The porcupine is a rodent with long, spiky quills on its back, defending itself from predators. The quills are hollow tubes filled with an irritant fluid called “porcupine saliva” (which contains some formic acid). When threatened, the animal will stand up on its hind legs and use these quills as spears to defend itself.
This can be very painful if the quill strikes you directly. In addition, if you get pricked by one of these quills, your skin may become inflamed and red for several days. Porcupines aren’t the only animals that have quills.
There are a wide variety of land and sea animals that have quills or spines. Read on to learn about them.
1. Eastern Hedgehog
Eastern hedgehogs are medium-sized, furry, insectivorous mammals native to Australia. They are nocturnal animals who prefer to live in dry habitats and feed mainly on insects. Like the porcupine, the eastern hedgehogs have quills on their backs that they use to protect themselves when attacked.
However, unlike porcupines, these quills are not hollow tubes but solid spikes.
2. Western Ringtail
Western ringtails are small, hairy, insectivorous mammals found throughout Australia. They have long spiky quills on their backs and live in arid habitats where they dig burrows in the ground for shelter. Western ringtails are nocturnal and are active during the day only for food.
They feed mainly on insects and fruit.
Echidnas are egg-laying mammals native to Australia. These little fuzzy creatures look like large, fat squirrels with long noses. Spiky quills on their heads keep them warm.
They also have spiky quills at the base of their tails. These quills are used for protection against predators. They will roll themselves into a tight ball to ward off predators when under attack.
Echidnas are herbivores and eat a variety of vegetation, including fruit, bark, fungi, and twigs.
4. Spotted Hyena
Spotted hyenas are large carnivorous mammals that inhabit savanna regions of Africa and parts of southern Europe. They have long, spiky quill-like hairs on their upper body that are used for defense against predators. Spotted hyenas eat both fresh meat and carrion, plus plants.
Mongooses are small, furry, omnivorous animals that live in many different countries worldwide. They have long, thin quills on their bodies. They use these quills as weapons.
When threatened, they raise their tails over their head and wave them about. The quills stick out of their tails like bristles. This causes pain and makes the animal appear larger than it really is.
They use their quills to defend themselves from predators. They eat eggs, nestlings, frogs, lizards, snakes, mice, birds, bats, scorpions, crickets, worms, caterpillars, and berries.
6. Armadillo Spiny Tailed Lizard
Native to the African grasslands, these small, scaled lizards are used to living in extreme climates. Their tails feature a row of spines that helps them ward off predators.
7. Thorny Dragon
Thorny dragons are small, furry, insectivore mammals that live in tropical forests of Asia and Oceania. They have a row of sharp, thorn-like spines along their back. Their spines are used for defense against predator attacks.
They hunt for food using their long, sticky tongues. They eat insects, spiders, larvae, snails, worms, millipedes, centipedes, ants, termites, and other invertebrates.
8. Desert Horned Lizard
The desert horned lizard is often mistaken for horny toads in Mexico and western North America. A row of spikes lines the base of their heads, which they push out when threatened. The horns can be retracted or raised as needed.
Desert-horned lizards eat bugs, moths, caterpillars, flies, grasshoppers, and other invertebrate prey.
9. Green Iguana
The green iguana is one of the most common lizards found in tropical and subtropical forests. They have a row of spikes that extend from their heads to the tips of their tails. Although these spikes look pretty dangerous, they are not.
The green iguana prefers to run and hide when they sense danger. When forced to fight, they will use their tail as a whip. Green iguanas eat mainly fruits, leaves, flowers, seeds, and roots.
They also eat insects such as beetles, butterflies, and wasps.
10. Texas Horned Lizards
Found in the south and the central United States, the Texas horned lizards have spikes that run from their heads and across their backs. These spikes look very intimidating, but they allow the lizard to blend into its environment. The Texas horned lizard uses its spikes for defense.
It raises its spikes when attacked by a predator. If the attack continues, the lizard will try to bite the attacker. They eat mostly insects, including grasshoppers, cockroaches, crickets, and moths.
11. Horned Toads
These amphibians are native to Australia and New Guinea. They have large, flat heads with rows of spiky protrusions. They use their spines for defense.
When threatened, an Australian horned frog will raise its spines above its head. This allows it to appear much more significant than it is. When they feel safe again, the spines drop down.
The spines help protect the animal from predators. Australian horned frogs eat mostly tadpoles, fish, and other aquatic creatures.
12. Regal Horned Lizard
Found exclusively in the Sonoran desert, the Regal Horned Lizard has a small, flat, scaly body and a crown of spikes at the top of its head. These spikes are made of bones and are very sharp. When threatened, the lizard will raise its spines to attempt to ward off predators.
Once they feel safe, they will lower their spines. The Regal Horned lizard eats ants, spiders, and sowbugs. Therefore, they need several hours of direct morning sunlight to help them stay warm.
13. Mexican Spiny Lizard
This lizard has a row of spikes running from its head to its tail. These spikes are used for defense. When threatened, the Mexican spiny lizard will raise them.
It eats mostly insects, including grasshoppers, beetles, and moths.
14. Short-Horned Lizard
The short-horned lizard is found in Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Guatemala. Its most recognizable feature is the crown of horns at the top of its head. These help them look less appetizing to their predators.
Their main line of defense involves squirting blood from their eyes. Their shooting range is about three feet, which often confuses animals who pose a threat. In addition, the blood contains a neurotoxin that is harmful to coyotes, wolves, and dogs.
