Aristiform spines of the rodents Niviventer fulvescens, Maxomys surifer, Hoplomys gymnurus and 17 species of Proechimys (representing both recognized subgenera and all nine species groups) were studied qualitatively using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and quantitatively by measuring seven linear dimensions. SEM was used to examine spine tips, bases, longitudinal furrows and cross sections. Spines of the murid rodents N. fulvescens and M. surifer differed from those of the echimyid rodents H. gymnurus and Proechimys spp. in possessing a smaller base with a longer, narrower neck, scaled rather than ridged longitudinal furrows, and a solid internal core and large lacunae at the spine margins. Spines of H. gymnurus differed from those of Proechimys spp. in being considerably more robust with a stout neck at the base, an abruptly-tapering tip and a dense inner layer with a series of smaller lacunae at the spine margins. A factor analysis of spine measurements revealed major differences among N. fulvescens, M. surifer, H. gymnurus, the Proechimys subgenus Trinomys and the nine Proechimys species groups within the subgenus Proechimys. However, all Proechimys species groups clustered closely together. A discriminant function analysis of the nine Proechimys species groups provided generally limited discriminatory power. Although spines are distinct at the generic and subgeneric levels, spines may possess limited diagnostic structure at the level of species within the subgenus Proechimys.
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