WASHINGTON — There's no reason to be prickly when you're this cute! The Smithsonian National Zoo announced Friday that 2-year-old Beatrix, a prehensile-tailed porcupine, was a new mom. Beatrix gave birth overnight between Nov. 5 and 6, to a porcupette weighing less than a pound, whom appears to be healthy.
Beatrix mated with the zoo's adult male porcupine, Quillbur, six months ago, and zookeepers had been monitoring Beatrix closely for several weeks after noting her weight gain, which indicated she was likely to give birth. The porcupette is Beatrix's first birth.
Scientists do not yet know if the porcupette is male or female as prehensile-tailed porcupines have internal sex organs, making it difficult to determine whether the baby's gender for six months or more. The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Center for Conservation Genomics will analyze DNA from the porcupette's quills to determine its gender.
The species is nocturnal, so Beatrix and her baby spend most of their days sleeping nestled near each other, but the porcupette has been seen navigating the tree branches of its habitat using its tail as a fifth limb. Prehensile-tailed porcupines are native to South America, and use their tails, which do not have quills on the underside, to grip branches so they can spend their time up in the trees eating leaves, flowers and shoots.
The baby is the fourth generation of this family to live in the Small Mammal House. At birth, porcupette quills are soft, but they harden within minutes.