New mountain porcupine discovered in Brazil (photos)

Jeremy Hance
December 09, 2013

In Brazil's Baturite Mountains, scientists have uncovered a new species of prehensile-tailed porcupine, according to a new paper in Revista Nordestina de Biologia. Dubbed, the Baturite porcupine (Coendou baturitensis), the new species was discovered when scientists noticed significant differences between it and its closest relative, the Brazilian porcupine (Coendou prehensilis). The name prehensile-tailed refers to these porcupines long, mobile tail which they use as a fifth limb to adroitly climb trees.

The Baturite porcupine "was discovered after a careful review of the medium and large mammals from northeastern Brazil. First of all, we noted a very different shape of the skull of a porcupine collected at the Baturite Range. Then, we examined several specimens from different localities of porcupine, especially of the Coendou prehensilis, the closest species. [...] Besides the skull difference, We found some characteristics of the skin unique to these animals and had not been found in any other so far," the lead author, Anderson Feijó, told mongabay.com. The new species is darker with differently colored quills than its near-relative.

Close view of the new porcupine species, the Baturite porcupine: Coendou baturitensis. Photo by: Hugo Fernandes-Ferreira.
Close view of the new porcupine species, the Baturite porcupine: Coendou baturitensis. Photo by: Hugo Fernandes-Ferreira.

The Baturite porcupine inhabits montane forests in northeastern Brazil, and is so far only known from the Brazilian state of Ceará. According to the authors many of the species in the high-altitude forests differ from those found in the semiarid Caatinga forests on the plans below.

"For this reason, It's very important protect this region," says Feijó, who notes that the new porcupine is likely threatened. However, the scientists need more data before than they can definitively classify it.

Interestingly this is actually the second new prehensile-tailed porcupine (in the Coendou genus) to be described in Brazil this year. In April, scientists announced the discovery of the hope porcupine (Coendou speratus). Found in the Atlantic Forest, the scientists say this new species is in grave danger of extinction as 95 percent of its habitat has been lost and it continues to be hunted by locals.

Porcupines are large rodents known for their bristling quills, which keeps predators at bay. With these two new species, there are over 30 porcupine species worldwide.

The Baturite porcupine has a bulbous nose. Photo by: Hugo Fernandes-Ferreira.
The Baturite porcupine has a bulbous nose. Photo by: Hugo Fernandes-Ferreira.

Note the prehensile tail on the Baturite porcupine. Photo by: Hugo Fernandes-Ferreira.
Note the prehensile tail on the Baturite porcupine. Photo by: Hugo Fernandes-Ferreira.

The Baturite porcupine lives in the trees. Photo by: Hugo Fernandes-Ferreira.
The Baturite porcupine lives in the trees. Photo by: Hugo Fernandes-Ferreira.

  • Anderson Feijó and Alfredo Langguth. A new species of porcupine from the Baturité range. (2013) Revista Nordestina de Biologia 22 (1/2): 124-126
  • Pontes et al (2013). A new species of porcupine, genus Coendou (Rodentia: Erethizontidae) from the Atlantic forest of northeastern Brazil. Zootaxa 3636 (3): 421–438 http://dx.doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.3636.3.2

AUTHOR: Jeremy Hance joined Mongabay full-time in 2009. He currently serves as senior writer and editor. He has also authored a book.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (December 09, 2013).

New mountain porcupine discovered in Brazil (photos) .