African Hedgehog

Location

In the Zoo

Scientific Information

Scientific Name: Atelerix albiventris
Class: Mammalia
Order: Erinaceomorpha
Family: Bovidae
Genus: Atelerix

Size

Male

Female

Height: 2-4 inches 2-4 inches
Length: 8-10 inches 6-8 inches
Weight: 1.3 pounds 1.3 pounds
Maturity: 2 months 84 days

Lifestyle and Lifespan

Diet: Omnivorous
Activity Timeframe: Nocturnal
Interactivity: Solitary
Sexual Dimorphism: Yes
Gestation: 35 days
Lifespan in the Wild: 2-3 years
Lifespan in Captivity: 8-10 years

Geographic Range

Equatorial Africa, from Senegal to Ethiopia and south to the Zambezi River, and it is sporadically found in drier regions of Africa.

Conservation

Status in the Wild:
Threats:

Characteristics

African hedgehogs have long, pointed pinkish-brown snouts with moist, dark noses. They have round, dark eyes, oval brownish ears and short, white hair on their brows, cheeks and bellies. The hairs on their backs and sides are modified into 1/2-1" long, un-barbed spines.When rolled into its characteristic defensive ball, this hedgehog is about the size of a large grapefruit. Typical coloration is agouti (banded), with brown or gray spines with cream tips. The hedgehog;s face and underside are covered in soft, white fur. (There are other, more rare colorations, although agouti is by far the most common.)

Species Specifics

Sexual dimorphism: females are typically larger than males. Their back feet only have 4 toes, (hence one of their common names- four-toed hedgehog); their front feet have 5.

Physical Characteristics

Ecology

Habitat

Desert

Distribution

Hedgehogs in general can be found on the continents of Africa, Asia and Europe. The African Hedgehog is widely encountered in savanna and steppe zones of equatorial African, from Senegal to Ethiopia and south to the Zambezi River, and it is sporadically found in drier regions of Africa.

Diet

Omnivorous. Primarily insectivorous. Eats spiders and insects, occasionally also consuming small amounts of plant matter or small vertebrates. (Worms, snails, arthropods, frogs, lizards, snakes, eggs, nestling birds, small mammals, carrion, fruit, seeds, peanuts, fungi and roots.)

Ecological Web

Because African Hedgehogs eat many things deemed 'pests' by humans, the hedgehog's diet makes it an important part of the ecosystem and local pest control.

Activity and Behavior

Activity Pattern

Primarily nocturnal but can be crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk.) During extreme weather conditions, they will estivate (a form of summer hibernation initiated by extreme heat whereby they will go into hiding, lower their metabolic rate and subsist off of fat reserves until the environmental conditions improve.)

Behavior

- Have an extremely high tolerance to toxins. These hedgehogs have been known to eat scorpions and small poisonous snakes with no ill effects.- Estivate. During extreme weather conditions, they will estivate (a form of summer hibernation initiated by ex

Social Behavior

Solitary and only comes together with animals of the same species, (during the breeding season.) These hedgehogs are territorial and will engage in aggressive behavior if their territory is encroached upon. In a territorial attack, the animal will erect the spines around its head and snort, grunt, hiss and butt heads with the offending individual.Vocalizations include a repertoire of snorts, hisses, grunts and twitters. During courtship, males serenade females with a birdlike call, and she will respond with hisses, snorts and evasive movements.

Reproductive Behavior

The African Hedgehog generally breeds once or twice a year. They typically mate in rainy, warm seasons, when food is plentiful. The young are born with spines already present, but covered with a membrane. Within a few hours of birth this membrane dries up and the spines immediately start growing. Weaning begins the 3rd week and ends between the 4th and 6th weeks. The young leave their mother soon thereafter. Hedgehogs are usually solitary, usually pairing up only to mate. When they mate they often make loud snuffling noises. The male circles the female, sometimes for hours, to persuade her to mate. They will separate thereafter and the male takes no part in rearing the family.

Offspring

In the spring after hibernation, usually 3-4 (sometimes up to 10) young are born alive. The mother lick them clean and eats the afterbirth.Newborns are blind and weigh about .35 oz. They have soft, white spines at birth. Born with edema (excessive amount of water fluid in their cells, tissues or body cavities,) their skin is swollen and covers the soft spines. After a few days, the young reabsorb the fluid, exposing the spines. They eyes open in 8-18 days.At 2 weeks, they can roll up. At 6 weeks, they can travel short distances with mom. Nursing stops at 40-45 days, and they leave mom and siblings shortly thereafter.The young are suckled by their mother until they are able to hunt for themselves. After about four weeks, the mother will take the young out on their first foraging trip and after ten days, the family will separate.When baby hedgehogs get to a certain age, the young hedgehog will shed the softer baby spikes that are then replaced with the stronger and darker spikes of the adult hedgehog. Hedgehogs have also been known to shed a number of spikes when the hedgehog is under extreme stress.

Conservation

Status

Historical

Current Threats

Our Role

How You Can Help

Fascinating Facts

o Researchers at 2 universities have discovered that the blood of both the European and African hedgehogs contains a lipoprotein identical to one of those found in human blood. This lipoprotein contributes to the formation of clots that cause heart attacks. Hedgehogs may eventually contribute a solution to a human health problem.

o The diet of a hedgehog has claimed it the reputation as being the 'gardener's friend' as it includes so many 'pests.' Frequently food put out for dogs and cats in town and city gardens also provides a meal for them and it is certainly a good way to encourage one into your own garden.

o Hedgehogs have about 5000 spines. Each spine lasts about a year, then drops out and a replacement grows.

o The hedgehog got its name because of its peculiar foraging habits. They root through hedges and other undergrowth in search of their favorite foods: insects, worms, centipedes, snails, mice, frogs and snakes. As it moves through the hedges it emits pig-like grunts, thus, the name hedgehog.

o There are 15 species of hedgehog.

o The hedgehog is thought to be one of the oldest mammals on earth, with estimates dating the hedgehog to around 15 million years ago. It is believed that the hedgehog has changed very little over that period of time.

References

1. Nichols, J. 1999. "Atelerix albiventris" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed January 06, 2017 at http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Atelerix_albiventris/

2. Nelson, Rob. 2017. "The African Pygmy Hedgehog" (On-line), Untamed Science. Accessed January 6, 2017 at http://www.untamedscience.com/biodiversity/african-pygmy-hedgehog/

3. "Atelerix albiventris" (On-line), The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed January 6, 2017 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/40602/0

4. "Four-toed African Hedgehog" (On-line), Cleveland Metroparks Zoo Resource Library. Accessed January 6, 2017 at http://resourcelibrary.clemetzoo.com/animals/44

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