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6 March 2014 1:04 pm ,
Vol. 343 ,
Early in April, the first of a fleet of environmental monitoring satellites will lift off from Europe's spaceport in...
Since 2000, U.S. government health research agencies have spent almost $1 billion on an effort to churn out thousands...
Magdalena Koziol, a former postdoc at Yale University, was the victim of scientific sabotage. Now, she is suing the...
Antiretroviral drugs can protect people from becoming infected by HIV. But so-called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP...
Two studies show that eating a diet low in protein and high in carbohydrates is linked to a longer, healthier life, and...
Considered an icon of conservation science, researchers at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) headquarters in Washington, D.C.,...
The new atlas, which shows the distribution of important trace metals and other substances, is the first product of...
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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.