines...

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Chapter 8. Porcupines and Humans

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pp. 123-130

Another juvenile porcupine found a home with the Hassler family in the small Adirondack town of Childwold, New York. When young, the porcupine chased her tail like a puppy. She used to ride the family cat and played with it for long stretches. The dog would play with her as well but did not permit riding. The...

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Chapter 9. Porcupine Problems (from a human’s viewpoint)

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pp. 131-144

Porcupines seek salt (sodium) for fundamental physiological reasons: their all-plant diet does not contain the sodium needed for muscle and nerve function and for nursing their young. This is a problem faced by all herbivores, including deer, moose, buffalo, bighorn sheep, woodchucks, and many more...

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Chapter 10. Human Problems (from a porcupine’s viewpoint)

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pp. 145-153

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists Chaetomys subspinosus, the thin-spined porcupine, as “vulnerable”—one step short of “endangered.” The population numbers of this species are decreasing. Chaetomys had not been sighted since 1952 and was thought to be extinct in the wild...

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Chapter 11. Porcupines in Stories and Literature

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pp. 154-170

The North American porcupine appeared frequently in the mythology of the Woodland Indians. It was the master of winter and had a benevolent, grandfatherly relationship with the woodland tribes. The anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss describes a cultural transformation when a woodland tribe, the Arapaho...

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Chapter 12. “Porcupinology”

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pp. 171-182

Porcupines are studied by mammalogists. Two threads unite most mammalogists: their subject matter (the mammals) and their education (typically a master’s or a Ph.D. degree). Achievement of the master’s or the doctorate represents the successful completion of an apprenticeship, during which the aspiring...

Appendix A

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pp. 183-184

Appendix B

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pp. 185-187

Bibliography

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pp. 189-197

Index

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pp. 199-204

Image Plates

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