Indian Crested Porcupine at the Artis Royal Zoo (also known as Natura Artis Magistra), Amsterdam (Holland)
The Indian Crested Porcupine is a hystricomorph rodent species native to southern Asia and the Middle East. It belongs to the Old World porcupine family, Hystricidae. It is covered in multiple layers of modified hair called quills, with longer, thinner quills covering a layer of shorter, thicker ones. The quills are brown or black with alternating white and black bands. They are made of keratin and are relatively flexible. Each quill is connected to a muscle at its base, allowing the porcupine to raise its quills when it feels threatened. The longest quills are located on the neck and shoulder, where the quills form a “skirt” around the animal. These quills can grow up to 50 centimetres (20 inches) long, with most measuring between 15 and 30 cm (6 and 12 in). Smaller and more rigid quills are packed densely on the back and rump. These smaller quills are used to stab at potential threats. The base of the tail contains shorter quills that appear white in colour, with longer, hollow quills that the porcupine can rattle to produce a warning sound when threatened. Contrary to popular belief, Indian Crested Porcupines (like all porcupines) cannot shoot their quills. The Indian Crested Porcupine has a stocky build with a low surface area to volume ratio, which aids in heat conservation. It has broad feet with long claws used for burrowing. Like all porcupines, the Indian crested porcupine has a good sense of smell and sharp, chisel-like incisors.