About a week and a half ago I saw one of the coolest things that I’ve seen since I started coming to the Amazon! I saw a site where a jaguar recently caught, killed and ate a porcupine! I’ve been meaning to post about this, but it took until the day before I leave Brazil to find the time to sit down and fiddle with wordpress.
Santarem and I were out in an area of primary forest to measure nitrous oxide fluxes, as we are wont to do (quick refresh: this is the point of my project). Our protocol involves going to a predetermined point on a trail, and then walking a certain number of paces off the trail into the forest. We use a random number generator to make sure that we’re picking the spot without bias.
So we get to the spot, and then put down the chambers that measure gas fluxes. One of them ends up being right next to this:
Santarem turns to me and says: something around here ate a porcupine. This is the scat of the predator and, look, there are spines in it.
So he starts looking around the area. And not 3 meters away he finds… this!
Those are the spines of a “porco espinho” (“spiny pig”), also known as a Brazilian porcupine (eng wiki link, port wiki link). Unlike a hedgehog, when a porcupine gets attacked, its quills will come off to injure the predator. Hence, the crazy amount of lost spines in the above photos.
Brazilian porcupines live in the trees, and Santarem says that it looks like this one was on that fallen tree trunk when it was attacked by a large cat of some kind (those are the predators here that could pull something like this off) – you can tell that something went down on that tree trunk because there are a bunch of spines stuck into it and because there were fingernail/claw marks dug into the bark. TOTALLY NUTS!
So who took this guy out? Santarem says that it was probably an “onça pintada,” aka a jaguar (eng, port), because the attack happened relatively high off the ground and jaguars are the largest predators in this forest. I wondered why there were only spines remaining and no carcass, and Santarem told me that jaguars can eat the whole thing – head, bones, everything. MORE NUTSO INFO. Also, it probably dragged the porcupine away before going at it.
As an aside, this lead me to ask about what the other cat predators are in this forest. We also have:
This is the same species as onca pintada, but different coloring.
This is the same as the pumas we have in the US. So not that exciting. But this was the first big animal I saw at this field site back in 2012, so it will always have a special place in my heart.
Ocelots: these are badass. Never seen one in the wild, really want to.
And not cat predators, but also awesome, are the two species of peccaries that we have on site:
and a larger kind:
Cool animals! Best thing ever!