Short Notes

From accidental citizen-science observations to genetic confirmation: how to spot new hidden invaders


The crested porcupine Hystrix cristata is the largest rodent in Italy; it is strictly protected according to national and international laws. Despite this, porcupines in Italy are still poached for meat and complained for crop damages. The species is almost exclusively nocturnal and quite elusive. Its presence may be yet recorded through the detection of quills lost on the ground. In the last 40 years, the crested porcupine showed a remarkable range expansion in Italy. In 2013, in the framework of the recording site, a web page devoted to H. cristata was set up. The aim of the project was to give people the opportunity to contribute to a continuous updating of the distributional map of this rodent. Samples (quills) were also collected as being easily available sources of DNA. In 2016, some field samplings provided for the first time evidence of the presence of another species of porcupine: the Indian porcupine H. indica. Species identification was carried out through DNA barcoding analysis, since it cannot be performed only through quill morphology. We increased the international genetic database with sequences of both species, so to allow a rapid identification of samples through molecular analyses. Both species were introduced to Italy by man (H. cristata in historical times). Our findings also support the relevance of citizen science contribution in the process of updating species’ distribution range and the potential of spotting new invasive species.


Hystrix cristata; Hystix indica; molecular identification; DNA barcoding

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Copyright (c) 2017 Emiliano Mori, Alberto Baeri, Andrea Sforzi, Alessandro Vitale, Andrea Galimberti

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Hystrix, the Italian Journal of Mammalogy ISSN 1825-5272 (electronic version) 0394-1914 (printed version) Impact Factor (2016) 1.479, CiteScore (2016) 3.51.
Published by Associazione Teriologica Italiana
Creative Commons LicenseWorks published in Hystrix are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.