Brazilian biologists from the Federal University of Paraíba have discovered a new species of porcupine in the genus Coendou.
The Coendou porcupines, also known as prehensile-tailed porcupines or coendous, are nocturnal, herbivorous, solitary rodents native to Central and South America.
Prehensile-tailed porcupines measure 0.7 – 1 m long including the tail and weigh about 3 – 5 kg. They feed on bark, leaves and buds as well as fruit and root vegetables.
The most prominent feature of these animals is their long, unspined tail. They use it as a fifth hand that helps them hold on to branches as they climb through the forest canopy.
Prehensile-tailed porcupines spend the day sleeping in a hollow tree or curled up in the fork of a branch; at night they move around. Although these porcupines tend to move slowly, they are surprisingly agile and can climb quickly when necessary. They cannot jump and must descend to the ground if they need to cross a gap between trees.
The new species, scientifically named Coendou baturitensis, is only known from the Baturité Range in the Brazilian state of Ceará. The common name is the Baturite porcupine.
“The name refers to the locality of origin, a forests on a mountain range similar to the Brejos de Altitude of the Brazilian Northeast where a fauna different from that of the surrounding semiarid Caatinga can be found,” co-authors Dr Anderson Feijó and Dr Alfredo Langguth wrote in the paper published in the journal Revista Nordestina de Biologia.
Coendou baturitensis is a medium-sized prehensile-tailed porcupine with body densely covered with tricolor quills.
“On the back the quills are long with a short dirty white basal band, followed by a long brown intermediate band and a dirty white terminal band. On the sides of the body, the quills are shorter than on the back and are distinctly darker. This is due to short basal and distal bands of dirty white color and a long intermediate brown band. The quills are not covered by hair. The nose is bulbous, big and soft,” the authors wrote.
Coendou baturitensis is similar to Coendou speratus, described in April 2013, but can be distinguished by having the tip of the quills white, instead of reddish, the ventral region covered by thin, flexible quills instead of hairs.
Bibliographic information: Anderson Feijó and Alfredo Langguth. 2013. A new species of porcupine from the Baturité range. Revista Nordestina de Biologia 22 (1/2): 124-126