On Friday I gave you this mystery object to identify:
It proved a bit more tricky that I had expected, but given its fragmentary nature I suppose I should’ve expected it to pose a challenge.
As it turns out henstridgesj managed to identify it on the basis of it looking like roadkill – an unusual diagnostic feature, but in this case it was spot on. Robin, biologycurator and Jamie Revell also agreed with the identification of European Hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus Linnaeus, 1758.
I thought that some of you might have recognised the shape of the frontals and nasals along with the breakage pattern based on a previous mystery object from back in April 2010:
The way this skull had fragmented stuck in my mind, making the task of identifying the more recently found fragment very straightforward. It goes to show that even fragmentary specimens have their uses.
Hedgehogs are very distinctive animals and I expect most people have seen one at some time or another – at the very least as a sad pile of spines at the side of the road. Their diet consists mainly of slugs, beetles and worms, but they do eat bird eggs and other vertebrates if they get the chance, from frogs to snakes.
I was a bit surprised to learn that Hedgehogs will tackle Adders – apparently they rely partly on their spines to avoid getting bitten and partly on an immunity to the venom if the snake manages to get past their defences. Then the Hedgehog will eat the snake’s head and work its way down. Pretty impressive stuff!
Here’s a Hedgehog tackling a rather less threatening Slow Worm, to give you an idea of what they get up to:
Of course the Hedgehog’s spines don’t just protect it from snakes, they are more than a match for most British predators – except Badgers, which roll them over and scoop them out of their skin. The average Fox has no chance – to the degree that when sharing a plate of dog food (never give a Hedgehog bread and milk) the Hedgehog will take priority:
This is a definite bonus in London as we have four Foxes in our garden at the moment, but the other night we discovered that we also have a prickly little visitor!