The Dahurian hedgehog is a small insectivorous mammal. Of all the representatives of the hedgehog family, this species has been the least studied, as it leads a secretive, secluded lifestyle. Of all existing hedgehogs, they are the least prickly and the most ancient animals. This is due to the fact that the spines of the animal are not directed upwards, like those of all other hedgehogs, but backwards.
Daurian hedgehogs got their name due to the habitat region – Western Amur and Transbaikalia. In former times, these places were called Daursky. Unfortunately, today they are on the verge of extinction. This is the least studied species of hedgehogs that exists today.
Origin of the species and description
The Dahurian hedgehog is a representative of chordate mammals, belongs to the order of insectivores, the family of hedgehogs, the steppe hedgehogs are allocated to the genus, the class Daurian hedgehogs. Zoologists determine the approximate age of animals – 15 million years. The Dahurian hedgehog aroused the greatest interest among scientists and researchers in the mid-sixties, when one of the representatives of this species was accidentally almost destroyed during the distribution of insecticides to kill rodents.
Video: Dahurian hedgehog
In antiquity of origin, among all mammals, hedgehogs are second only to armadillos. Zoologists call the ancient ancestors of the Dahurian hedgehog paleorictids. They were quite common in America and modern Europe. They were considered digging and insectivorous representatives of the animal world of that period. This is evidenced by the high and pointed tips of the teeth. Subsequently, it is the paleorictids that will become the ancestors of the hedgehog family. This will happen during the Middle and Late Paleocene.
The first shrews were arboreal, but during the period of the Middle Eocene they already led a habitual way of life for modern hedgehogs and moles and practically looked like modern mammals. They were forced out of the trees by more developed and intelligent creatures – primates. Hedgehogs have managed to retain many primitive features, and at the same time, in the process of evolution, acquire many features similar to different types of mammals.
Appearance and features
The body length of the Daurian hedgehog is approximately 19-25 centimeters. Particularly large individuals in rare cases can reach 30 centimeters. The body weight of one adult is 500 – 1100 grams. The greatest body weight is observed in the period before winter, when the animals try to eat as much as possible before the hungry season. Due to the lack of a food base in winter, they lose up to 30-40% of body weight. Animals have a small tail, the length of which does not exceed 2-3 centimeters.
The entire body of the Dahurian hedgehog is covered with thick and strong needles, which, unlike other members of the hedgehog family, are not directed straight up, but backward. The needles on the body of the animal are arranged in longitudinal rows. The head area is also covered with a continuous protective shell of needles. The length of the needles is approximately 2-2.5 centimeters.
In addition to needles, the body of a small animal is covered with dense, coarse fur. Fur color may vary. In the head region, it is most often light, straw-yellow, or slightly brownish. The body is covered with light brown or gray fur. The belly area is covered with rough, dense hair, which has a darker shade, in contrast to the back. The needles are most often off-white, sandy or grayish in color. Because of this, the overall color scheme acquires a grayish-brown tint.
The head of the Dahurian hedgehog has a conical shape with an elongated nose. In the upper part of the head on the sides are small, rounded, and directed forward ears. The eyes of hedgehogs resemble two beads. They are small, black and round. The limbs of the animals are very strong and well developed. The legs are short but thick. The fingers have long, thick claws.
Where does the Daurian hedgehog live?
Geographic hedgehog habitats:
- southeastern Transbaikalia in the Russian Federation;
- Selenga Duaria ;
- the territory of the Borshchevochny and Nerchinsk ranges;
- the area near the rivers Ingoda, Chita and Shilka;
- Chita region of the Russian Federation;
- Amur region of the Russian Federation;
The animal densely inhabits the territory of the Daursky Reserve, their populations are also numerous in Chasucheysky Bor. As a habitat, the animal prefers steppes, semi-desert areas, mountainous or rocky areas. You can often meet these small animals in ravines with abundant, dense thickets of cotoneaster and almonds, as well as on the slopes of hills. They try to avoid regions with dense and tall grass.
Interesting fact: Hedgehogs are not at all afraid of people, and often live in close proximity to human settlements, or agricultural land.
Mostly dry places are chosen as a habitat. In the northern regions of residence, sandy places are preferred. They also feel comfortable on the territory of deciduous and mixed forests. In the steppes it is found in the area where the vegetation and grass are not too high. Most often they hide under stones or various depressions in the soil. With the onset of the rainy season, they tend to seek cover for themselves and hide in it almost constantly.
What does the Daurian hedgehog eat?
Dahurian hedgehogs are insectivorous animals. The main part of the diet is various insects, which the animal, with the help of powerful paws and strong claws, can dig out in the ground. However, we can say with confidence that the diet of the animal is very diverse and rich.
The Dahurian hedgehog's food base:
- ground beetle;
- quail eggs;
In addition to insects, animals that live near agricultural lands and human settlements eat leftovers and grains and cereals. Under natural habitat conditions, they can catch and eat a hamster, a frog, a mouse, a snake, chicks hatched from an egg, if bird nests are located within its reach.
They can also eat vegetation. In this type of food, preference is given to almonds, dogrose, cotoneaster. However, it can eat almost any berries, and other juicy varieties of forest vegetation. During the period when the food supply is especially scarce, they can eat carrion.
Character and lifestyle features
Animals lead a hidden, solitary lifestyle. They are most active at night. At this time, they go out on the move and get their own food. They tend to live in a certain area. Adult, strong males can occupy an area of up to 400 hectares. Females occupy a more modest territory – 30-130 hectares.
