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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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ScienceShot: License to Quill
8 November 2013 4:15 pm
With needle-sharp quills, some longer than the average human forearm, porcupines sport one of nature’s most frightening defenses against predators. But a new study shows they can be fearsome killers as well. Researchers in Italy have found that the rodents can slay dogs, foxes, and even badgers. Scientists monitored porcupines in Tuscany for about 18 months. They identified four defenses that the animals employed, in order of increasing aggression: quill erection, tail rattling, stamping and growling, and backwards or sideways attacks. The porcupines never used the latter two in one-on-one encounters, but rather as last resorts when an individual was outnumbered, or if multiple porcupines were present and more likely to inflict serious damage. In one such case, two porcupines ran backwards, forcing a dog into their den, where they fatally impaled it with their quills. Other porcupines killed four other predators, two badgers and two foxes, over the study period; such deaths have never been previously recorded in scientific literature, the team reports in Mammalia.