Did You Know That Rats Can Grow Spikes?

Illustration for article titled Did You Know That Rats Can Grow Spikes?

And now that you do know, are you ever planning to sleep again? This is the armored rat. It’s a rodent in South America that has actual spines, which presumably can be driven directly into your eyes should you even look at it funny.


For the first month of its life, the armored rat looks like just a regular South American rat. It’s one of a small litter. It has soft fur. It is fairly well able to care for itself. It’s a real survivor of a rodent. After one month, weird things start to happen. The soft fur seems to get matted. It starts to look stiff, as if the rat were caught in a rainstorm and then sprayed with the heavy duty hairspray they used back before anyone cared about the ozone layer.

The stuff that’s covering the rat is not hair, well-kept or otherwise. It’s spikes. The armored rat has spikes all over. This, perhaps, shouldn’t be a surprise. A look at its lineage shows that it’s more closely related to the porcupine than the brown rat. It his, however, a rodent. And it gets into all the trouble a rat does. And it’s not alone. Tome’s spiny rat also grows spikes and runs around South America using them. And they both are most active at night. And they can both grow up to a pound and a half.

Sleep well!

Image: National Museum of Natural History

[Sources: Armored Rat, Tome’s Spiny Rat.]


Dr Emilio Lizardo