Porcupine, Thin-spined

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Porcupine, thin-spined

Chaetomys subspinosus

phylum: Chordata

class: Mammalia

order: Rodentia

family: Echimyidae

status: Vulnerable, IUCN Endangered, ESA

range: Brazil

Description and biology

The thin-spined porcupine, also known as the bristle-spined porcupine, gets its common names from the thin, bristly spines that cover its body. The animal is not considered a member of the family of true porcupines, but a member of the family of spiny rats. Unlike true porcupines, the thin-spined porcupine has no spines on its lower back. The spines on the animal's head and shoulders are kinky and short, just 0.6 inch (1.5 centimeters) in length. Those on its upper back, legs, and tail are wavier and longer, up to 2 inches (5 centimeters) in length. The spines are usually tricolored, ranging from pale yellow at the base to dark brown in the middle and back to pale yellow at the tip. The animal's body is brownish gray in color, while its feet and tail are darker.

An average thin-spined porcupine has a head and body length of 15 to 18 inches (38 to 46 centimeters) and a tail length of 10 inches (25 centimeters). All four of the animal's limbs have four digits (resembling human fingers or toes), which end in long, curved claws. These sharp claws help make the thin-spined porcupine an excellent climber, able to scale stone walls.

The thin-spined porcupine is nocturnal (active at night), feeding on fruits and cocoa tree nuts. Biologists (people who study living organisms) have been unable to study the animal well enough to learn its social structure or its reproductive habits.

Habitat and current distribution

The thin-spined porcupine is found only in the eastern and southeastern Brazilian states of Bahia, Sergipe, Espírito Santo, and Rio de Janeiro. It inhabits the edges of Atlantic coastal forests near open areas. The number of thin-spined porcupine existing in the wild is unknown, but the animal is believed to be quite rare.

History and conservation measures

The main threat facing the thin-spined porcupine is the loss of its habitat due to forest clear-cutting (process of cutting down all the trees in a forest area). Because scientists and conservationists (people protecting the natural world) know very little about the habits of the animal, saving its forest ecosystem (animals, plants, and microorganisms with their environment) is the best strategy to preserve the thin-spined porcupine. Other highly endangered species that inhabit the same ecosystem in the Atlantic coastal forests of Brazil, such as the golden lion tamarin, the white-eared marmoset, and the woolly spider monkey, would be saved at the same time.