Books on Mayan animals, bibliography on porcupine of Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, Coendou mexicanus

Porcupines also exist in Mexico and Guatemala


We often associate each country with certain exotic animals, so elephants with Africa, camels for the deserts, kangaroos for Australia. But in the Americas many of the common animals of the USA are also found in the Mayan areas of Central America, such as the porcupine, raccoon, and opossum. So although we may tend to think of jaguars as king of the jungle in Central and South America, actually they used to roam in parts of the USA. And lots of animals of the USA are still common in Guatemala and Mexico. However the species of porcupine of Guatemala, Coendou mexicanus, is very different than porcupines of the USA and really different than larger and porcupines of Africa (which due to their size have correspondingly longer spines).


Coendou mexicanus (correct name); Sphiggurus mexicanus (old synonym)


The porcupines of Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, and Honduras are cute arboreal nocturnal mammals. They are occasionally hunted and eaten in remote areas.

Very little is available on their appearance and habits previously because they live up in trees and usually come out only at night. Thus we had good luck to have personal experience with a young porcupine and a baby porcupine of Auto Safari Chapin, Guatemala. The parents of each had abandoned them and the zoo veterinary doctor had taken them to his ample property to care for them until they are adults.

Porcupines are not often pictured in Mayan art, codices, nor often rendered as ceramic figurines. However books on zooarchaeology of the Mayan sites should check middens to see the degree to which porcupines were eaten by the Classic Maya. Our present bibliography is a starter for the animal in the forests, not yet expanded to cover porcupine bones found in middens of Mayan cities.

We are introducing the porcupine on our web site because not much is written on this animal. Most of the attention is on jaguars, monkeys, macaws: the more visible or more spectacular animals and especially ones more often pictured in Mayan murals, carved stone stelae, or ceramic vases, plates, and bowls.

Nonetheless, the porcupine is one of the animals of the Mayan world and it was quite a remarkable experience to have one after the other wandering around my shoulders and crawling up over my head. I enjoy doing research in my library and on-line, but I will admit I like to see the animals in-person.

It would also be a good study to find all the Mayan and Nahuatl words for porcupine. We have started this with K'IX UCH, Q'eqchi' Mayan.


You can watch the video of Dr Nicholas interacting with a Porcupine down here:

cover porcupine on shoulder dr nicholas hellmuth video flaar

Nicholas with a friendly Guatemalan porcupine seated on his shoulder


Introductory Bibliography on Coendou mexicanus Mexican Hairy Dwarf Porcupine, Mexican Tree Porcupine


  • ALVAREZ del Toro, Miguel
  • 1952
  • Los Animales Silvestres de Chiapas. Ediciones del Gobierono del Estado, Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, Mexico. 251 pages.

    This book suffers from typical nearly unusable photos of good scholars and cheap paper and cheap printing of most books in Mexico and Central America during the 1950's through 1970's. Several decades later Alvarez del Toro updated this book and divided it into different volumes, which are so much better (in coverage and quality) there is almost no comparison.
  • ALVAREZ del Toro, Miguel
  • 1991
  • Los mamiferos de Chiapas. CEFIDIC, DIF-Chiapas, and, Instituto Chiapaneco de Cultura. Serie Scientifica, Vol. 1. 133 pages.
  • ARMIJO, Ricardo and Carlos VARELA
  • 2008
  • El Escenario Geográfico de Comalcalco: una recreación a través de las fuentes históricas, los materiales arqueológicos y los estudios ambientales. Los investigadores de la Cultura Maya. Centro INAH Tabasco. Página 51.
  • 2006
  • Travellers' Wildlife Guides Southern Mexico: The Cancun Region, Yucatan Peninsula, Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Tabasco. Interlink Pub Group Inc. 487 pages
  • BUENO, Joaquin, ALVAREZ, Fernando, and Silvia SANTIAGO, editors
  • 2005
  • Biodiversidad del Estado de Tabasco. CONABIO, Instituto de Biologia, UNAM. 373 pages.
  • CEBALLOS, Gerardo and Gisselle OLIVA (coordinators)
  • 2005
  • Los Mamiferos silvestres de Mexico. Fondo de Cultura Economica, Mexico D.F. 988 pages.

