Before human arrival to New Zealand there were no mammals, except for flying and marine ones. People had introduced to these islands a plenty of mammals of various groups which had started to evolve after human disappearance, changing themselves and occupying new ecological niches. The descendant of European hedgehog introduced to New Zealand by people is New Zealand hedgehog, living like ecological analogue of anteater. By its appearance this hedgehog as if parodies the echidna of human epoch because of the muzzle extended to proboscis, long tongue and the forepaws specialized for digging.
New Zealand hedgehog is rather large animal in standards of insectivores: it grows up to 40 cm long and weighs about 800 grammes. All its back, back part of body, top half of sides and even forehead are covered with spikes, straighter and shorter than at echidna. Fur of New Zealand hedgehog is short, but dense, especially at individuals from southern parts of area. It is colored monotonous gray-brown color, but sometimes there are also lighter colored individuals and even partial albinos having white irregular-shaped spots scattered on body. Forepaws of New Zealand hedgehog are partly specialized for digging holes of underground invertebrates and vertebrates, and resemble paws of American ground squirrels with long and powerful claws. Nevertheless, as against animals like echidna and American anteaters, these claws are not bent and do not prevent this hedgehog to walk on the ground. Hinder legs of hedgehog are considerably less specialized rather than forepaws, and are even a little bit longer. It gives this hedgehog a little bit humpbacked appearance and prevents it to curl in ball similarly to its ancestors. But ability to curl in ball is not too important any more for it as it can escape rather successfully from enemies, having dug in ground like echidna. But longer rear legs and powerful back permit New Zealand hedgehog to rise vertically, that help it to climb on small tree for ants or other invertebrates. New Zealand hedgehogs live mainly on Northern Island of New Zealand plentifully overgrown with forest. There these hedgehogs efficiently dig forest litter in searches of ants, worms, bugs etc. pulling them out from underground holes by long tongues covered with sticky saliva. Sometimes they creep in underground tunnels of and can put some loss to young rabbit cubs before leaving to the surface. New Zealand hedgehog has still kept sharp enough and strong molars suitable for eating of animal like newborn rabbit cub, but adult rabbits can not be afraid of this hedgehog: they are too large and strong for this prickly animal. Nevertheless, they can make of nothing when hedgehog got in their “fortress” because to answer their attacks hedgehog turns spikes aside the opponent and it cannot neither be pushed away nor bitten. More mountainous Southern Island is less inhabited by these hedgehogs and they live basically in lowlands, in bushy thickets along the rivers where there is lesser opportunity to meet ruacapangi – large flightless bird of rallid group which can punch through this hedgehog by long beak despite of its spikes, break it off by claws and peck off all edible parts from prickly skin. Besides there is larger amount of food for hedgehog in such places, rather than in drier high-mountainous areas of island. The peak of activity of New Zealand hedgehog falls to night time when it walks across its territory and updates its borders with odorous marks. In the afternoon time hedgehogs sleep, having buried in the ground or in leaf layer except the moments when they feel the rain coming. These animals do not like rain, especially individuals from Southern Island and if they feel approaching thunder-storm, they immediately leave the shelters and search for places more protected from a rain without dependence from time. The courtship period at New Zealand hedgehogs takes place in drier season, since May till July. At this time males actively court females, arranging competitions during which they “box” against contenders by prickly forehead. Approximately 5 weeks later females bring a litter of cubs, from 4 up to 6 ones in litter, but at the north it may be up to 7 – 8 ones. Cubs are born almost helpless and blind, but in one and a half month they turn quite independent, and at the third month of life leave mother. Usual life expectancy of New Zealand hedgehog is about 5 – 6 years.