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Scientific classification


A porcupine is any of 23 species of rodent belonging to the families Erethizontidae and Hystricidae. All defend themselves with sharp spines (which are actually modified hairs) rather like those of the hedgehogs, which are part of the order Insectivora and more closely related to shrews and moles than they are to the rodents, and the echidnas, which as monotremes are very distantly related indeed.

Porcupines occupy a wide range habitats in tropical and temperate parts of Asia, Italy, Africa and the Americas and vary in size considerably: Rothschild's Porcupine of South America weighs less than a kilo; the African Porcupine[?] can grow to well over 20 kilos.

The two families are quite different and although both belong to the Hystricognathi[?] branch of the vast order Rodentia, they are not closely related.

The 11 Old World porcupines are almost exclusively terrestrial, tend to be fairly large, and have quills that are grouped in clusters. They separated from the other hystricognaths about 30 million years ago, much earlier than the New World porcupines.

The 12 New World porcupines are mostly smaller (although the North American Porcupine[?] reaches about 85 cm in length and 18 kilos), have their quills attached singly rather than grouped in clusters, and are excellent climbers, spending much of their time in trees. The New World porcupines developed their spines independently, and are more closely related to several other families of rodent than they are to the Old World porcupines.

    • Suborder Sciurognthi[?]: about 1750 species including squirrels, rats, mice, and many others.
    • Suborder Hystricognathi[?]
      • Family Hystricidae: Old World porcupines
        • African Brush-tailed Porcupine, Atherurus africanus
        • Asiatic Brush-tailed Porcupine, Atherurus macrourus
        • African Porcupine, Hystrix cristata
        • Cape Porcupine, Hystrix africaeaustralis
        • Himalayan Porcupine, Hystrix hodgsoni
        • Indian Porcupine, Hystrix indicus
        • Malayan Porcupine, Hystrix brachyura
        • Bornean Porcupine, Thecurus crassispinis
        • Philippine Porcupine, Thecurus pumilis
        • Sumatran Porcupine, Thecurus sumatrae
        • Long-tailed Porcupine, Trichys fasciculata
      • Family Thryonomyidae[?]: cane rats
      • Family Petromuridae[?]: Dassie Rat
      • Family Bathyergidae[?]: African mole-rats
      • Family Hydrochaeridae[?]: capybara
      • Family Caviidae[?]: cavies
      • Family Dasyproctidae[?]: agoutis and acouchis
      • Family Erethizontidae: New World porcupines
        • Brazillian Porcupine, Coendou prehensilis
        • Bicolor-spined Porcupine, Coendou bicolor
        • Koopman's Porcupine, Coendou koopmani
        • Rothschild's Porcupine, Coendou rothschildi
        • Mexican Tree Porcupine, Sphiggurus mexicanus
        • South American Tree Porcupine, Sphiggurus spinosus
        • Bahia Hairy Dwarf Porcupine, Sphiggurus insidiosus
        • Pallid Hairy Dwarf Porcupine, Sphiggurus pallidus (extinct)
        • Brown Hairy Dwarf Porcupine, Sphiggurus vestitus
        • Orange-spined Hairy Dwarf Porcupine, Sphiggurus villosus
        • North American Porcupine[?], Erethizon dorsatum
        • Stump-tailed Porcupine, Echinoprocta rufescens
      • Family Chinchillidae[?]: chinchillas and allies
      • Family Ctenomyidae[?]: tuco-tucos
      • Family Myocastoridae[?]: Coypu
      • Family Octodontidae[?]: octodonts
      • Family Ctenodactylidae[?]: gundis

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