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13 Prehensile-Tailed Porcupine Facts You’ll Never Forget

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Prehensile-Tailed Porcupine sleeping on a piece of wood

Did you know that the spiny and absurd-looking animals called porcupines could have prehensile tails almost as long as their bodies?

The prehensile-tailed porcupine, or Brazilian porcupine (Coendou prehensilis), is a species of porcupine known for its non-spiny prehensile tail. Just like howler monkeys, capuchin monkeys, and spider monkeys, the porcupines use their prehensile tail as a third arm to grasp and hold on to tree branches. In addition to the unique tail, the front and hind feet of the animal are also modified for efficient grasping, making them adept climbers for an arboreal life. This arboreal porcupine species is native to Central and South America with a range that mainly includes Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Bolivia, Suriname, and Trinidad. They inhabit tropical forests and can be found at altitudes as high as 4,920 ft (1,500 m) above sea level.

Like most other porcupine species, the skin of an adult prehensile-tailed porcupine is covered with long quills that are actually modified hairs. The quills are semi-hollow and tricolored, ending in a white-tipped, barb-like end. Porcupines use their quills as a defensive weapon against predators; once stuck in animal flesh, the quills can be pretty difficult to remove! A forest-dwelling creature, the prehensile-tailed porcupines are strict herbivores and forage among trees for food. Their diet mainly consists of leaves, stems, shoots, roots, fruits, buds, unripened seeds, blossoms, tree bark, and the cambium layer underneath tree barks. The species is nocturnal and forage at night, alone or in pairs.

Isn't this porcupine species absolutely interesting? Read on to know more about these spiny animals!

If you like what you read, do check out other similar articles on porcupine and crested porcupine.

Prehensile-Tailed Porcupine Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a prehensile-tailed porcupine?

Prehensile-tailed porcupine (Coendou prehensilis) is a species of porcupine endemic to Central and South America. It belongs to the family Erethizontidae, a group characterized by large, spiny, and arboreal rodents.

What class of animal does a prehensile-tailed porcupine belong to?

Prehensile-tailed porcupines belong to the class of Mammalia.

How many prehensile-tailed porcupines are there in the world?

An estimate of the global population size of the prehensile-tailed porcupine species is not available.

Where does a prehensile-tailed porcupine live?

The natural range of the prehensile-tailed porcupine is restricted to the Central and South American forests of Brazil, Bolivia, Guiana, Venezuela, Trinidad, Paraguay, and Argentina. Their habitat spans from northern Colombia, east, to cover parts of northern South America and south, to include the forested lowlands of the Andes mountains. The habitat range also includes eastern Paraguay, northern Argentina, and eastern Bolivia.

The animals are found at elevations of over 4,920 ft (1,500 m) above sea level. Being the excellent climbers they are, prehensile-tailed porcupines spend most part of their arboreal life foraging and sleeping on trees. They usually dwell high up in the trees, resting in forks, hollow cavities, or high branches. Being nocturnal, they are hardly active during the day and rarely descend from the trees unless it is for mating, giving birth, defecating, or occasional foraging.

What is a prehensile-tailed porcupine's habitat?

Prehensile-tailed porcupines mostly inhabit tropical forests with an abundance of trees for dwelling and foraging. However, the animals are adapted to a variety of natural environments and may also inhabit vast tropical grasslands, humid mountainous highlands, and even croplands.

Who do prehensile-tailed porcupines live with?

Although prehensile-tailed porcupines are tolerant to socializing, they prefer a solitary lifestyle or living in small groups or pairs. During the day, these porcupines often sleep together in small groups but are otherwise either in pairs or alone.

How long does a prehensile-tailed porcupine live?

Wild prehensile-tailed porcupines have an average lifespan of about 17 years. The lifespan of captive individuals is likely to be higher with the current record being 27 years.

How do they reproduce?

Not much is known about the courtship and reproduction of prehensile-tailed porcupines, either in the wild or in captivity. They can usually breed all year round. The female porcupines have a gestation period of between 195-210 days after which, they give birth to a single offspring. The female descends from the tree and the baby porcupine is born on the ground. The young are born with their eyes open. Moreover, they have well-developed feet claws and a non-spiny prehensile tail right from birth. Hence, the young animals are capable of movement and climbing as soon as they are born but do not leave the area where they are born for a couple of weeks or so. However, if disturbed, these young animals may take to climbing trees.

The young porcupines are covered in a dense coat of guard hairs and natal quills that provide a protective covering. The natal quills take about 10 weeks to reach the adult length. While it is unknown as to when the male porcupines reach sexual maturity, the females reach sexual maturity at about 19 months of age. Captive individuals have been reported to carry on reproduction for more than 10 years.

What is their conservation status?

 As per the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, the prehensile-tailed porcupine is a species of Least Concern.

Prehensile-Tailed Porcupine Fun Facts

What do prehensile-tailed porcupines look like?

