Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

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Maximum longevity: 22.9 years (captivity) Observations: One captive specimen reportedly lived 22.9 years (Ronald Nowak 1999), which is plausible. Another specimen lived 21.1 years in captivity (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Behavior

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Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

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Ellis, J. 2000. "Atherurus africanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Atherurus_africanus.html
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Jennifer Ellis, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Phil Myers, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Conservation Status

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These animals do not seem to be decreasing in numbers or threatened with extinction. This may be due in part to their ability to leave their habitat and relocate to a new one if resources become permanently scarce.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Ellis, J. 2000. "Atherurus africanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Atherurus_africanus.html
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Jennifer Ellis, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Phil Myers, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Benefits

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Atherurus africanus has been known to feed on cultivated crops. They also feed on the bark and the fleshy tissues of trees, a practice that is commonly refered to as "ringing". This habit can be devestating for trees and often causes death. A. africanus is also a carrier of Plasmodium atheruri, a malaria parasite.

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Ellis, J. 2000. "Atherurus africanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Atherurus_africanus.html
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Jennifer Ellis, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Phil Myers, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Benefits

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African brush-tailed porcupines have a keen sense of smell, which they use in order to locate and uproot buried nodules and bulbs. Instead of causing damage to these forms of vegetation, the porcupine's uprooting actually increases the density of vegetation in their areas of forage. The reasoning behind this lies in the observation that the small holes dug out by the animals actually serve as reservoirs for running water, seeds, and soil.

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Ellis, J. 2000. "Atherurus africanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Atherurus_africanus.html
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Jennifer Ellis, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Phil Myers, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Trophic Strategy

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Atherurus africanus is mostly herbivorous but they occasionally have been observed feeding on carcasses. Their diet consists primarily of bark, roots, leaves, bulbs, fruits, and nodules. These porcupines tend to be very nervous and quick moving while hunting for food, which they do alone.

Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore , Lignivore)

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Ellis, J. 2000. "Atherurus africanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Atherurus_africanus.html
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Jennifer Ellis, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Phil Myers, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Distribution

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Atherurus africanus is found only in Africa in the countries of Gambia, western Kenya, and southern Zaire.

Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )

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Ellis, J. 2000. "Atherurus africanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Atherurus_africanus.html
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Jennifer Ellis, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Phil Myers, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Habitat

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The African brush-tailed porcupine spends its days hidden in caves, crevices, or fallen trees. They prefer naturally occuring caves and do not usually burrow out their own. A. africanus can be found in forests, river forests, and island forests, at elevations of up to 7400 ft.

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest

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Ellis, J. 2000. "Atherurus africanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Atherurus_africanus.html
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Jennifer Ellis, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Phil Myers, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Life Expectancy

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Average lifespan
Status: captivity:
22.9 years.

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Ellis, J. 2000. "Atherurus africanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Atherurus_africanus.html
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Jennifer Ellis, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Phil Myers, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Morphology

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African brush-tailed porcupines are some of the largest rodents in Africa, having a body length of 36.5 to 60 cm and a tail length of 10 to 26 cm. The body is long but the legs are very short and wide. The feet are webbed and contain five digits with claws. These animals vary in color from black to dark brown on the dorsal side and white to light brown on the ventral. On each side of the jaw, five teeth are present: one incisor, one premolar, and three molars. The body of A. africanus is covered with several types of protective spine. The softest ones appear on the head, neck, and stomach. Flattened stiletto types spines are found on the edges of the back with more flexible bristle type spines in the mid-region. This species also has a yellowish brush tail with platelet type bristles and a few very thick, long spines on the hind back.

Range mass: 1 to 4 kg.

Average mass: 2.9 kg.

