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Squechin

Small mammals had gone through epoch of anthropogenous pressure much better, than large ones. In the majority they had kept biological variety and had quickly restored their number after human disappearance. In Neocene among them species developed new features and strategies of survival had evolved.

One unusual species of insectivorous mammals lives in droughty areas in Western Asia to the south of Fourseas – it is scaly hedgehog. Hedgehogs are rather conservative group of mammals though occasionally among them freakish species evolve like fossil Deinogalerix or Neocene spinywolf; both species are large predators. But the majority of hedgehogs even in Neocene are presented by small animals eating insects and other invertebrates. Scaly hedgehog is a small animal: the length of its body does not exceed 30 cm. Its constitution is typical for hedgehogs: massive trunk, short tail, unspecialized five-fingered and five-toed paws and large head on short neck. Living in hot areas this hedgehog is covered with thin wool of bright yellow color. Back, sides and the top part of head of this animal are spiny – it has inherited this feature from ancestors. But spikes have an unusual structure. The part of spikes on sides and back is modified into wide scales which gradually transform to the ordinarly looking spikes kept only in forward part of head. Scales have light brown or straw colouring – it helps this animal to avoid overheat. But tips of scales are colored black that unmasks this animal on the background of landscape. Scaly hedgehog is not afraid of predator attacks, but uses different protection tactics depending on the kind of attacker. If the attacking predator belongs to mammals, this hedgehog is curled off in ball. The scales skintight to each other, forming strong enough armour, and their pointed tips do not allow a predator to unwrap scaly hedgehog by teeth or by paws. Being under attack of reptiles swallowing prey entirely, scaly hedgehog, on the contrary, rises on paws and stretches scales in sides in order to seem larger. Thus black tips of scales are well appreciable on background of light colouring of animal, exaggerating its visual size. Thus hedgehog does not recede even if the reptile touches it with tongue – having convinced that it cannot be bitten, reptile does not continue the attack. Protecting itself against reptiles, this hedgehog turns head to them and rotates on the spot if the predator tries to go and to attack from side. The diet of scaly hedgehog includes invertebrates (also poisonous ones), small vertebrates and occasionally berries of plants from which it gets needed moisture. This animal is capable to live for a long time without water, getting moisture from prey. This species of animals is solitary one. Each hedgehog occupies the certain territory from which it expels all strangers. Only a female raising cubs has any constant shelter – usually it is the abandoned hole or crevice between stones. At this species the posterity is born in spring. In a litter there are 3 – 6 naked and blind cubs which grow spikes to the fifth day of life. At the age of 4 weeks the part of needles on back and sides drops out, but at their place at once scales start to grow. At six-week age young animals leave mother and lead independent life. At the age of 1 year they reach maturity. Life expectancy of scaly hedgehog does not exceed 10 years.

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