Rants and Musings About Science

Saturday, July 08, 2006

What a Prick!


Porcupines are quite the feat of evolution!

Apparently, those spiky guys love to climb trees, but there’s one problem: they are clumsy climbers.

You would think that is a bad habit to have. Like jumping out of a plane sans parachute , driving on the autobahn sans driving ability, eating sans teeth … well, maybe that one isn’t so much dangerous as it is messy.

Not only do these rodent pincushions fall and hurt themselves from the sheer impact, but they also impale themselves with their own spines. DOH!

You would think that this would mean big trouble for an animal that doesn’t have the any peroxide and Band-Aids at hand. Don't worry, the porcupine has it covered.

The porcupine secretes a greasy substance from its skin, which coats the spines, and acts as an antibiotic to prevent infection.

Through a gabillion years of evolution, these critters had this advantageous trait selected for through natural selection. What porcupine wouldn’t want this nifty feature? The ones that didn’t have this trait probably died out, falling off tress, and succumbing to their wounds, while the advanced model keeps on truckin’.

The coating on the spines also prevents predators, who get jabbed by the spines, from dying from their wounds. But the porcupine doesn’t really care. All they want is to be left alone so they can climb up some trees and ... BAM!

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