Porcupines are famous for their prickly covering. But let’s get right to the point: porcupines cannot shoot their quills! Indian crested porcupines have boldly marked quills with black and white bands. Some quills can be up to 20 inches (51 centimeters) long. Each quill has a muscle at its base. These long, pliable quills act as guard hairs and form a "skirt." When the porcupine is excited or scared, those muscles squeeze to make the quills stand up so the porcupine looks bigger. If a predator still tries to come close, the porcupine can shake and rattle those quills as a warning. They look a little clumsy walking on the ground but can quickly climb trees and are surprisingly good swimmers! Look for a North American porcupine and more Indian crested porcupines in the Children’s Zoo.
Did you know? The Latin translation of porcupine is porcus (pig) and spina (thorn).