Porcupine are large rodents with coats of sharp and pointy spines, or quills, that protect them 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 one another and are not closely related to each other within the Hystricognathi. It is the third largest living rodent in the world after the capybara and beaver.
The Old World porcupines live in southern Europe, Asia (western and southern), 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 (25–36 in) long, with a 20–25 cm (8–10 in) long tail. Weighing 5–16 kg (12–35 lb), they are rounded, large, and slow, and use aposematic strategy of defence. Porcupines occur in various shades of brown, grey and white. Porcupines' spiny protection resembles that of the unrelated erinaceomorph hedgehogs and Australian monotreme echidnas as well as tenrecid tenrecs.
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