Short-horned lizards eat mostly insects, including mosquitoes, flies, and ants.
15. Sea Urchin
Sea urchins are marine invertebrate animals that are covered with hard shells. They have five pairs of light-colored plates that cover their shell. Each plate has a tube inside that can be extended or retracted.
In addition, they have three rows of spikes on their underside, which they use to defend themselves against predators. They eat sea anemones, crabs, starfish, shrimp, jellyfish, and other invertebrate animals.
16. Puffer Fish
Puffer Fish typically like warm and temperate ocean climates but can also live in fresh or brackish water. They are known for their ability to puff into a ball when threatened. In addition, their shape and spiny skin make them unpalatable to many would-be predators.
Many puffer fish species are poisonous, with a high concentration of tetrodotoxin stored in their internal organs. Despite this risk, they are sometimes served as food after being carefully cleaned and prepared by an expertly trained chef.
17. Spiny Orb-Weaver
Spiny orb-weavers are arachnids (a spider relative) that weave webs to trap insects. They spin a web between two trees, bushes, or rocks. They then wait until insect land on the web.
Then they grab the insect with their front pair of legs and pull it into the center of the web. Once there, the spider wraps its abdomen around the insect’s body and squeezes it. It then eats the insect.
Their spines are not used for defense. Instead, they are used to holding onto prey while eating it. They eat beetles, moths, grasshoppers, flies, wasps, bees, ants, and other arthropods.
18. Crown of Thorns Starfish
Crown of thorns starfish are marine invertebrate organisms that grow on coral reefs. They have a crown of elongated spines on top of their heads and look similar to a starfish but without arms. These spines cover almost all of their upper bodies, which protect them against large predators.
They feed on corals, algae, plankton, zooplankton, crustaceans, fish, and other invertebrates.
19. Spiny Oakworm Moth
Spiny oakworms are moth species that are found throughout North America. They have a very hairy body, with a single row or rows of spines that line their backs. These spines are used for protection against predators.
They eat leaves, buds, flowers, fruits, seeds, bark, twigs, wood, and other plants.
20. Kangaroo Rat
Kangaroo rats are rodents native to Central and South America. They have similar features to the kangaroo, such as elongated hind feet and short forefeet. The differences between the two animals involve their size and the rat’s spines, which they use to defend themselves against predators.
They eat roots, tubers, bulbs, corms, nuts, fruit, seed pods, herbs, and shoots.
Native to Africa and Asia, Tenrecs are omnivorous mammals belonging to the order Tubulidentata. They come in various species and have spine-like hairs that run along their backs, making them look like hedgehogs. Some species have sparse, flexible spines, while others have a thicker coat with sharp and rigid spines.
These spines are used for sexual displays.
22. Armored Rat
Found in tropical forests of South and Central America, these rats are agile climbers that move quickly through the trees to avoid predators. When they can’t, they rely on their spiky fur coat for protection. This rat has a hard outer shell of keratin (the same substance as human fingernails) that protects its soft inner skin.
Its spines are used for self-defense. It eats fruits, vegetables, and grains.
Native to the tropical waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, the lionfish are gorgeous creatures with eight pectoral fins that give it a lion’s mane appearance. These fins contain stingers that it uses to ward off predators. Unfortunately, the venom in these stingers is potent and potentially deadly to humans.
You’ll typically find them around coral reefs, where they hunt for crabs, shrimp, mollusks, worms, octopus, and other fish.
Native to Southern Japan and Taiwan, the stonefish spends most of its time hanging out on the ocean floor. It measures about 12 inches long and has 13 dorsal spines covered in highly toxic venom. Their sting is excruciating but not deadly to humans if they seek prompt medical attention.
Many species have bristles on their abdomens, which they use against predators. These bristles can get embedded in the other animal’s eyes or skin, causing significant discomfort. While they can’t kill humans, they can kill a small animal through asphyxiation.
26. Long-Spine Porcupine Fish
These creatures get their name from the large, sharp spikes covering their bodies. These spikes are made of hard and bony material and protect the fish from predators.
27. Spot-Fin Porcupine Fish
Found in warm and shallow waters worldwide, these fish are a beauty to look at, with their various patterns. But, like the puffer fish, they can inflate their bodies when they feel threatened. Their skins are set with spines, which provide added protection against predators.
Some species of porcupine fish (such as the burrfish) are short and permanently erect. The Diodon species have spines that lay against the body until the fish is provoked.
28. Western Saharan Spiny Mouse
Found in the Sahara desert, the Western Saharan spiny mouse is typically nocturnal and prefers to rest in cracks and crevices of rocks. This rodent has long, spiny tails to help it maintain balance when running. Their spiny backs also add protection against predators, which include barn owls.
29. African Spiny Mouse
There are more than a dozen species of African spiny mice, ranging from small to medium size. They are characterized by their harsh, inflexible spiny hairs that line the upper parts of their bodies. Plant materials make up most of their diet, but they are known to eat dried flesh and bone marrow of mummies.
They are ground dwellers, and most of the species are nocturnal.
30. Whiptail Stingray
This ray is found in shallow tropical waters worldwide with sharp, venomous spikes that line its back and tail. It prefers to rely on speed and agility to evade larger predators.
31. Carpet Scorpionfish
Also called carpet sharks, these fish have an unusual way of defending themselves: hiding under carpets and rugs. Their spines are used for defense. If you step on one, you may feel like your feet are burning.