Today, I am going to discuss the smallest member of the hedgehog family. Yes, it is a desert hedgehog, one of the cutest residents of any desert. As the name indicates, desert hedgehogs (defensive desert survivors) are found in arid desert areas. Because they are the smallest hedgehogs in existence, it does not mean they are not attractive.
They can easily be identified by their distinctive feature of having dark muzzles on the forehead. These are highly adaptable and have similarities with a four-toed hedgehog. They have a spineless band across the face that extends to their sides. Their quills are somewhat longer as compared to other hedgehogs for better protection against predation.
Desert hedgehog classification
Lets have a look at its classification:
|Scientific Name||Paraechinus aethiopicus|
|Lifespan||3 to 10 years|
|Weight||280 to 510 G|
|Gestation period||37 to 40 days|
|Length||14 to 28 cm|
Desert hedgehog Characteristics
Let’s have a lot at Some of the characteristics of these hedgehogs that are just described below:
- They have a wide parting in the spines on the crown of the head.
- Desert hedgehog color varies that is generally sandy with darker tips and occasionally white or very dark.
- They have large ears and small eyes.
- They have soft, dense fur on the underside.
- Their body color of the ventral side and feet is a combination of brown, black, white, solid brown, or solid white.
- They have a small size like it is 5.5 to 11 inches long.
- Their weight ranges from 10 to 18 ounces (280-510 G)
- Their top speed recorded is 19km/h
- Their young are also called hoglets as a four-toed hedgehog. Female is known as “sow” and male as “boar.”
Desert hedgehog diet
They are primarily insectivorous and can be carnivorous depending on food availability. It is observed that it become active at night and search for food. These hedgehogs forage on the ground for a variety of insects and other invertebrate prey. They also look for small vertebrates. They also use eggs and chicks of ground-nesting birds for their food. Some fruits are also included in their food. It will be more interesting to know that they can also feed on snakes and insect venoms.
What do hedgehogs eat?
It will be interesting to know what do desert hedgehogs eat. Their food includes insects, frogs, scorpions, amphibians, reptiles, small vertebrates, lizards, spiders, and eggs of ground-nesting birds. They mostly eat insects in captivity.
What part of the diet of desert hedgehogs plays a role in maintaining a balanced ecosystem?
As I have already mentioned that they are primarily insectivorous. Surprisingly, this characteristic clearly identifies that they keep the insect population under control.
Desert hedgehog lifespan
Their longevity depends on the diet they take, besides this highly depends on factors that are becoming a threat to their population. It would be helpful to know how long the hedgehog lives and let’s have a look at several threats to its population:
How long do desert hedgehogs live?
Because they are highly adaptable little creatures, so have thrived and sustained a stable population despite encroaching human habitation. In the wild, they live for 3-4 years. In captivity, they have been known to live for as long as 10 years. But the lifespan of this species has not been documented yet.
They are reported to be a common species and widely distributed throughout the world. They have a large population. Globally, they are not considered to be threatened. Their major threat includes desertification, habitat destruction. On roads, they may also suffer deaths due to traffic. Currently, this species is considered as Least Concern (LC).
We all know that predators are animals that prey on others. The different species are prey to different predators. In the case of desert hedgehogs, they are prey primarily to eagles, jackals, and large snakes.
Desert hedgehog facts
Let’s explore some facts related to this hedgehog that will genuinely amaze you:
- They sleep in the day close to rocks and cliffs which protect by hiding them from predators and come out only at night.
- They sleep on their sides, and their spines give them protection while they are at rest.
- One interesting fact is that they sleep all day for as long as 18 hours.
- They are “Self-anointing.”
- One interesting fact is that they first lick and then bite the object.
- They are lovely creatures because they inhabit our gardens.
- They are considered to be intelligent protectors because of their large quills.
- Interestingly, they hibernate for short periods
- Their group is called an “array.”
Desert hedgehog habitat
They are widely distributed throughout northern Africa: in the west in Morocco and Mauritania and in the east in Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. They also used to live in the Middle East throughout most of the parts of the Arabian Peninsula, occurring also in the Canary Islands on Gran Canaria, where it was presumably introduced.
Do hedgehogs live in deserts?
Yes, hedgehogs do live in deserts. As the name indicates, the Desert hedgehog lives in arid terrains like deserts and dry steppes. It is well adapted to arid, drought-like conditions. Mostly, it lives in hot, deserts.
Where do hedgehogs live?
If you want to click a picture of a hedgehog or want to own a hedgehog pet, it will be interesting to know that where do hedgehogs live. They are mostly found in hot, dry places and vegetated areas of an oasis or coast. They are also found in agricultural areas and rubbish dumps.
How do hedgehogs survive in the desert?
To know about how to do, hedgehogs survive in the desert is somewhat exciting. As we already discussed that they are nocturnal animals. It means that they sleep all day and become active at night. Their survival depends on their way of protecting themselves and also on a diet. They survive by escaping the heat in its burrow during the day and hunting at night. They can survive without water for an extended period by getting fluids from their prey.
Desert hedgehog as a pet
When it comes to hedgehogs, a pet is not the word used for them. Similarly, desert hedgehogs cannot be kept as pets because they are used to live in the wild. And thus in captivity, they do not survive. They are nocturnal animals, quiet, active, and sometimes entertaining though. You can spend time with them, if you want to, by visiting the areas where they live, but unfortunately, you cannot keep them as pets.
Desert hedgehog adaptations
They are highly adaptable to their surroundings. Let’s have a look at some of their adaptations:
- They are defensive desert survivors.
- They have highly adapted kidneys which helps them to survive without water for a more extended period.
- When they feel threatened, they roll up into a ball to protect head and underside.
- They enter hibernation when temperatures are more relaxed, between January and February.
- One major adaptation is its running speed. They first try to run away from predators and chose a spiky ball behavior as a second option.
- They are highly tolerant of habitat modification.
- They often have large quills that provide them with better protection.
Desert hedgehog behavior
They are strongly nocturnal, solitary animals, spending all day inside a burrow near rocks and cliffs. It gives them protection while they are at rest. Because they sleep on their sides, their spines give them little protection. As they come out at night, so they also hunt at night. They become less active when food is scarce. They hibernate during cold weathers between January and February. In March, breeding starts after hibernation. Young ones are born blind and deaf. They are weaned from about 40 days old.
Is hedgehog dangerous?
Because desert hedgehogs have larger quills, so they can be dangerous. Their quills can penetrate the skin and can spread bacterial germs. They can pose health threats because bacterial germs can cause fever, rash, and stomach pain. But with proper care, you can save yourself by washing hands.