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Old World porcupine

Old World Porcupines
Scientific classification

The Old World porcupines are large representatives of the terrestrial rodent mammals, distinguished by their spiny covering from which they takes their name. They range over the south of Europe, the whole of Africa, India and the Malay Archipelago as far east as Borneo.

The European Porcupine (Hystrix cristata) is the typical representative of a family of Old World rodents, the Hystricidae, all the members of which have the same protective covering. These rodents are characterized by the imperfectly rooted cheek-teeth, imperfect clavicles or collar-bones, cleft upper lip, rudimentary first front-toes, smooth soles, six teats and many cranial characters.

They are all stout, heavily-built animals, with blunt rounded heads, fleshy mobile snouts, and coats of thick cylindrical or flattened spines, which form the whole covering of their body, and are not intermingled with ordinary hairs. Their habits are strictly terrestrial.

Of the three genera, Hystrix is characterized by the inflated skull, in which the nasal chamber is often considerably larger than the brain-case, and the short tail, tipped with numerous slender-stalked open quills, which make a loud rattling noise whenever the animal moves.

The European Porcupine (H. cristata), which occurs throughout the south of Europe and North and West Africa, is replaced in South Africa by African Crested Porcupine, H. africaeaustralis and in India by the Malayan Porcupine (H. leucura).

Besides these large crested species, there are several smaller species without crests in north-east India, and the Malay region from Nepal to Borneo.

The genus Atherura includes the brush-tailed porcupines which are much smaller animals, with long tails tipped with bundles of flattened spines. Two species are found in the Malay region and one in West Africa.

Trichys, the last genus, contains two species, T. fasciculata of Borneo and T. macrotis of Sumatra, both externally very like Atherura, but differing from the members of that genus in many cranial characteristics.

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