Trichys fasciculatalong-tailed porcupine

Geographic Range

Long-tailed porcupines are endemic to southeast Asia. They are found in the entire area bordered on the west and south by Sumatra and bordered on the east and south by Borneo. Their distribution is bordered to the north by the Malay peninsula. ("Long-tailed porcupine", 2004; Medway, 1965)

Habitat

Long-tailed porcupines live in several different habitats and are predominantly terrestrial, preferring to live in burrows, caves, and fissures in or around fallen trees. Although they also climb trees and shrubs in search of food. They inhabit subtropical and tropical moist broadleaf forests such as rain forests, peat swamp forests, freshwater swamp forests, lowland rain forests, montane rain forests, and heath forests. They also inhabit montane alpine meadows and shrublands, along with subtropical and tropical coniferous forests. They sometimes occur in mangrove forests. They have been found at elevations as high as 1159 m. ("Ecoregions containing Long-tailed Porcupine, Trichys fasciculata", 2005; "Long-tailed porcupine", 2004; "Porcupine", 2005)

  • Range elevation
    0 to 1159 m
    0.00 to 3802.49 ft

Physical Description

Long-tailed porcupines are the smallest members of the family Hystricidae, resembling spiny rats. They can weigh from 1.7 kg to 2.3 kg, and can be up to 48 cm long from the head to the base of the tail. Tail length can be up to 23 cm long. The long tail can break off from the rest of the body, potentially saving its owner from predation. More females than males are found without their tails. Perhaps the males hold the females by their tail during mating, causing the tail to come off. Once lost, the tail cannot be regenerated. Long-tailed porcupines have four toes on their front legs and five toes on their back legs. Long-tailed porcupines are good climbers, because of their broad paws. ("Long-tailed porcupine", 2004; "Porcupine", 2005; "Porcupines", 2002; Medway, 1969; Roze, 1989)

Long-tailed porcupines are black or brown on the upper body and white on the under body. Except for the head and underside, which are covered with hair, long-tailed porcupines are covered with flattened spines that are dark brown in color at the ends and white at the tip. This species has the shortest spines in the family Hystricidae. None of the quills are more than 5 cm long. There are hairs, similar to bristles, between the spines. Scales cover most of the length of the brown tail, which is tipped with hollow quills. These brush-like quills are concentrated at the rear and the hindquarters. Unlike other porcupines, when shaken, these quills do not produce any rattling sound. No information was found on physical differences, such as size, between males and females. ("Long-tailed porcupine", 2004; "Porcupine", 2005; "Porcupines", 2002; Roze, 1989)

  • Range mass
    1.5 to 2.3 kg
    3.30 to 5.07 lb
  • Range length
    27.9 to 48 cm
    10.98 to 18.90 in

Reproduction

The size of the male and the density of his quills seem to be a determining factor for females in choosing a mate. However, chemical cues are also expected to play a large role for the female in choosing a mate. The strong decaying-wood odor of porcupines probably attracts males and females to each other during the breeding season. When a female is ready to mate, she vocalizes a mating call, which attracts males to her. The males must then fight each other to be her mate. Males that win battles with other males may then be chosen by a female to be her mate. The winner is normally the largest and oldest porcupine, and he must guard the female from other suitors for three days. No specific information on mating systems has been found for T. fasciculata, other than that it is similar to other porcupines in its family. ("Porcupines", 2002; Dworetzky, 1998)

The breeding season for porcupines is between September and November, but females are only sexually active for about a month (if they breed within that month). If the female does not breed within that month, she becomes sexually active again in another month. Females begin breeding at one year of age, ovulation often begins at 18 months of age. Leading up to the breeding season, females exhibit anxiousness and anticipation by gnawing their teeth on objects. They are also more vocal; chattering their teeth more than usual. Males also exhibit unusual behavior during this time period. They whine louder, and they travel farther than normal. These porcupines mate at night. After a gestation period of about seven months, one or two young "porcupettes" are born. Specific information for T. fasciculata is not known, but it is thought to be similar to other members of its family. ("African brush-tailed porcupine", 2004; "Long-tailed porcupine", 2004; "Porcupines", 2002; Costello, 1966; Dworetzky, 1998)

  • Breeding interval
    Breeding intervals may be up to two litters per year.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs from September to November.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 (low)
  • Average number of offspring
    1-2
  • Average gestation period
    7 months
  • Range weaning age
    6 to 8 weeks
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    9 to 16 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    12 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    8 to 18 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    12 months

No specific information on parental investment in T. fasciculata is available, but their reproduction is thought to be similar to other Old World porcupines Hystricidae. In related species, young are born with their eyes open and quills, incisors, and premolar teeth present. The mother takes care of her newborn though the summer months. Females nurse their young, which also begin to incorporate other foods into their diets relatively early. ("African brush-tailed porcupine", 2004; "Long-tailed porcupine", 2004; "Porcupines", 2002; Costello, 1966; Dworetzky, 1998)

  • Parental Investment
  • precocial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

A captive individual lived more than 10 years, no information on wild longevity is available. Other porcupine species often live 5 to 6 years in the wild. ("Long-tailed porcupine", 2004; "Porcupines", 2002)

Behavior

Long-tailed porcupines make shelters in burrows, caves, trees, and other natural cavities. They are nocturnal animals, spending most of the day in underground shelters. Although T. fasciculata are primarily ground-dwelling animals, they are also very nimble climbers. When running along the forest floor, T. fasciculata holds its tail straight up. This porcupine fluffs and widens its quills and pounds its feet when frightened. ("Long-tailed porcupine", 2004; Roze, 1989)

Home Range

No information on home ranges of T. fasciculata was found.

