The porcupine in question, Coendou speratus, in a photo provided by the Universidade Federal de Pernambuco.
A team of Brazilian researchers found a brand-new species of tree-dwelling porcupine in the northeastern state of Pernambuco. It's a surprising find, both because discoveries of new mammal species are relatively rare and the fact that Coendou speratus was found in a region that's been heavily deforested.
That latter bit is of particular note because, as lead author Antonio Rossano Mendes Pontes told the AP, it means the new species likely should be considered endangered. The results of the find were published in Zootaxa, although only a preview (PDF) is available for free perusal.
C. speratus joins six other species in the genus, all of which have prehensile tails to match feet designed for gripping their arboreal environment. Like all porcupines, their quills are for defense, and Coendou species are known to curl up into spiky balls when threatened.
Unfortunately for C. speratus, curling into a ball isn't going to protect it from its most existential threat. The AP notes that only two percent of Pernambuco's original forests are still standing, which is in line with Brazil's Mata Atlântica as a whole, of which only seven percent remains. (To get an idea of just how stark of a loss that is, check out this atlas from the group SOS Mata Atlântica.) That massive habitat loss, which is worse than even that of the Amazon, means Brazil's Atlantic forest is home to around 60 percent of the country's endangered species.
With that in mind, the researchers struck a hopeful tone in naming the new porcupine, as "speratus" is Latin for hope. According to the researchers, C. speratus is notable both because it "appears to be completely spiny" and for having tricolored quills on its back. The latter, as you can see above, make for a rather striking rodent.
Unfortunately, a newly-discovered species being threatened by extinction is not a new storyline. Last year there was a find of new Caribbean lizard species that likely went extinct by the time they were cataloged, and in Asia frogs are going extinct faster than we can find them in the first place. And in places like Brazil, the opening up of once impenetrable forests by humans means new species can be revealed. Of course, finding new species because you cleared out their habitat is bad news through and through. Here's hoping that C. speratus still has a future.