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Prehensile-tailed Porcupine Born at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo

  • Prehensile-tailed porcupette born Oct. 19.
    A prehensile-tailed porcupine, born Oct. 19, in its habitat at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s Small Mammal House.

Small Mammal House keepers at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo welcomed a baby prehensile-tailed porcupine Oct 19. The porcupette is the fourth offspring for 11-year-old mother Bess and 8-year-old father Clark. Keepers report that the baby is healthy, nursing and gaining weight steadily. Next week, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Center for Conservation Genomics scientists will analyze the DNA of one of the porcupette’s quills to determine its sex. Zoo visitors can see the porcupette and its parents explore their habitat at the Small Mammal House.

Native to South America, prehensile-tailed porcupines are one of about 18 species of New World porcupines. They have short, rigid quills interspersed with soft hairs. At birth, porcupette quills are soft, but they harden within minutes. An arboreal species, prehensile-tailed porcupines are adept at climbing and spend their time in tree canopies eating leaves, flowers, shoots and other vegetation. The name prehensile means “capable of grasping”; the underside of its tail lacks quills, allowing the porcupine to grip branches with this appendage and navigate the forest canopy with ease.

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Photo Credit: Roshan Patel, Smithsonian’s National Zoo