Old and New World Porcupines (Hystricidae and Erethizontidae families, respectively)

While all porcupines belong to the order Rodentia, Old World Porcupines (Hystricidae) and New World Porcupines (Erethizontidae) are actually not closely related to each other, and evolved their quills separately, in an instance of convergent evolution.

However, there are some similarities. All quills are modified guard-hairs, neither family “shoots” quills (though they are easily detached into skin if the quill-pig comes into contact with another animal), both families are herbivorous, and both families are among the longest-lived rodents (only naked mole-rats live longer).

There are some key differences, however, such as different dental formulas, very different skull shapes, and the largely arboreal (tree-dwelling) nature of the New World Porcupines, while the Old World Porcupines are terrestrial (ground-dwelling).

Images from Biodiversity Library on Flickr


Rothschild’s Porcupine (Coendou rothschildi)

…a species of New-World porcupine  that is native to Panama and western Ecuador. Like other members of the genus Coendou Rothschild’s porcupine has a prehensile tail, which aids them in their arboreal habitat. Rothschild’s porcupines are nocturnal and live off a diet of mostly fruits and leaves. During the day they can be seen sleeping in vine tangles at the tops of trees.



Images: Beatrice Murch and Wormwood2

Stump-tailed Porcupine (Echinoprocta rufescens)

…a rare species of New-World Porcupine that occurs in Colombia, although individuals have been sighted in neighboring countries like Ecuador. Like its common name suggests, this species is unusual in that it has a short tail, unlike other porcupines. Little is known about E.rufescens’ biology, other than it inhabits montane/secondary forests and is thought to be nocturnal, solitary, and arboreal.



Image: Joseph Wolf