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Is a Hedgehog a Mammal or Marsupial? The Surprising Answer

hedgehog on the log

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Dr. Paola Cuevas

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The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Hedgehogs are unusual animals with unusual characteristics, to say the least! While they are often mistaken for marsupials because of their appearance, they are actually a different type of mammal. They do not have a pouch and are not related to any other marsupials. Instead, they are considered “spiny mammals.”

Mammals and marsupials are not exclusive, though. Marsupials are actually a type of mammal, which is used to describe most furry, warm-blooded animals. However, hedgehogs are not marsupials, even though they are mammals.

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What Type of Mammal is a Hedgehog?

Hedgehogs are spiny mammals in the subfamily Erinaceinae. This whole subfamily just includes hedgehogs, of which there are many different species. There are actually seventeen different hedgehogs, which are classed into five smaller groups. These hedgehogs are native to parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa. However, there are no native hedgehogs in the Americas, Australia, or New Zealand.

It is thought that there was once a species in North America that went extinct some time ago.

Hedgehogs likely share distant ancestry with the shrew. However, they likely split off millions of years ago, as the shrew has changed very little.

The hedgehog has adapted to living a nocturnal way of life, which is likely true for most original mammals. It was simply too dangerous back then to travel around during the day (that’s when all the giant lizards got around, after all).

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Why Aren’t Hedgehogs Marsupials?

an african pygmy hedgehog on owner hand
Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

Hedgehogs are not marsupials for one clear reason—they have no pouch. Marsupials are characterized by giving birth to under-developed young and then caring for them in a pouch. Hedgehogs do not do either of these things. In fact, baby hedgehogs look fairly similar to adult hedgehogs. They’re simply tiny.

Instead, hedgehogs are considered “placental mammals.”

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Conclusion

Hedgehogs are firmly in the mammal category. However, they are not marsupials in the least. Instead, all hedgehog species are in their own category (and there are quite a few different hedgehog species). These animals are set apart from marsupials because they do not have a pouch that they raise their young in. They are also not related to any marsupials.

In fact, this animal is likely most closely related to the shrew, but they do not have any other direct relations in the animal kingdom as far as scientists can tell.

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Featured Image Credit: Thanisnan Sukprasert, Shutterstock

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