New Discovery: Porcupine Species Identified in Brazil


Posted by Liz Langley in Weird & Wild

The Coendou porcupines, also known as prehensile-tailed porcupines are nocturnal, herbivorous, solitary rodents native to Central and South America. Photograph by Hugo Fernandes Ferreira.

The Coendou porcupines, also known as prehensile-tailed porcupines are nocturnal, herbivorous, solitary rodents native to Central and South America. Photograph by Hugo Fernandes Ferreira.

One prickly subject you can always discuss in public? Porcupines.

And now they’ll make a good conversation starter because a new porcupine species has been identified in Brazil. Biologists Anderson Feijó and Alfredo Langguth of the Federal University of Paraíba identified Coendou baturitensis, or the Baturite porcupine, in a study published in Revista Nordestina de Biologia.

The habitat of the not-so-cuddly new creature is the Brejos de Altitude forests in the mountainous Baturite Range, which is located in the Brazilian state of Ceará. The fragmented, humid forests are in an area that Feijó said is in need of protection from deforestation.

A Spiky Experiment

The researchers based their discovery of the new species on the remains of two porcupine specimens found several decades apart, in 1954 and in 2012. They examined the older specimen first, which had been classified as the Brazilian porcupine.

When they compared it to the newer specimen from the Baturite Range, they found that some characteristics of the quills and skull were “unique to these animals [and] had not been found in any other so far,” Feijó said. The quills remain preserved under the right conditions, he added. (Related: “Why Porcupine Quills Go in Easily but Are Hard to Pull Out.”)

The newly identified Baturite porcupine is now the seventh known species of prehensile-tailed porcupine, which is native to Central and South America. They’re herbivores and adept climbers that rest in tree canopies during the day and forage at night. They can use their tails for grasping (kinkajous, spider monkeys, and opossums also have prehensile tails).

In the study, the authors describe the newfound porcupine as “a medium sized species, with body densely covered with tricolor quills.” What sets it apart from the Brazilian porcupine is the color pattern of its quills, a “darker general appearance of the body,” and its broad snout and big, soft, bulbous nose.

The study does not go so far as to say it’s cute as a button despite its prickly exterior. But try not to get stuck on that.

Credits: Weird & Wild

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