Communication and Perception

Male porcupines will “sing” either in a low or a high pitched whine when they are sexually excited. Mothers will communicate with their young using voice sounds to direct their offspring where to go. Sometimes the offspring will answer with whimperings. Specific information on communication for T. fasciculata was not found. (Costello, 1966)

Food Habits

Long-tailed porcupines are mainly herbivorous, eating fruits, seeds, bamboo shoots, and the cambium layer of trees, although their diet can also include invertebrates. They will climb trees and shrubs in search of food ("Long-tailed porcupine", 2004; "Porcupine", 2005)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • wood, bark, or stems
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit

Predation

Long-tailed porcupines seem to have the ability to lose their tail, potentially enabling them to escape predation when the tail is grabbed. There are no documented predators of long-tailed porcupines, but many larger mammals, snakes, or birds of prey are potential predators, ("Long-tailed porcupine", 2004; Schemnitz, 1994)

Ecosystem Roles

Because porcupines feed on the cambium layer of a tree, the tree will then die. The death of a tree is ecologically significant. For example, dead trees may be important habitats for several species of birds. (Wright, 2004)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • creates habitat

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Some native people believe that the tail of long-tailed porcupines has some value. They remove it from the rest of the porcupine hide. The use of the tail by native peoples has never been fully documented. ("Long-tailed porcupine", 2004)

  • Positive Impacts
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Long-tailed porcupines are sometimes considered nuisance species because they destroy certain crops (i.e. pineapple crops). By eating the cambium layer of a tree, they can also cause the death of trees. ("Long-tailed porcupine", 2004)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

Long-tailed porcupines are not currently threatened. However, under the Protection of Wildlife Act 1972/1976, long-tailed porcupines are cited as “Totally Protected” in the Malaysian Peninsula. ("Long-tailed porcupine", 2004; "Long-tailed Porcupine, Landak Padi", 2004)

Contributors

Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Ariane Reister (author), Kalamazoo College, Ann Fraser (editor, instructor), Kalamazoo College.

Glossary

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

arboreal

Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

folivore

an animal that mainly eats leaves.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

oriental

found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map

rainforest

rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

solitary

lives alone

swamp

a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5? N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born

References

2004. African brush-tailed porcupine. Pp. 362-363 in M Hutchins, D Kleiman, M McDade, eds. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, Vol. 16: Mammals V, Second Edition. New York: Gale.

"BIODIVERSITY INFORMATION SHARING SERVICE (BISS)" (On-line). Accessed November 20, 2005 at http://www.arcbc.org/cgi-bin/abiss.exe/spd?tx=MA&spd=10896.

2005. "Ecoregions containing Long-tailed Porcupine, Trichys fasciculata" (On-line). Accessed October 18, 2005 at http://worldwildlife.org/wildfinder/searchBySpecies.cfm?fClass=&fOrder=&fFamily=&fGenus=&fAdvancedSearch=closed&fSearchMode=simple&fIUCN=&fSpecies=trichys%20fasciculata&startIndex=1&orderBy=1&fWildCard=exact%20match&speciesID=17128.

2004. "Long-tailed Porcupine, Landak Padi" (On-line). Accessed October 18, 2005 at http://www.mazpa.org.my/zooku/mazpa/show_animal.php?content=view&animal_id=1096528901.

2004. Long-tailed porcupine. Pp. 363-364 in M Hutchins, D Kleiman, M McDade, eds. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, Vol. 16: Mammals V, Second Edition. New York: Gale.

2005. Porcupine. Encyclopædia Britannica, Online Edition. Accessed November 20, 2005 at https://webmail.kzoo.edu/k04ar03/Inbox/%5BFwd:%20Old%20World%20porcupines%20(family%20Hystricidae)%20(from%20porcupine)%20--%20%20Encyclop%C3%A6dia%20Britannica%5D.EML/1_multipart_xF8FF_2_0-search.eb.com.ariadne.kzoo.edu_xF8FF_eb_xF8FF_article-226110_x003F_query=Trichys%26ct=eb/C58EA28C-18C0-4a97-9AF2-036E93DDAFB3/0-search.eb.com.ariadne.kzoo.edu_eb_article-226110_query=Trichys%26ct=eb?attach=1.

2002. Porcupines. Pp. 1298-1299 in C Hoagstrom, T Irons-Georges, eds. Magill's Encyclopedia of Science: Animal Life, Vol. 3, First Edition. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, Inc..

Costello, D. 1966. The World of the Porcupine. New York: J. B. Lippincott Company.

Dworetzky, T. 1998. Classic Behavior: How Does a Female Porcupine Select a Mate? Carefully, Very Carefully. National Wildlife, Vol. 36 No. 4. Accessed October 18, 2005 at http://www.nwf.org/nationalwildlife/article.cfm?issueID=18&articleID=148.

Medway, L. 1965. Mammals of Borneo: Field Keys and an Annotated Checklist. Singapore: Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society.

Medway, L. 1969. The Wild Mammals of Malaya. London: Oxford University Press.

Roze, U. 1989. The North American Porcupine. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Schemnitz, S. 1994. "Porcupines" (On-line). Accessed October 18, 2005 at http://wildlifedamage.unl.edu/handbook/handbook/allPDF/ro_b81.pdf.

Wright, J. 2004. "And You Thought I, Quill, Was Just A Big Rodent" (On-line). Accessed October 18, 2005 at http://bsi.montana.edu/web/web/template/ViewArticle.vm/articleid/16892.