Erethizontidae

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Erethizontidae

[‚er·ə·thə′zänt·ə‚dē]
(vertebrate zoology)
The New World porcupines, a family of rodents characterized by sharply pointed, erectile hairs and four functional digits.

Erethizontidae

 

(New World porcupines), a family of mammals of the order Rodentia. The body length measures 30–86 cm and the tail length, 7–45 cm. The animals can weigh up to 18 kg. The body is massive with a thick covering of hair that turns into bristles on the tail. There are sharp spines, measuring 2.5–11 cm long, among the hairs on the back of the body and on the tail. The claws are long and sharp.

There are four genera comprising approximately 20 species. The Erethizontidae are widely distributed in North and Central America and in northern South America. They live mainly in trees, feeding on leaves, pine needles, shoots, bark, and seeds. They tend to settle in the clefts of cliffs and in hollows and are primarily nocturnal animals. When attacked by an enemy, they beat strongly with their tails (at which time the barbed spines are driven into the attacker’s body, causing painful, inflamed wounds). The young are born with their eyes open and with a developed coat of hair, and they can climb trees.

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