Whenever you think about hedgehogs, spiky quills come to mind. These tiny creatures are often confused with porcupines. There are a lot of speculations around hedgehogs, and today we will be clearing them all up.
Often people looking to house hedgehogs have a lot of questions, and some have no idea about them. For example, people do not even know which animal group hedgehogs belong to.
The hedgehog is a small mammal with pointed noses, small ears, and short legs. They have quills on their back that are hair made from keratin.
Many mammals have hair and fur on their back that is soft and fluffy. The quills on the hedgehog’s back are known as spines. These stand upright when the hedgehog feels threatened.
Otherwise, they lay flat, and you can easily hold them.
What Family Does a Hedgehog Belong to?
Hedgehogs belong to the family of Erinaceidae and the subfamily Erinaceinae.
The family includes the moonrat and the gymnures. Hedgehogs are used interchangeably on a broader note for all the species belonging to this group and are related closely to gymnures.
The hedgehogs, together with gymnures, make up the entire family of Erinaceidae.
What are the Ancestors of Hedgehogs?
One cool fact about hedgehogs is that they belong to one of the most primitive species of mammals that still exist today. Over the years, scientists have studied fossils and discovered many ancestors that are Litolestes, the Leipsanolestes, Oncocherus, the Cedrocherus, and the Deinogalerix.
Litolestes and Leipsanolestes
Litolestes are the oldest ancestors of our modern hedgehogs. They exist 65.5 million years ago in the Paleocene period.
Lepisanolestes also belong to that era, and their main source of diet was insects. The fossils indicated that they were very close to the hedgehog. The fossils were found in Montana and Wyoming.
These also belong to the family of hedgehogs and contain physical characteristics similar to large upper and lower molars. They, however, have larger upper molars. This genus existed around 55.8 million years ago, and the fossils were found in Western Canada.
Cedroherus belong to North America but had a smaller set of teeth. They include two more different species: Cedrocherus ryani and Cedrocherus aceratus.
The Deinogalerix inhabited Italy around 11.6 to 5.3 million years ago. This species was bigger and, unlike the hedgehogs, today, had spines all over their body instead of just the back. It also had a long tail and snout.
What Did Hedgehogs Evolve From?
Hedgehogs first evolved 15 million years ago. Hedgehogs have possibly evolved from shrews. The gymnure is what links hedgehogs and shrews together.
Are Hedgehogs Rodents?
A common misconception regarding hedgehogs is that they are rodents. However, this is not true! Hedgehogs are not rodents, and many features separate them from them.
Rodents belong to a different family than hedgehogs. Rodents belong to the Rodentia family, while hedgehogs belong to the Erinaceidae family. Porcupines that are often mistaken for hedgehogs belong to this rodent family.
Rodents come with two incisor teeth that keep growing. On the other hand, hedgehogs have a teeth structure similar to humans. Their teeth comprise incisors, premolars, molars, and canine teeth.
Rodents are herbivorous and have a plant-based diet. Hedgehogs eat about almost anything, and they have more of an insect-based diet.
Rodents also have a cecum that enables them to digest and break down their plant-based diet. Hedgehogs do not require a cecum, and neither do they have one. They consume mostly insects and very few plants.
What is a Male Hedgehog Called?
A male hedgehog is called a boar.
Boars are not part of the childbirth and rearing process, and their only job is to mate. Unlike other mammals, male hedgehogs do not spray to mark their territory. Their scent also does not differ from the female hedgehog.
The only way to differentiate a male hedgehog from a female is through size.
What is a Female Hedgehog Called?
A female hedgehog is known as a sow.
Female hedgehogs stay with hoglets until they wean off for around 2-3 weeks. Female hedgehogs give birth to hoglets after being pregnant for around 32 weeks. They give birth only once a year. There are around 5-7 hoglets in one litter.
Do Male and Female Hedgehogs Stay Together?
Hedgehogs, by nature, are solitary animals. These mammals enjoy being alone and love peace. They only come together for reasons such as hunting or mating. Male and female hedgehogs do not mate for life, and neither do they raise their hoglets as a pair.
Female hedgehogs prefer cohabitation more than males, and they may prefer more to have a companion. However, this is not true for all hedgehogs.
Hedgehogs generally can tolerate other hedgehogs and may fight over food. The males may fight over the opposite sex during mating.
So, are hedgehogs mammals or not? Hedgehogs are mammals and belong to the family of Erinaceidae. Their subfamily is Erinaceinae, and they are quite close to gymnures.
Hedgehogs first evolved approximately 150 years ago, possibly from shrews. The main link between the shrews and hedgehogs is known to be gymnures.
Over the years, scientists have studied fossils and found various ancestors of hedgehogs. These ancestors existed millions of years ago and belonged to North America, Canada, and Italy. The ancestors are Litolestes, the Leipsanolestes, Oncocherus, the Cedrocherus and the Deinogalerix.
Hedgehogs are not rodents and belong to a different family. Rodents come from the Rodentia family, and there are stark physical characteristics that separate rodents and hedgehogs.
A male hedgehog is called a boar, while female hedgehogs are called sows. Hedgehogs are solitary animals and do not pair to raise their hoglets. They can tolerate each other and fight over food or during mating for the opposite sex. Female hedgehogs are better at cohabitation than male hedgehogs and are more likely to prefer a cage mate.