Sunday, October 10, 2010

10/10/10 10:10 - Hedgehogs!

On this 10th minute of the 10th hour of the 10th day of the 10th month of 2010, let us remember: hedgehogs!

Hedgehogs: Africa!

African Wildlife Foundation

"Physical Characteristics

" 'Small enough to fit in your hands but too prickly to hold' is a good description of the hedgehog. Though small, it is by no means defenseless. Thousands of stiff, sharp spines-harder and sharper than those of a porcupine-cover the animal's back and sides, like a pincushion filled with needles.

"Even though spines, or quills, provide the hedgehog with effective protection, the animal's most striking characteristic is its practice of curling up into a tight ball, with its spines sticking out in all directions. When the hedgehog rolls up, a special, highly developed circular muscle that runs along the sides of the body and across the rump and neck contracts and forms a "bag" into which the body, head and legs are folded. The hedgehog curls up if disturbed or frightened-only the strongest predators, such as the badger, can pry it open. It also sleeps in this position, so is rarely caught unprotected.


"Hedgehogs inhabit a wide range across a variety of climates and terrains in East Africa. Although not found in the Americas, other species of hedgehogs live in different parts of Africa, Europe and Asia, as well as in New Zealand, where they have been introduced. Their distribution on the different continents is, however, very local. They must have dry shelters on well-drained soil and a good supply of ground-dwelling insects and other invertebrates. Suburban Nairobi meets these habitat conditions, where hedgehogs are reported to be abundant...."

And here the Lemming had thought of the hedgehog as a British critter.

Hedgehogs: England!

Turns out, there are hedgehogs in England, and they've got friends there: the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.

The British hedgehogs get in the news now and again:

"Bald hedgehog is found abandoned"
BBC (November 5, 2009)

"A bald hedgehog abandoned by his mother in a garden in Norfolk is being treated at a wildlife rescue centre in a bid to encourage his spikes to grow.

"Baldrick, named after the character from the television programme Blackadder, was brought to Foxy Lodge wildlife rescue centre, Great Yarmouth.

"He is now being cared for by Tonia and John Garner in the hope he can be eventually released into the wild.

"Treatment includes antiseptic scrubs and baby oil massages...."

Don't laugh: Baldrick the little bald hedgehog needs was abandoned, after all.

Hedgehogs: The World!

Let us not forget that we live in a global village, that no man is an island, and all that. Which may explain the International Hedgehog Association.

Never heard of the IHA? Here's how they explain themselves:

"The IHA is a registered charitable non-profit organization established with the purpose of educating the public in the care and betterment of hedgehogs and to facilitate the rescue, welfare, promotion and care of hedgehogs everywhere...."

Yes, indeed: pursuing the betterment and promotion of hedgehogs everywhere.

Hedgehogs: Academia!

"The phylogenetic relationships of insectivores with special reference to the lesser hedgehog tenrec as inferred from the complete sequence of their mitochondrial genome."
PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Institutes of Health (February 2003)

And that was just the title. Here's the article's abstract:

"The complete mitochondrial genome of a lesser hedgehog tenrec Echinops telfairi was determined in this study. It is an endemic African insectivore that is found specifically in Madagascar. The tenrec's back is covered with hedgehog-like spines. Unlike other spiny mammals, such as spiny mice, spiny rats, spiny dormice and porcupines, lesser hedgehog tenrecs look amazingly like true hedgehogs (Erinaceidae). However, they are distinguished morphologically from hedgehogs by the absence of a jugal bone. We determined the complete sequence of the mitochondrial genome of a lesser hedgehog tenrec and analyzed the results phylogenetically to determine the relationships between the tenrec and other insectivores (moles, shrews and hedgehogs), as well as the relationships between the tenrec and endemic African mammals, classified as Afrotheria, that have recently been shown by molecular analysis to be close relatives of the tenrec. Our data confirmed the afrotherian status of the tenrec, and no direct relation was recovered between the tenrec and the hedgehog. Comparing our data with those of others, we found that within-species variations in the mitochondrial DNA of lesser hedgehog tenrecs appear to be the largest recognized to date among mammals, apart from orangutans, which might be interesting from the view point of evolutionary history of tenrecs on Madagascar."

Finally, on a lighter note: links to earlier posts on hedgehogs and similarly cute critters.

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