Hedgehog – UPSC Prelims

About Hedgehog
  • Hedgehog is an insectivorous spiny (needle-like anatomical structure) mammal of the subfamily Erinaceidae.
  • These mammals have been on this land even before human evolution. However, there is no mention of them even in our folk tales.
Characteristics of Hedgehog:
  • Features: They have short limbs and a body low to the ground. Their most distinctive characteristic is the thousands of stiff, sharp thorns that cover their back and sides.
  • Nocturnal Mammals:
    • They are nocturnal mammals. It means they usually sleep in during the day and awaken to search for food at night.
    • They usually go into their burrows(hole or tunnel) and sleep continuously for two months to reduce their metabolic activity.
    • They don’t dig much but instead use burrows previously dug by other mammals, like pangolins.
  • Diet: Hedgehogs can eat one-third of their body weights in one night. Their favorite foods are insects, earthworms, snails, and slugs. It makes them a welcome guest in many suburban gardens, and they are even kept as a pet.
Species of Hedgehog:
  • There are seventeen species of hedgehog found through parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa, and New Zealand. However, there are no hedgehogs native to Australia and America.
Hedgehog Species in India: Of the 17 species of hedgehog around the world, India is home to three:
  • Indian Long-eared or collared hedgehog: It is native to northern India and Pakistan
  • Indian hedgehog: It is native to India and Pakistan. It mainly lives in sandy desert areas but can be found in other environments.
  • Bare-bellied or Madras hedgehog:
    • It was discovered in 1851. In Tamil, they are called as mul eli – mul meaning thorn and eli meaning rat – or irmal eli aka cough rat.
    • In Tamil Nadu, it is used as an ingredient in traditional medicine, or in household remedies for coughs and rheumatism.
How are Hedgehog species in India different from other countries?
  • Hedgehogs in India are distinct in many ways. For instance, hedgehogs in the UK, Africa, and Central Asia hibernates in winter, but the ones in South India go into Estivation in summer instead.
  • Hibernation: It is a state of dormancy that warm-blooded animals go into during winter, preserving energy at a time when food sources are scarce
  • Brumation: It is similar to hibernation but practiced only by cold-blooded animals like reptiles
  • Estivation: It is a state, when an animal goes into a dormant state during a hot period. It is to wait for passing water scarcity or harsh heat. Many desert creatures estivate
  • Diapause: It is a time of arrested growth and metabolism in insects, mites, crustaceans and other creatures most prominently in butterflies.
Threats to Hedgehogs species in India: In the last 20 years, hedgehogs species in India are on decline drastically due to habitat changes, development and its capture for domestication or sale.

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