Prehensile-tailed porcupines or Brazilian porcupines are large and have a long, strong prehensile tail. They are well adapted to live in trees. Their skin color ranges from brownish-black to yellow-orange rust and their backs are covered with long quills. The yellow-orange color results from a pungent waxy substance secreted from their sebaceous glands. The tricolored semi-hollow quills have white tips ending in a barbed end. Their prehensile tails do not have spines and are used for stabilization as well as clinging while climbing and hanging. These animals have small ears, wide nasal openings, long whiskers and procumbent upper incisors. Their eyes are surrounded by a thin strip of bare skin within their coat of spines that goes all the way to their nose.
Prehensile-tailed porcupine inhabits tropical forests from Argentina to Brazil, as well as eastern parts of Bolivia and the island of Trinidad. They occupy a diverse range of environments, but are not found any higher than 1,500 meters. They mostly live in old growth forests where there are abundant trees for dwelling and foraging but they also occupy humid mountainous highlands, vast tropical grasslands and a few croplands.
Habits and lifestyle
Prehensile-tailed porcupine is nocturnal animal. During the day they rest in tree hollows or on high branches or forks or shaded parts of the canopy, coming out at night to forage. They are socially tolerant, particularly when food and mates are abundant, but they prefer small groups or solitary lifestyles.
Diet and nutrition
Prehensile-tailed porcupines are herbivores that forage, mostly among trees. They eat the bark and the layer inside the bark of some trees, as well as buds, fruits, roots, stems, blossoms, leaves, unripened seeds, and crops like bananas and corn. In a zoo they are fed such things as yams, carrots, green pepper, zucchini, eggplant, cucumber, broccoli, parsnips, corn and turnips.
Prehensile-tailed porcupine are monogamous. The males spray females and the young to mark them during courtship and again when the young are born, and possibly continuing to mark both the young and their mother. Sometimes males and females are seen together, but they apparently forage and sleep separately. They have no designated breeding season, so they can breed year round. The gestation period is about 200 days. Generally a single baby is born. Weaning takes place after 10 weeks, and within a year the individual has reached adult size. Females reach sexual maturity in 19 months. Soon after giving birth, females will mate again.
The main threats for this porcupines are the destruction of their habitat and hunting by humans.
The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Prehensile-tailed porcupine total population size. Currently this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today remain stable.
Prehensile-tailed porcupines are primary plant material consumers in their geographic range. Their foraging assists in the dispersal of tree seeds.
Fun facts for kids
- These porcupines, like others, have a gland situated near the base of the tail which secretes hormones that they use to mark their territory.
- They display unusual courtship behavior, like rubbing noses and dancing.
- “Porcupine” comes from Latin “porcus,” meaning “pig” and “spina,” which means “spine.” Porcupines are, however, not related to pigs.
- Porcupines have a good sense of touch, smell and hearing.
- Prehensile-tailed porcupines are eaten in many regions of South America.
- A male porcupine is a ”boar” and a female is a “sow”.
- The porcupines stamp their back feet when they are excited and curl up into a ball if caught.