Researchers have announced the discovery of a new species of porcupine in Brazil's most rapidly dwindling forest ecosystem. Although the tree-dwelling animal has just now been identified, biologists say that due to habitat loss in its native habitat, the diminutive porcupine is thought to already be endangered.
A team from the Federal University of Pernambuco, led by Professor Antonio Rossano Mendes Pontes, found the new species while surveying the Northeastern Atlantic Forest in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco. After centuries of logging, roughly 2 percent of this forest remains today -- adding an urgency to identifying the creatures unique to the region while conservation measures can be put in place to preserve them.
In an interview with the AP, Professor Pontes describes how the discovery of the new porcupine proves that there is still much to be learned about the ravaged ecosystem.
"We began by researching all the literature that describes the fauna of the region, going all the way back to the first colonizers five centuries ago, and found out that many of the animals they described are extinct," said Pontes. "One of the incredible things with this discovery is that this species of porcupine is not mentioned at all in the literature and remained unknown to science to date.
"Given the rate of destruction in this area, where 98 percent of the original Northeastern Atlantic Forest has already been destroyed, imagine how many species could have gone extinct before we even knew about them," he said.
Pontes and his team have given the new species the scientific name Coendou speratus, reflecting a sense of optimism that this and other organisms that make up the Atlantic Forest ecosystem will reinvigorate a push towards conservation.
"In Latin, 'speratus' means hope," says Pontes, "because we have to hope for its future."