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Strange New Brazilian Porcupine Discovered

Posted by Richard Conniff on December 19, 2013

New South American porcupine (Photo: Hugo Fernandes-Ferreira)

New South American porcupine (Photo: Hugo Fernandes-Ferreira)

The big news in species discovery this week is the first new tapir species since 1865–an animal that can weigh in at 240 pounds.

But this one is quirkier.  Here’s the report from a web site that snarks it up amusingly, or idiotically, depending on your point of view.  The author seems to think the new species is some sort of bizarre cross between a porcupine and a monkey.   It’s really just a porcupine, not a “monkey pine”:

Biologists from the Federal University of Paraíba in Brazil have discovered a new species of porcupine that – to the uninitiated – basically just looks like an amazing, pug-nosed, spiky monkey.

With a prehensile tail, these Coendou porcupines are very similar to most internet writers we know: nocturnal, solitary, prickly, and slow-moving. Found only in Central and South America, the monkey-pines live in trees, where they spend their nights collecting leaves and fruit for food. Their tail operates as a fifth hand for balance in the treetops; unfortunately, they’re incapable of jumping, and have to climb all the way down if they want to venture into a new tree.

This new species of monkey-pine is called the Coendou baturitensis, or the Baturite porcupine. According to this paper in Revista Nordestina de Biologia, “[t]he name refers to the locality of origin, a forests on a mountain range similar to the Brejos de Altitude of the Brazilian Northeast.”

Sadly, the Baturite monkey-pine probably wouldn’t make the greatest of pets, as it is still covered in sharp, tri-colored quills. Cuddle with caution.

Here’s a more detailed (and less fanciful) report from Sergio Prostak at Sci-News.com.  The new species is from the Brazilian state of Ceará, right out on the easternmost tip of the country.

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