Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Have you heard the news? A new resident has moved in to the Aquarium‘s Explorer‘s cove! He’s covered in stiff, sharp spines called quills. He has a big, round, fuzzy nose. He’s an expert climber with the aid of his prehensile tail. Welcome Tito the prehensile-tailed porcupine, the newest addition to the program animal family!
Tito was born in April of this year, and arrived at the Aquarium this past September. Since his arrival, he has been behind the scenes learning behaviors to help the program animal staff take care of him. Just like training is important for our seals and sea lions, it is important for Tito to learn various husbandry behaviors also. He has learned how to sit up, go to a scale to be weighed, follow when someone points, and other behaviors to ensure that the keepers can make sure he stays healthy and happy.
Prehensile-tail porcupines are arboreal (tree-dwelling) mammals that live in the forests of northern South America to Central America and Mexico. They live approximately 10 - 12 years and their bodies average about 2 - 3 feet in length when fully grown. Their tails are not covered in quills, and actually act like a fifth limb, helping the animal balance and climb through the trees. Their feet are also well adapted for climbing, with bare soles that easily grasp and hold on to branches. Their bodies are covered in short, barbed quills that are used for self-defense. When the animal feels threatened, it raises its quills which can then easily come out if embedded in the skin of a predator.
In its natural environment, these animals feed on fruits, roots, stems, leaves, and flowers. At the Aquarium Tito’s diet consists of mixed greens, specialized kibble, and chopped fruits and vegetables. He definitely has his preferences, which seem to be yam and banana!
The next time you visit the Aquarium, be sure to keep an eye out for Tito and our other animals ambassadors making public appearances with their keepers. The connections between land and ocean are very important, and we can’t wait to tell you why!
Fun Porcupine Facts:
It is a myth that porcupines shoot or throw their quills! They raise their quills when they feel threatened, but they do not shoot or throw them.
Despite their relatively small size, prehensile-tailed porcupines have been known to hit or stomp their hind feet at something that is threatening them. They can also growl and make high-pitched noises!
They are mostly active at night, so they have long whiskers to help them find their way through the forest at night.
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