Wiki article on this topic: Porcupines are rodents with a coat of sharp spines, or quills, that protect against predators. The term covers two families of animals, the Old World porcupines of family Hystricidae, and the New World porcupines of family Erethizontidae. Both families belong to the infraorder Hystricognathi within the profoundly diverse order Rodentia and display superficially similar coats of quills: despite this, the two groups are distinct from each other and are not closely related to each other within the Hystricognathi.
The Old World porcupines live in southern Europe, Asia , and most of Africa. They are large, terrestrial, and strictly nocturnal. In taxonomic terms, they form the family Hystricidae.
The New World porcupines are indigenous to North America and northern South America. They live in wooded areas and can climb trees, where some species spend their entire lives. They are less strictly nocturnal than their Old World relatives, and generally smaller. In taxonomic terms, they form the family Erethizontidae.
Most porcupines are about 60–90 cm long, with an 20–25 cm long tail. Weighing 5–16 kg , they are rounded, large, and slow, and use aposematic strategy of defense. Porcupines occur in various shades of brown, gray, and white. Porcupines' spiny protection resembles that of the unrelated erinaceomorph hedgehogs and Australian monotreme echidnas.
The name "porcupine" comes from Latin porcus pig + spina spine, quill, via Old Italian—Middle French—Middle English. A regional American name for the animal is quill pig.
Fossils belonging to the genus Hystrix date back to the late Miocene of the continent of Africa.
A porcupine is any of 58 species of rodents belonging to the families Erethizontidae or Hystricidae. Porcupines vary in size considerably: Rothschild's porcupine of South America weighs less than a kilogram ; the crested porcupine found in Italy, Sicily, North Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa can grow to well over 27 kg. The two families of porcupines are quite different, and although both belong to the Hystricognathi branch of the vast order Rodentia, they are not closely related.