Other Free Encyclopedias » Animal Life Resource » Mammals » New World Porcupines: Erethizontidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, North American Porcupine (erethizon Dorsatum): Species Accounts, Prehensile-tailed Porcupine (coendou Prehensilis): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, D

New World Porcupines: Erethizontidae - Prehensile-tailed Porcupine (coendou Prehensilis): Species Accounts

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Physical characteristics: Prehensile-tailed porcupines have a grayish to yellowish brown body with short, thick spines that are whitish or yellowish and mixed with darker hair. Their face is whitish and undersides are gray. Their padded feet have four long-clawed toes. The tail is small, long, black, and prehensile with a curled tip. The last one-third of the tail does not contain spines on its upper surface, which helps it to wrap around thin branches. Juveniles have an orangish brown to brown body with longer fur that sometimes hides its spines. Adults are 3 to 4 feet (0.9 to 1.2 meters) long with half of The prehensile-tailed porcupine uses its prehensile (grasping) tail to help it climb from branch to branch. (© Martin Harvey; Gallo Images/Corbis. Reproduced by permission.) the length being its tail. They weigh between 9 and 12 pounds (4.0 and 5.5 kilograms).

Geographic range: They are found in eastern South America from eastern Venezuela and Trinidad to northeastern Argentina and Uruguay.

Habitat: The animals inhabit vine-covered rainforests and jungles, but can also be found in agricultural areas, gardens, and drier forests near water sources.

Diet: Prehensile-tailed porcupines are herbivores, eating mostly fruits, seeds, stems, leaves, roots, small twigs and shoots, and bark. They usually eat during the late part of the day.

Behavior and reproduction: Prehensile-tailed porcupines are shy, nocturnal porcupines that are solitary, alone, or live in pairs or gather in groups occasionally. They spend most of their time high in tree branches; going from tree to tree by climbing down one tree, walking across the ground, and climbing up another tree. The animals move slowly, but can move fast when they must. They are good climbers, mostly due to their long, prehensile tail and padded, clawed feet. Prehensile-tailed porcupines sleep during the day, usually within a clump of vegetation in the forest's canopy. When threatened by a predator, they are not aggressive but will defend themselves if attacked. Prehensile-tailed porcupines often roll into a ball and raise their quills. Sometimes they attack the predator by quickly moving toward the intruder with spines erect. They will also stomp feet, shake spines, and make threatening snarls and grunts. They communicate with each through long moaning sounds.

During breeding periods, a male will spray urine onto a female and may also spray newborns. Females reproduce about every seven months. They often give birth during the rainy season, but it is not clear if this is always the case. The gestation period is 195 to 210 days. After giving birth usually to one young, the female will almost immediately mate again. Newborns are covered with red hairs and small spines, which harden shortly after birth. Young are weaned, no longer fed its mother's milk, after three months. Adulthood is reached in about eleven months and sexual maturity in about nineteen months.

Prehensile-tailed porcupines and people: People occasionally hunt prehensile-tailed porcupines for food. They are sometimes considered an agricultural pest.

Conservation status: Prehensile-tailed porcupines are not threatened. ∎



Feldhemer, George A., Lee C. Drickamer, Stephen H. Vessey, and Joseph F. Merritt. Mammalogy: Adaption, Diversity, and Ecology. Boston: WCB McGraw-Hill, 1999.

Nowak, Ronald M. Walker's Mammals of the World, 6th ed. Vol. 2. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.

Vaughan, Terry A., James M. Ryan, and Nicholas J. Czaplewski. Mammalogy, 4th ed. Philadelphia: Saunders College Publishing, 2000.

Whitfield, Philip. Macmillan Illustrated Animal Encyclopedia. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1984.

Wilson, Don E., and DeeAnn M. Reeder, eds. Mammal Species of the World, 2nd ed. Washington, DC and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993.

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