Hystrix africaeaustralis is found only in sub-saharan Africa, excluding the coastal desert of the southwest.
Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )
South African porcupines are the largest rodent in their region. Females are, on average, about one kilogram heavier than males and both sexes are larger than half a meter long.
These porcupines are covered with flat, bristly hairs and have quills and spines on the posterior back and flanks. The difference between quills and spines is largely one of length and thickness, with spines up to 50 cm long and quills up to 30 cm long. The white and black crest of spines and quills can be erected at will to make the animal look enormous and threatening. Some spines on the tail are hollow and make a rattling sound when shaken. The very sharp spines and quills come off when touched by a predator or shaken off, but they grow back rapidly. South African porcupines also have very long mobile whiskers.
Range mass: 18 to 30 kg.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: female larger
Average basal metabolic rate: 13.175 W.
South African porcupines are found from sea level to 2000 m above sea level in most areas with vegetation. They prefer rocky hills and outcrops, as they must have shelter during the day. They often take shelter in caves or antbear (Orycteropus afer) holes. They also build dens which can be up to 20m long with a 2m deep living chamber.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; scrub forest
Habitat and Ecology
South African porcupines are mostly vegetarian, using their strong digging claws to get roots, tubers, and bulbs. They are also fond of fallen fruits and will sometimes gnaw on bark. Their anterior large intestine and enlarged appendix contain microorganisms that break down undigested plant fibers.
They have also been reported to eat carrion in some instances. In areas deficient in phosphorous they practice osteophagia, or gnawing on bones. These porcupines will often accumulate large piles of bones in their dens.
Plant Foods: leaves; roots and tubers; wood, bark, or stems; flowers
Primary Diet: herbivore (Lignivore, Eats sap or other plant foods)
Porcupine foraging has important impacts on the plant communities in which they live.
Hystrix africaeaustralis have interesting defensive behaviors. They have quite acute hearing and will freeze when approached by predators, such as big cats, large predatory birds, or hyaenas. When cornered, these porcupines can be aggressive, running sideways or backwards to embed their sharp quills in an attacker. Contrary to myth, they can not throw their quills, but they may become dislodged when they shake their hollow rattling quills. Another defensive behavior is to hide in their holes facing in and erect their spines so that they can not be dislodged.
Anti-predator Adaptations: aposematic
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
These porcupines are long-lived for rodents, surviving 12 to 15 years in the wild.
Status: wild: 12 to 15 years.
Status: wild: 15 (high) years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Because of their dangerous anatomy, females initiate copulation by presenting to the males.
Male porcupines reach sexual maturity between eight and eighteen months, while females reach sexual maturity between nine and sixteen months. Gestation lasts for three months.
The young are born in litters of one to four into a grass-lined chamber in the parents' den during the wet months of August to March. The average litter size is 1.5 and the average newborn mass is 311g.
Young porcupines nurse for three to four months, at which point they will weigh four to five kilograms. After the weaning of their young, female porcupines can not conceive for another three to five months.
Breeding interval: Female porcupines usually breed once yearly, although more often is possible.
Breeding season: Breeding occurs from May through December.
Range number of offspring: 1 to 4.
Average number of offspring: 1.5.
Average gestation period: 3 months.
Range weaning age: 3 to 4 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 9 to 16 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 8 to 18 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous
Average birth mass: 351 g.
Average gestation period: 94 days.
Average number of offspring: 2.1.
Young are born relatively well-developed, with their eyes open and teeth present. They have soft quills and spines at birth (most likely to ease the birthing process) but they quickly harden in the air. The young grow rapidly, reaching full size in about a year.
Parental Investment: precocial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Hystrix africaeaustralis
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
South African porcupines are not considered threatened currently.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 2004Least Concern
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Porcupines eat vegetable crops and are destructive feeders. That is, they dig up and destroy much more food than they eat.
