RAINFOREST PYRAMID® UPDATE: Prehensile Tailed Porcupine

On May 28th, come “hang out” with Bobby-Sue and Bono! These two Prehensile Tailed porcupines (Coendou prehensilis) are just a few of the critters you’ll encounter in the nocturnal gallery at the Rainforest Pyramid® at Moody Gardens®.

Prehensile Tailed porcupines are found in the wild in Central and South America. These vegetarian, tree-dwelling rodents usually weigh between four and eleven pounds and their tails are almost as long as their whole body! They are covered in short, thick spines and their body color runs from yellowish to orange to brown. One of their defining characteristics is a small head with a round, bulbous nose which is covered by short and fine hair. They also have whiskers on the face and feet that help in maneuvering around at night.

This species is named for their unique tail, which is used a fifth hand to help hold onto branches as they climb throughout the canopy. The last 1/3 of the tail is spineless, enabling the animal to get a better grip on the tree branches. The front and hind feet are modified for grasping, which makes them excellent climbers. One thing they cannot do however is jump. While they will rarely descend to the ground, these porcupines will go to the forest floor if they need to cross a gap between trees.

A porcupine diet consists of twigs, leaves, fruits and vegetables. Like most rodents, their teeth will continue to grow throughout their lifetime so they will gnaw on hard things to file their teeth down. At night they will move around foraging for food and will spend most of the day sleeping.

These animals are not very well studied in the wild because they stay high in the trees and are slow moving and largely immobile during the day. It is known however, that these porcupines can be found in small social groups when sleeping, otherwise they are solitary or paired.

Porcupines have a built-in defense. While most of their body is covered in sharp quills, they are incapable of throwing them, which is a common misconception. These quills will detach easily when touched and imbed into the skin of an enemy. They have also been known to hit and bite their attackers and curl up into a ball when caught. When provoked, they will stomp their hind feet, sit on their haunches, shake their quills and emit deep growls and high pitched cries. These defenses are so formidable that Prehensile Tailed porcupines have the luxury of a longer lifespan and slower reproductive rate than most rodents.

After a 202 day gestation period, a female porcupine will usually give birth to a single offspring that will be covered in reddish-orange hair. This soft hair will eventually harden into quills. The baby will weigh around 14 ounces and can climb at birth.

Prehensile Tailed porcupines are not endangered, but face loss of habitat due to deforestation.

Watch the following video to learn more about Peter and Egon and come meet them in person May 28th at the Rainforest Pyramid®!

(Click here if the following video is not functioning)

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