Longtailed porcupine

Trichys fasciculata

SUBFAMILY

Atherurinae

TAXONOMY

Trichys fasciculata (Shaw, 1801), Malacca, Malaysia. OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Borean long-tailed porcupine, Malaysian long-tailed porcupine.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Relatively small compared to other species. Overall appearance is of a large, spiny (brown) rat. Weighs 3.3-4.4 lb (1.5-2 kg), with body length of 11.0-18.5 in (27.9-47.0 cm) and (extra long) tail length of 6.7-9.1 in (17.0-23.0 cm). Head and under parts are hairy and the fur underneath is rather woolly. Upper parts of body are black to light brown in color, whereas under parts are whitish. Body is covered with short stiletto-like spines with individual bristle-like hairs in between. Spines are shortest within family and are flattened, grooved, and flexible, with a dark brown color towards the end, and whitish towards base. Tail is brown and scaly, with hollow brush-like quills at the end; it is easily broken off and many adults, especially females, are found without tails. Front legs have four toes while the back feet have five toes, all connected by a continuous membrane. Quills are concentrated on the rear and hindquarters, so a defensive porcupine will often back into an attacker. Unlike other species, quills cannot produce any rattling sounds when shaken. Good climbers with broad paws, along with strong digits and claws for holding onto branches. Skull has well-marked postorbital processes.

DISTRIBUTION

Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, and Borneo, especially Kalimantan.

HABITAT

Forests and cultivated areas up to elevations of 3,800 ft (1,290 m).

BEHAVIOR

Although primarily terrestrial creatures that live in burrows, they can be arboreal (climb trees), and are agile climbers. This is considered the most primitive genus within the family. Seem to prefer natural caves and dwell in rock caves and crevasses, in underground lodges dug by other mammals; also in cavities in or under fallen trees. They may also dig their own dens in the soft floor of rainforests. They are active mainly during the night.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Mainly herbivorous (especially fruits, other vegetation such as seeds and bamboo shoots) but diet can include invertebrates. Able to climb into bushes and tops of trees to pick food.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

In captivity it may live over 10 years. Reproductive biology is similar to the rest of the family.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

The tail has apparent value to some native people, who remove it from the rest of the hide. This porcupine destroys crops (such as pineapples) in some areas. ♦

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