    Most photos in color. Good information. It is noticeable that no comparable book exists for Guatemala or El Salvador or Honduras nor Belize (at this size and full-color quality).
  • CEBALLOS, Gerardo, et al.
  • 2009
  • Fauna Mexicana: Esplendor de la Naturaleza. Telmex. 303 pages.

    Photo album; not a book with technical information, but most of the photos are good.
  • COE, Michael and Kent FLANNERY
  • 1967
  • Early Cultures and Human Ecology in South Coastal Guatemala. Smithsonian Press. Washington 1967. Page 115.
  • 2001
  • Coendou mexicanus (Kerr, 1792). Paginas 6.
  • CORONA, Eduardo and Patricia ENRIQUEZ
  • 2012
  • A la búsqueda de tendencias históricas en el consumo de vertebrados en Chiapas (México). Un estudio de caso combinando evidencias. Revista Española de Antropología Americana. Vol, 42, num 1, 29-43.
  • HALL, E. Raymond and Keith R. KELSON
  • 1959
  • The Mammals of North America. 2 vols. The Ronald Press Company, New York.

    Vol. II goes from about page 547 to 1083, with an additional 79 pages of index. My research library of flora and fauna is missing Volume I.

    Shows habitat location, one line drawing and skull (top, bottom, and profile). No photographs.
  • JANSON, Thor
  • 1981
  • Animales de Centroamérica en peligro. Editorial Piedra Santa. Guatemala Págs. 38 y 39.
  • LEOPOLD, A. Starker
  • 1972
  • Wildlife of Mexico: The Game Birds and Mammals. University of California Press. 568 pages.

    Hardly any photographs, and those few which are present are mediocre quality. But the line drawings are excellent and reproduced at a healthy size.

    The same book is available in Spanish, 1977.
  • MENGONI, Guillermo, ARROYO, Joaquín., POLACO, Oscar and Felisa AGUILAR
  • 2010
  • Estado Actual de la Arqueo zoología Latinoamericana. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia. Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología. International Council for Archaeozoology. Universidad de Buenos Aires.
  • NUNEZ, Arturo
  • 2005
  • Los mamíferos silvestres de Michoacán. Diversidad, Biología e Importancia. Laboratorio de Mastozoología. Facultad de Biología, Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo.
  • REID, Fiona
  • 2009
  • Field guide to the mammals of Central America and Southeast Mexico. Oxford University Press. 346 pages
  • WHITE, John
  • 1968
  • A New Porcupine from the Middle Pleistocene of the Anza-Borrego Desert of California. Los Angeles County Museum. Contributions in Science.

Other sites on Coendou mexicanus
Caption suggests one scene shows a porcupine. I would need to see the vase in-person and have a porcupine next to me to see if the "conical spines" were quills of a porcupine (which are the format of a pin, not a ceiba spine).




Porcupines of other Countries
17 lions try to kill an African porcupine; the porcupine fights them off. But it has to back into them; or from the side. Its legs, stomach, and face are not protected.
In Africa a porcupine fights off a leopard. But this African porcupine is much larger and its spines are much longer.
A porcupine falls out of a tree (possible scared by a dog) and lands on the head of a women. She has to be hospitalized to remove 272 spines of black and yellow color. The photo is only a stock photo; it is not the actual porcupine whose quills stuck in the woman’s head; but it is the same species. Note that no photo shows the yellow aspect of the top of the head and neck. Available in English: Here the quills are shown, and they are indeed yellow.
Shows two dogs filled with "thousands" of porcupine spines after the dogs tried to play with a porcupine in Canada.
A porcupine is rescued from a house in Panama.




Posted January 3, 2017, after studying two happy young Mexican tree porcupines courtesy of medical veterinarian Gustavo Gonzales, Auto Safari Chapin, Guatemala.