3 amazing facts about porcupine quills

Picture of a porcupine with it's quills.

Here are three interesting facts about porcupine quills:

(1) How many quills a porcupine has?

A porcupine has 30,000 or more quills that constantly replace themselves. They are never used aggressively but only in defense.

(2) If it ever shoots all quills at an attacker?

True, when it swings its loaded tail at an attacker, some quills may fly out but with insufficient force to get stuck in anything.

However, when the swung tail does connect with an assailant, the quills are difficult to extract.

(3) Why these quills rarely cause infection in a victim, yet sometimes cause death?

A few years ago, a biologist had such a painful encounter with a porcupine.

One quill traveled ten inches [25 cm] in the flesh of his arm before emerging two days later. There was no infection.

He ran tests on other quills and was amazed to find that they have mild antibiotic properties. For this reason, quills rarely cause infection.

If, though, the barbed head of a quill works its way into the flesh and strikes a vital organ, it can cause the death of its victim.

And if the quills pierce an animal’s mouth so that it is unable to eat, the animal may starve to death.

An added bonus is that the quills act like a flotation jacket when the porcupine decides to dine on a favorite food—water lilies.