Negative Impacts: crop pest
Porcupines are important members of healthy ecosystems.
Positive Impacts: food
The Cape porcupine or South African porcupine, (Hystrix africaeaustralis), is a species of Old World porcupine native to central and southern Africa.
Cape porcupines are the largest rodents in southern Africa and also the world's largest porcupines. They are similar in appearance to, and only slightly larger than, their close relatives, the crested porcupines, and can most easily be distinguished from them by the presence of a band of short white spines along the midline of the rump. Cape porcupines measure 63 to 81 centimetres (25 to 32 inches) long from the head to the base of the tail, with the tail adding a further 11–20 centimetres (4.3–7.9 inches). They weigh from 10 to 24 kilograms (22 to 53 pounds), with exceptionally large specimens weighing up to 30 kg (66 lb); males and females are not significantly different in size.
They are heavily built animals, with stocky bodies, short limbs, and an inconspicuous tail. The body is covered in long spines up to 5 centimetres (2.0 in) in length, interspersed with thicker, sharply pointed, defence quills up to 3 centimetres (1.2 in) long, and with bristly, blackish or brownish fur. The spines on the tail are hollow, and used to make a rattling sound to scare away predators. An erectile crest of long, bristly hairs runs from the top of the head down to the shoulders. The spines and quills cover the back and flanks of the animal, starting about a third of the way down the body, and continuing onto the tail. The quills have multiple bands of black and white along their length, and grow from regularly spaced grooves along the animal's body; each groove holding five to eight quills. The remainder of the animal, including the undersides, is covered with dark hair.
Distribution and habitat
Cape porcupines are found across the whole of southern and central Africa, to southern Kenya, Uganda, and Congo at the northern edge of their range. They inhabit a wide range of habitats, from sea level to 2,000 metres (6,600 ft), although they are only marginally present in dense forests and the driest of deserts, and are not found in swampland. There are no currently recognised subspecies.
Diet and behaviour
Cape porcupines eat mostly plant material: fruits, roots, tubers, bulbs, and bark. They have a long small intestine and large caecum, employing hindgut fermentation to break down the tough materials in their food. They have also been reported to gnaw on carrion and bones. They are often considered pests by local farmers, because they can feed on crops and damage trees. However, their debarking of trees may also play a role in the maintenance of local savannah ecosystems, helping to prevent the development of denser forested environments.
Cape porcupines are nocturnal and monogamous, typically living as mated pairs of adults, caring for any young together. Each pair may inhabit up to six burrows, jointly defending their shared territory, although they typically forage as individuals. Both sexes scent mark their territory, although males do so more frequently, and may play a more active role in its defence. The size of the home range varies depending on the local habitat and availability of food, but can range between at least 67 and 203 hectares (170 and 500 acres).
When attacked, the porcupine freezes. If cornered, it turns vicious and charges to stab its attacker with its quills. Otherwise, the porcupine may retreat into its burrow, exposing only its quills and making it hard to dislodge.
Cape porcupines mate throughout the year, although births are most common during the rainy season, between August and March. Unless a previous litter is lost, females typically give birth only once each year. Oestrus lasts for an average of nine days, during which a membrane across the vagina opens to allow insemination. After mating, a copulatory plug forms, which is expelled about 48 hours later.
Gestation lasts around 94 days, and results in the birth of a litter of up to three young, although over half of births are of singletons. Newborn young weigh 300 to 440 grams (11 to 16 oz), and initially have soft quills. Although they are born with their incisor teeth fully erupted, the remaining teeth begin to appear at 14 days, with the full set of adult teeth present by 25 months. They are weaned at around 100 days of age, and grow rapidly for the first twenty weeks, reaching the full adult size, and sexual maturity, at the end of their first year.
Relative to most other rodents, Cape porcupines are long-lived, surviving for ten years in the wild, or up to twenty years in captivity.
|Wikispecies has information related to: Hystrix africaeaustralis|
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