Secluded, inaccessible places are chosen as shelters – abandoned badger holes, depressions in the ground, places under stones, snags of trees. Burrows can also be terrestrial. On the territory of Mongolia they live in the burrows of tarbagans. Living in shelters is more typical for females, males prefer to sleep just on the ground.
Animals are not active in wet, rainy weather. With the onset of the rainy season, they try to wait out this time in holes. However, in cloudy weather, when there is no rain and dampness, they feel great, and can be very active even during daylight hours. If a prickly animal senses danger, it instantly curls up into a ball, and becomes like a prickly ball.
To make it easier to endure the harsh winter climate of some regions, as well as the lack of a food source, the animals hibernate. It lasts from the end of October, the beginning of November to the end of March, the beginning of April. Dahurian hedgehogs are distinguished by secrecy and solitude.
Interesting fact: Depending on the region and its climate, some hedgehogs can sleep almost 240-250 days a year!
Social structure and reproduction
Animals prefer to lead a solitary lifestyle. They form pairs only during the mating season. It begins a few days after the end of hibernation. The birth of offspring occurs once a year and falls on the month of May – June. Before the onset of childbirth, the expectant mother is actively looking for and preparing the place where future offspring will be born. To do this, she can find an abandoned badger hole, or dig a new one herself. The length of such a shelter can reach one and a half meters. The nesting room is most often located at a depth of 30-50 centimeters from the exit.
Pregnancy lasts an average of 35-40 days. The female Dahurian hedgehog can give birth to 4 to 6 six small hedgehogs at the same time. Hedgehogs are born practically naked and blind.
Interesting fact: The eyes of Dahurian hedgehogs open 15-16 days after birth, and the needles begin to grow within a few hours after birth !
However, they quickly grow and get stronger, and after a month they are ready for independent life. They feed on mother's milk for about one to one and a half months. Two months later, they separate from their mother and begin to lead an independent, isolated lifestyle. Females are very attentive and caring mothers. They do not leave their babies for almost a minute, while they are completely helpless. If the hedgehog feels the approach of danger, it immediately transfers the babies to a safer place.
Puberty is reached by 10-12 months. The average life expectancy in natural conditions is about 4-5 years, in captivity, nursery and reserves can increase up to 8.
Natural enemies of Daurian hedgehogs
Despite the needles and the external feeling of inaccessibility and security, under natural conditions, hedgehogs have enough enemies. Many predators that prey on hedgehogs have adapted to push them into a pond. Once in the water, the animals turn around and predators grab them.
The main natural enemies of Dahurian hedgehogs:
- Steppe eagles;
- Mongolian long-legged buzzards;
- predatory representatives of birds – owls, eagle owls.
Birds of prey are not embarrassed by the presence of thorns, their powerful paws with strong claws are adapted to grab and hold even prickly, prickly hedgehogs. Hedgehogs often settle near human settlements. In such a situation, dogs pose a great danger to them, especially large fighting breeds – bull terriers, rottweilers, shepherd dogs, etc. Also, hedgehogs are often attacked by stray dog packs.
The main enemy of the prickly animal in natural conditions is the badger. He is able to find and destroy hedgehogs even in holes. In this situation, it poses a danger not only to adults, but also to young, recently born hedgehogs. They are especially vulnerable due to the fact that they do not have protective spines.
Human can also be called enemies of the Dahurian hedgehog. As a result of its activities and the development of ever larger territories, the natural habitat of these representatives of the hedgehog family is polluted and destroyed. As a result, the number of animals is sharply reduced.
Population and species status
To date, the Dahurian hedgehog is listed in the Red Book of the Russian Federation, as the number of its population within the country is rapidly declining. According to zoologists, in the main territory of its distribution in Russia – in the southeastern Transbaikalia, the number of these representatives of the hedgehog family is 550,000 – 600,000 individuals.
The International Union for the Conservation of Wildlife concluded that the total number Animals are not endangered at the moment. However, they emphasize that if in the future the natural habitat of animals continues to be destroyed due to human activity, the population of Daurian urchins may decline sharply. It can also cause a significant reduction in the natural habitat of these representatives of the hedgehog family.
A sharp decline in the number of Daurian hedgehog is observed in the sixties. During this period, the mass destruction of rodents and Mongolian tarbagans, which were carriers of a dangerous disease, the plague, began with insecticides. After that, in some regions, the number of animals did not exceed 1-1.5 individuals per 80 hectares of area. However, the density of habitation near agricultural lands and human settlements remained unchanged.
An interesting fact: In the 70-80s, the number of predatory animals in some regions of the habitat of the Dahurian hedgehog decreased significantly. This led to a sharp increase in the number of this representative of the hedgehog family.
Protection of Daurian hedgehogs
To date, according to zoologists, the Dahurian hedgehog does not need the development and implementation of special measures to preserve and increase the population. The animal is under protection and protection within the Daursky Reserve. Measures to reduce pollution of their natural habitat will contribute to the conservation of this species of animals. These include reducing emissions into the environment of waste products from various fields of human activity, the use of gentle methods for growing and harvesting crops on agricultural land, and taking measures aimed at reducing the number and scale of forest and steppe fires.
Also it is worth limiting or prohibiting the use of insecticides or other types of pesticides in the regions where the prickly animal lives. In regions where the Dahurian hedgehog lives near human settlements, care should be taken that domestic dogs, especially representatives of large breeds, are not without a leash. It is also worth paying attention to the number of stray, stray dog packs. These activities will be able to sufficiently contribute to the increase in the number of the Daurian hedgehog.
The Daurian hedgehog is one of the most ancient of all mammals that exist today. They are second only to armadillos. At the same time, they remain the most mysterious and little-studied species of hedgehogs for humans. Many facts and features of their lifestyle have remained a mystery.