Exercise 4, Zoe Block
Hedgehogs are small, often spine-covered members of the insectivore family Erinaceidae. The spiny hedgehogs are 13 species in subfamily Erinaceidae. Most famed is the European hedgehog, Erinaceus europaeus, which is also a resident of New Zealand, where it was introduced. Not all members of the hedgehog family have tough spines. The moonrats, or gymnures, of Southeast Asia have coarse hair instead of spines. The common European hedgehog looks rather like a large pine cone with eyes. Its rounded body is covered from nose to tail with inch-long spines, up to 5,000 of them. The animal's size is variable, from 5-12 in (12-36 cm) long. While the spines of a hedgehog are often sharp, they are not nearly so dangerous as those of a porcupine. They lack the barbs on the end that can catch in an animal's flesh, anchoring there. Instead, the spines just provide a tough covering that very few predators are willing to try to penetrate. Some animals have learned that hedgehogs have soft underbellies that can be attacked. In defense against this, hedgehogs can curl up into a ball, protecting their softer, more vulnerable parts. If attacked, a hedgehog will fight quite noisily, screaming in fury. Both hedgehogs and moonrats are geared strictly for eating insects and other small invertebrates, especially earthworms. Their narrow pointed snouts and their strong claws are useful for digging insects out of the ground. However, the Daurian hedgehog (Hemiechinus dauuricus) of the Gobi Desert has taken to eating small rodents. This species has longer ears than other hedgehogs.
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Hedgehogs are active at night, eating earthworms, various insects, and even snakes. This makes them popular in gardens, where they often eat insect pests. Perhaps one of the reasons they are called hedgehogs is that these animals snuffle and snort, pig-like, as they go after their food. During the day in warm weather, they rest in a small temporary nest of leaves at the base of the hedges they frequent. During colder weather, they burrow into the ground.
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