Atelerix algirusnorth African hedgehog

Geographic Range

North African hedgehogs are native to the northern regions of Africa from Morocco to Libya. They have also been introduced to nearby areas, including the southern, mountainous regions of Spain, France, and the islands off the coast of Africa, such as the Canary Islands and the Balearics. Introduced populations in France are now extinct. (Hutterer, 2005; Nogales, et al., 2006; Stone, 1995; Vriends, 2000)

Habitat

North African hedgehogs prefer arid climates, but are found in a broad range of habitats including dry Mediterranean scrub, grasslands, pastures, cultivated fields, semi-desert, and gardens. They are also found near human populations. They are typically found at altitudes of 400 m or less, although elevations of up to 900 m have been observed in Morocco. (Amori, et al., 2011; Stone, 1995; Vriends, 2000; World Wildlife Fund and Hogan, 2007)

  • Range elevation
    0 to 900 m
    0.00 to 2952.76 ft

Physical Description

North African hedgehogs range in length from 200 to 250 mm. They are paler in color than hedgehogs from Europe, with the possible exception of Erinaceus europaeus. The most useful diagnostic feature is the spine-free “part” on the crown of the head, which appears as a lack of a widow’s peak often seen in similar species. They also have larger ears, longer snouts, and longer legs than Erinaceus europaeus. The underbelly is colored either brown or white. The dorsal surface of Atelerix algirus is covered in sharp spines made of tough keratin. (Amori, et al., 2011; Loyd, 2004; Vriends, 2000)

  • Range length
    200 to 250 mm
    7.87 to 9.84 in

Reproduction

The breeding season for Atelerix algirus is October to March. They do not mate for life or engage in pair-bonding, but little else is known about mating behavior. (Dr. Jungle, 2004)

North African hedgehogs produce two litters per breeding season. Litter size is between 3 and 10 hoglets, and each hoglet weighs 12 to 20 grams. The hoglet is born blind, but gains vision quickly. The spines begin to erupt from underneath the skin and membranous coverings about 36 hours after birth. The gestation time for the species is 30 to 40 days and the young become sexually mature between 8 and 10 weeks of age. (Vriends, 2000; Wikipedia, 2012)

  • Breeding interval
    Atelerix algirus produces two litters per breeding season.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs from October to March.
  • Range number of offspring
    3 to 10
  • Range gestation period
    30 to 40 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    8 to 10 weeks
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    8 to 10 weeks

Little is known about parental investment in North African hedgehogs. Like other mammals, however, females invest heavily in their offspring through gestation and lactation.

  • Parental Investment
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

Little is known about the lifespan of Atelerix algirus. It is expected to follow trends seen in other hedgehogs of its size. If so, the expected lifespan would be between 3 and 7 years in the wild and 8 to 10 years in captivity. (Vriends, 2000; Wikipedia, 2012)

Behavior

This species is difficult to study in the field because it is nocturnal. Like most hedgehogs, it is most likely solitary. When threatened, it curls into a ball and displays its spiny exterior to deter predators. (Amori, et al., 2011; Gage, 2008)

Home Range

Nothing is known about the size of the home range of Atelerix algirus. (Vriends, 2000)

Communication and Perception

Nothing is known about communication in the wild for Atelerix algirus. Hedgehogs raise their quills and make hissing noises when worried. In addition, hedgehogs often make purring noises when content. Like other mammals, scent cues are likely to be important in communication and in prey detection. (Vriends, 2000)

Food Habits

North African hedgehogs are generalist omnivores. They forage at night for arthropods, small vertebrates, carrion, fungi, and other available foods. (Amori, et al., 2011)

  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • amphibians
  • reptiles
  • eggs
  • carrion
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • mollusks
  • terrestrial worms
  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit
  • Other Foods
  • fungus

Predation

Eurasian eagle owls (Bubo bubo) overlaps in geographic range with Atelerix algirus and are known to prey on other species of hedgehogs. North African hedgehogs use their sharp spines to deter predators and are also cryptically colored. (Wikipedia, 2012)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

There is little information on the ecosystem roles of North African hedgehogs. They serves as prey for large predators that are able to get beyond their defensive spines and are likely to impact population levels of the species on which they prey.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

North African hedgehogs often eat pest insects in gardens and populated areas. They are one of two species hybridized to create domesticated hedgehogs. Body parts are sometimes used in local medicinal practices and they are sometimes eaten as food. (Amori, et al., 2011)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

North African hedgehogs have no known negative impact on humans.

Conservation Status

North African hedgehogs are classified as a species of least concern according to the IUCN Red List. Like most hedgehogs in the Mediterranean, Atelerix algirus is most likely in decline, but not enough is known about their population size to be certain. They are often killed by passing cars and populations are limited by suitable habitat. They are often killed by humans to be used for food, regional medical purposes, and ingredients in witchcraft markets. (Amori, et al., 2011)

Other Comments

Atelerix algirus is also known as the Algerian hedgehog.

Contributors

Andrew Everett (author), Yale University, Eric Sargis (editor), Yale University, Rachel Racicot (editor), Yale University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

carrion

flesh of dead animals.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

cryptic

having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.

drug

a substance used for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

food

A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

introduced

referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

omnivore

an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

solitary

lives alone

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5? N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

visual

uses sight to communicate

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

References

Amori, G., R. Hutterer, B. Krystufek, N. Yigit, G. Mitsain, L. Muñoz. 2011. "Atelerix algirus" (On-line). IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed April 02, 2012 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/27926/0.

Dr. Jungle, 2004. "African Hedgehog" (On-line). Animal World. Accessed April 29, 2012 at http://animal-world.com/encyclo/critters/hedgehog/hedgehog.php.

Gage, L. 2008. Hedgehogs. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Hutterer, R. 2005. Order Erinaceomorpha. Pp. 212-219 in D Wilson, D Reeder, eds. Mammal Species of the World, 3rd Ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Loyd, N. 2004. "Algerian Hedgehog" (On-line). Iberian Nature. Accessed April 29, 2012 at http://www.iberianature.com/material/Algerian_hedgehog.htm.

Nogales, M., J. Rodriguez-Luengo, P. marrero. 2006. Ecological effects and distribution of invasive non-native mammals on the Canary Islands. Mammal Review, 36/1: 49-65. Accessed April 02, 2012 at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2907.2006.00077.x/abstract?systemMessage=Wiley+Online+Library+will+be+disrupted+4+June+from+10-12+BST+for+monthly+maintenance.

Stone, R. 1995. Insectivore, Tree Shrew and Elephant Shrew Specialist Group. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. Accessed April 02, 2012 at http://members.vienna.at/shrew/itsesAP95-erinaceidae.html.

Vriends, M. 2000. Hedgehogs. Hauppauge, NY: Barron's Educational Series. Accessed April 02, 2012 at http://books.google.com/books?id=TpICfb8erlwC&pg=PT80&lpg=PT80&dq=algerian+hedgehog&source=web&ots=Aqt9wqF7_c&sig=ppCNbs-Zn0CriNfx01gTIGFHQeY#v=onepage&q=algerian%20hedgehog&f=false.

Wikipedia, 2012. "Hedgehog" (On-line). Wikipedia. Accessed April 29, 2012 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedgehog.

World Wildlife Fund, , M. Hogan. 2007. Mediterranean conifer and mixed forests. C Cleveland, M McGinley, eds. Encyclopedia of Earth. Environmental Information Coalition. Accessed April 04, 2012 at http://www.eoearth.org/article/Mediterranean_conifer_and_mixed_forests?topic=49597.