Range length: 36.5 to 60 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

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Ellis, J. 2000. "Atherurus africanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Atherurus_africanus.html
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Jennifer Ellis, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Phil Myers, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Reproduction

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The African brush-tailed porcupine forms pair bonds before mating. This is necessary because the female acts out in aggression against a male with whom she is not familiar, raising her spikes and getting in the way of the mating process. There is no clearly defined breeding period, and up to two litters are possible each year. Females normally give birth to one, sometimes two, young per liter. They have a very long gestation period, ranging from 100-110 days, after which they give birth to well-developed (precocial) young. At birth, the eyes are open, the teeth are already present, and hair (but not spines) covers the body. Despite the long gestation period, the young are born very small, only three percent of the mother's body weight. Because of their small size, both parents invest a lot of energy raising the young. Mothers nurse nearly constantly for the first two months after birth; this is possible because the teats are located laterally on the chest. These animals reach sexually maturity at two years.

Porcupines live in very social groups so the young typically remain with their parents throughout their lives. A. africanus has been documented to live up to 23 years of age.

Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual

Average birth mass: 150 g.

Average gestation period: 106 days.

Average number of offspring: 1.5.

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Ellis, J. 2000. "Atherurus africanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Atherurus_africanus.html
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Jennifer Ellis, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Phil Myers, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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African brush-tailed porcupine

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The African brush-tailed porcupine (Atherurus africanus) is a species of rat-like Old World porcupine, indigenous to a broad belt of Africa ranging from Guinea on the west coast to Kenya on the east. This is a common species with a very wide range, and despite being used extensively for bushmeat, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has rated its conservation status as being of "least concern".[1]

Description

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African brush-tailed porcupine sold for meat in Cameroon

The brush-tailed porcupine reaches 40 to 50 cm in length, not counting the tail. The adult weighs about 3 kg. It has an elongated, rat-like face and body and short legs, tipped with clawed and webbed feet. Unlike most other porcupines, the brush-tailed porcupine has lighter and smaller quills. On the tail, these quills are thinner and brush-like. These can make noise when rattled.[2]

Distribution

The brush-tailed porcupine occurs in Benin, Cameroon, Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Togo and Uganda, in tropical rainforest at altitudes up to 3,000 m (9,800 ft).[1]

Ecology

Brush-tailed porcupines live in small family groups of about eight members. Different family groups can share resources. When attacked by a predator, the porcupine raises its quills so it looks twice its size, rattles its tail quills, and stomps its feet. As with all porcupines, the brush-tailed porcupine backs into the attacker and inflicts damage with its quills.[3]

Brush-tailed porcupines live in forests, usually at high elevations, and are nocturnal, sleeping in caves and burrows during the day. They are herbivorous, feeding on leaves, flowers and fruits which have fallen to the forest floor. They also eat roots and palm nuts, and occasionally carrion, and invade crops of maize, cassava and bananas when these are grown adjacent to the forest.[3]

Male and female form a pair bond during breeding season. The female has a long pregnancy compared to other rodents: 110 days at the longest. The young are born well-developed or precocial. They are mature at about 2 years of age. The meat of the brush-tailed porcupine is popular and is consumed in large quantities.[2]

References

  1. ^ a b c Hoffmann, M. & Cox, N. (2008). "Atherurus africanus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2008. Retrieved 8 April 2015.old-form url
  2. ^ a b Jori, F.; Lopez-Béjar, M.; Houben, P. (1998). "The biology and use of the African brush-tailed porcupine (Atherurus africanus, Gray, 1842) as a food animal. A review". Biodiversity and Conservation. 7 (11): 1417–26. doi:10.1023/A:1008853113835. S2CID 31673374.
  3. ^ a b Jonathan Kingdon; David Happold; Thomas Butynski; Michael Hoffmann; Meredith Happold; Jan Kalina (2013). Mammals of Africa. A&C Black. pp. 672–673. ISBN 978-1-4081-8996-2.
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African brush-tailed porcupine: Brief Summary

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The African brush-tailed porcupine (Atherurus africanus) is a species of rat-like Old World porcupine, indigenous to a broad belt of Africa ranging from Guinea on the west coast to Kenya on the east. This is a common species with a very wide range, and despite being used extensively for bushmeat, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has rated its conservation status as being of "least concern".

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