Prehensile-Tailed Porcupine 

Prehensile-tailed porcupines have quite a remarkable appearance. They are pretty large and have a muscular prehensile tail that is almost as long as their bodies. The adult males and females have are covered in a dense coat of long quills and their underlying skin varies in color from yellowish-orange to brownish-black. The quills are semi-hollow and tricolored with whitish tips and barbed ends. The spines are absent from the long tail. Even the shoulders, nape, and upper backs are devoid of long quills. The tip of the tail is curled upwards to facilitate a better grasp of tree branches. The porcupines use their prehensile tail to hold and hang from trees.

The feet of the porcupines are also suited to their tree-based lifestyle. Hence, the toes on their front feet and hind feet are equipped with long claws to aid the animals in gripping and climbing trees. The nose and lips of the porcupine are fleshy and stand out from the rest of its spiny body. A pair of upper incisors project outward from the upper jaw, giving the animal a buck-toothed appearance. It also has long whiskers, small ears, and wide nose openings. The young porcupines have a heavy coat of reddish-brown guard hairs that harden to quills with age.

How cute are they?

Even though prehensile-tailed porcupines have an odd appearance, their protruding upper incisors and fleshy lips make them look somewhat cute.

How do they communicate?

Prehensile-tailed porcupines are nocturnal and do not have excellent eye-sight. However, the lack of good vision is compensated for by a remarkable sense of smell, touch, and hearing. At rest, the porcupine's spines lay flat against its body. When irritated or threatened by predators, the spines stand erect on its body, and to appear even larger, the animal stands sideways in the direction of the danger or threat. The erection of the spines is accompanied by shaking, growling, crying, stamping the hind feet, and sitting on haunches. When nothing works, the porcupines resort to curling up in a ball and exposing the spines from all sides.

In addition to raising spines in the face of threat, prehensile-tailed porcupines emit various sounds as a means of vocal communication. The sounds range from grunts, yelps, and long moans to squeaks, hisses, mews, and clicks. In addition, quill rattling and tooth chattering are used to fend off potential threats. Both males and females use scent marking and sniffing as means of chemical communication.

How big is a prehensile-tailed porcupine?

Prehensile-tailed porcupines range in length between 11.8-23.6 in (30-60 cm) with the tail adding another 13-19 in (33-48.5 cm). They are significantly smaller than North American porcupines that range in length between 23.6-35.4 in (60-90 cm).

How fast can a prehensile-tailed porcupine run?

Prehensile-tailed porcupines usually move very slowly but can climb quickly if need be.

How much does a prehensile-tailed porcupine weigh?

A prehensile-tailed porcupine has a bodyweight in the range of 4.4-11 lb (2-5 kg).

What are the male and female names of the species?

Male and female porcupines do not have distinct names.

What would you call a baby prehensile-tailed porcupine?

A baby porcupine is called a juvenile.

What do they eat?

Prehensile-tailed porcupines have a purely herbivorous diet comprising leaves, stems, shoots, roots, fruits, flower buds, unripened seeds, blossoms, and tree bark. The cambium in the bark of some trees also forms a part of their diet. Besides, the porcupines may also raid crops like bananas and corn. The seeds of cocos plants are a favorite food of these animals. In captivity, their diet may be supplemented with food such as corn, sweet potato, oranges, apples, rat pellets, and Monkey Chow.

Are they dangerous?

Prehensile-tailed porcupines are not dangerous to humans. However, they may be carriers of the protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi, the causative agent of Chagas disease in humans. Besides, the porcupine's spines can cause injury.

Would they make a good pet?

Please check local laws and regulations about having these porcupine as pets.

Kidadl Advisory: All pets should only be bought from a reputable source. It is recommended that as a potential pet owner you carry out your own research prior to deciding on your pet of choice. Being a pet owner is very rewarding but it also involves commitment, time and money. Ensure that your pet choice complies with the legislation in your state and/or country. You must never take animals from the wild or disturb their habitat. Please check that the pet you are considering buying is not an endangered species, or listed on the CITES list, and has not been taken from the wild for the pet trade.

Did you know...

All porcupines belong to the phylum Chordata. Another interesting type of porcupine is the brush-tailed porcupine.

Prehensile-tailed porcupine males and females release a pungent and waxy substance from their sebaceous glands that impart the yellowish-orange color to their skin.

Hailed as one of the cutest, Rico is a prehensile-tailed porcupine at Ohio's Cincinnati Zoo. He is an expert climber and spends most of his time on trees.

Known predators of prehensile-tailed porcupines include humans and feral dogs.

Can porcupines shoot their quills?

Contrary to popular belief, porcupines cannot shoot their quills. However, the spines detach easily and often get stuck in the skin of predators, causing severe pain.

Are prehensile-tailed porcupines solitary?

Prehensile-tailed porcupines prefer a solitary life. At most, they may live in small groups or pairs.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals from our patas monkey facts and Shih Tzu chihuahua mix facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable porcupine coloring pages.

Main image by Eric Kilby.

Second image by Eric Kilby.

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