With millions, maybe even billions, of species of animals in the world, there’s no chance that we know of them all or ever will. But how often do you hear of new species being discovered? In 2013, a new species of porcupine was found in Brazil, in the Baturite Range for which the species is named. Coendou baturitensis is a member of the family of porcupines with prehensile tails who live in South America, a family who is part of the larger group of New World porcupines. There are seven known species of prehensile-tailed porcupines who live in South America, the Baturite porcupine being the latest discovery. They aren’t big and their quills aren’t so large as their relatives’ who live on the ground. Their tails are long and without large quills.
Among all the prehensile-tailed porcupines, the Baturite porcupine is about average. They have tri-colored quills, with white closest to their body, which then turns into brown, and tipped with another white band. This coloration is what separates them visually from some other species of prehensile-tailed porcupines. They look most like Brazilian porcupines, except for the absence of a reddish brown coloring on their quills. Their noses are large and soft, surrounded by shorter quills.
The Baturite porcupine eats fruit, buds, leaves, and bark. They need to climb high into the treetops to get their food, and their long tail helps. Unlike monkeys, though, they still move slowly through the branches and can’t jump from tree to tree. If the branches aren’t intermingled where they can walk across into the neighboring tree, the Baturite porcupine has to go down to the ground and walk over to it. These porcupines are nocturnal, spending their nights foraging for food and their days curled up in the tree branches or in holes in the trunk sleeping. They have a few natural predators, but their quills can help the Baturite porcupines defend themselves.
Since this is such a new species, there isn’t much data about their populations, habitat, or risk of endangerment. The observations in the years since their discovery haven’t been plentiful, either. They live in mountain forests and are likely threatened by deforestation, but the size of their population isn’t known. The habitat that has been observed is unlike the habitat of any other porcupines, who live either in temperate regions or semi-arid regions. Those who discovered the new species admit that there isn’t much to go on yet but insist that it’s important to protect them.
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