An Eco-sustainable World
MammalsSpecies Animal

Erinaceus roumanicus

Erinaceus roumanicus

The northern white-breasted hedgehog (Erinaceus roumanicus Barrett-Hamilton, 1900) is a mammal belonging to the Erinaceidae family.

Systematic –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Animalia,
Phylum Chordata,
Mammalia class,
Order Eulipotyphla,
Family Erinaceidae,
Subfamily Erinaceinae,
Genus Erinaceus,
Species E. europaeus.
Within this species the following subspecies are recognised:
– Erinaceus roumanicus roumanicus;
– Erinaceus roumanicus bolkayi;
– Erinaceus roumanicus drozdovskii;
– Erinaceus roumanicus nesiotes;
– Erinaceus roumanicus pallidus.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Erinaceus roumanicus is a hedgehog native to Eurasia, with a range that extends west to Poland, Austria and the former Yugoslavia, and south to Greece and the Adriatic islands, including the populations of Crete , Corfu and Rhodes. It is found eastwards through Russia and Ukraine, up to the Ob River in Siberia.
In Italy it is present in the north-eastern area (Trentino-Alto Adige, Friuli-Venezia Giulia), where it coexists with Erinaceus europaeus.
It is widespread throughout this range and, at the moment, there are no signs of a significant decline in the population.
Its habitat is that of woods and forests, especially deciduous and mixed ones. It is commonly found in open forests with abundant undergrowth, providing shelter and food. It adapts well to agricultural areas, including crops, orchards and vineyards. These environments provide both food and hiding places. It also lives in open prairies and meadows, where it can easily find insects and other small invertebrates on which it feeds. However, it can also be found in parks, gardens and other urban and suburban green areas. In these contexts, hedgehogs can benefit from the food resources and shelter offered by gardens and parks.
It is found up to 1,400 m above sea level.

Description –
Erinaceus roumanicus is a mammal that in the adult stage can reach a length of 20-30 cm, with a weight that varies from 400 to 1200 grams, depending on the season and the availability of food.
The body is covered with approximately 5000-7000 spines, which are actually modified hairs. The spines are light brown with darker tips. The lower part of the body is covered with brown or white-grey fur.
It has an elongated snout with small dark eyes and relatively large ears.

Biology –
Erinaceus roumanicus is a mammal that hibernates during the winter, when temperatures drop and food is scarce.
It reproduces following a very specific pattern. The mating period runs from spring to early summer.
Gestation lasts approximately 35-45 days, after which the female gives birth to 2 to 10 young.
The young are born blind and with soft spines that harden after a few days.

Ecological Role –
Erinaceus roumanicus was for a certain period considered a subspecies of E. europaeus and subsequently a subspecies of E. concolor. Since the 1990s it has been considered a separate species in its own right, following new genetic and morphological studies, with five subspecies.
In general it is a very adaptable animal that can live in a wide range of environments, as long as there is sufficient availability of food (such as insects, snails, and small vertebrates) and shelter (such as bushes, hollow logs, and other natural hiding places).
It is a nocturnal and solitary animal, which during the day takes refuge in nests made of leaves and grass.
It is omnivorous and feeds on insects, earthworms, snails, small vertebrates, fruit and berries.
When it feels threatened, it curls into a ball to protect vulnerable parts of its body with its thorns.
Although it is not common to keep them as pets, they require specific care and an environment similar to their natural habitat in order to live healthy.
The species is a common synanthrope and is known to carry not only the hedgehog tick, Ixodes Hexagon, but also Ixodes ricinus, the most common European tick species. They are also known to host zoonotic species of Bartonellae. A large-scale molecular investigation was performed on white-breasted hedgehog fleas as it is a geographically widespread species and a highly urbanized species. The spread and urbanization of the species gives the white-breasted hedgehog the ability to spread its fleas, particularly Archaeopsylla erinacei, to dogs and cats, which could lead to spread to humans. In the investigation, all fleas were positive for rickettsiae.
From an ecological point of view, the species is not subject to particular threats. The road network and road investments, although numerous, do not appear to be a significant cause of threat. The Italian range of the species represents one of the peripheral portions of a very large range, and the populations beyond the national border are in contact with the Italian ones, further reducing the probability of extinction at a national level and therefore it is assessed as Least Concern (LC) .

Guido Bissanti

– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Gordon Corbet, Denys Ovenden, 2012. Guide to the mammals of Europe. Franco Muzzio Editore.
– John Woodward, Kim Dennis-Bryan, 2018. The great encyclopedia of animals. Gribaudo Publisher.

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