Asiatic brushtailed porcupine

Atherurus macrourus

SUBFAMILY

Atherurinae

TAXONOMY

Hystrix macroura (Linnaeus, 1758), Malacca, Malaysia. OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Asian brush-tailed porcupine, Indochinese brush-tailed porcupine.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Slender, rat-like creature, with distinctive long tail (that is easily broken off), tipped with a tuft of bristles. (Similar features with Atherurus africanus.) Weight is 2.2-8.8 lb (1-4 kg), head and body length is 15.8-21.5 in (40.1-54.6 cm), and tail length is 5.9-9.8 in (15-25 cm). Relatively long body is almost entirely spiny in appearance, though quills are softer on head, legs, and under parts. Longest spines located at mid-upper side region. Most spines are flattened with groove on upper surface; interspersed among them on lower back are a few round, thick bristles, giving appearance of distinct terminal tuft (which is whitish to creamy buff in color). Each bristle consists of chain of flattened discs, allowing tail to be rattled, as warning to predators. Body is blackish brown to grayish brown on its upper parts; individual hairs have whitish tips; underside is dirty white to light brown. On back is located flattened stiletto spikes fluted on outside, with flexible spines in between. Limbs are short and stout, and ears short and rounded. Partially webbed feet (suitable for swimming) possess blunt, straight claws. Agile, able to climb trees, and runs well. Postorbital processes are either lacking or are very weak in the skull.

DISTRIBUTION

Southeastern Asia, generally south-central China (Yunnan, southern Sichuan, Guangxi), Assam, Myanmar, Thailand, Indochina, Malay Peninsula and several small nearby islands, and Hainan.

HABITAT

Forests, river forests, and forest islands at elevations up to 9,850 ft (3,000 m); often near water. Prefer natural caves and dwell in rock caves and crevasses, in underground lodges dug by other mammals, and also in cavities in or under fallen trees. They may dig burrows in soft floors of rainforests. Prefer to stay in burrows during the day to emerge at night to forage.

BEHAVIOR

Social life of clans often include up to four to eight members who often share common runs and trails, excrement depositories, feeding places, territories, and refuges. Running fast, swimming, and climbing are possible, and these animals are able to jump over 3 ft (about 1 m). Enemies include carnivores such as leopards, large owls, snakes, and humans. Normally shelter during the day in a hole among tree roots, rocky crevice, termite mound, cave, or eroded cavity along stream bank.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Usually green vegetation, bark, roots, tubers, leaves, bulbs, and fruits; sometimes also cultivated crops, insects, and carrion. Usually forage alone strictly during the night.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

One young, sometimes two, to a litter. Females have two pairs of lateral thoracic mamae. Weaning period is normally two months; sexual maturity reached after two years.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Hunted for meat. May overfeed on farmers' crops. ♦

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