Other Free Encyclopedias » Animal Life Resource » Mammals » Agoutis: Dasyproctidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Central American Agouti (dasyprocta Punctata): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, AGOUTIS AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS

Agoutis: Dasyproctidae - Central American Agouti (dasyprocta Punctata): Species Account

fur front feet

Physical characteristics: The Central American agouti has a head and body length of 12.6 to 25.2 inches (30 to 64 centimeters) and weighs 1.3 to 8.8 pounds (0.6 to 4 kilograms), about the size of a small cat. The body is slender. It has short ears, four toes on its front feet and three on its back feet, all with sharp hoof-like claws.

Its fur is coarse and glossy and it increases in length from the front to the rear of the body. Fur color ranges from pale yellow and orange to several shades of brown. The fur on the rump is usually a contrasting darker color. Central American agoutis in eastern Panama and Costa Rica have dark brown fur on their front, orange fur on The Central American agouti lives in lowland rainforest in Central and South America. (© Gregory G. Dimijian/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.) their middle back, and a cream-colored rump. Some Central American agouti have faint stripes.


Geographic range: Central American agoutis are found from the states of Tabasco and Chiapas in southern Mexico to southern Bolivia and northern Argentina. Their range includes Brazil, Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Paraguay, El Salvador, and Venezuela. They have also been introduced into the Cayman Islands.


Habitat: The Central American agouti prefers to live in rainforests, thick bushes, savannas, and in areas farmers have cultivated for crops. In Peru, they are concentrated around the Amazon River in the surrounding dense, low lying tropical rainforests, and in higher rain forests up to about 6,600 feet (2,000 meters) in elevation.

Central American agoutis prefer to be near water and are frequently found along the banks of rivers, streams, and lakes. They usually build dens where they sleep in hollow logs, among rock outcroppings, and under above-ground tree roots.

Diet: Central American agoutis are primarily herbivores, meaning they eat plants, although they occasionally eat seafood. Their diet consists primarily of fruit, which they are able to hear falling to the ground from far away. They also eat tender leaf plants, wild vegetables, freshwater crabs, fungi, and insects. When feeding, the Central American agouti sits on its hind legs and holds the food in its front paws, much like a common squirrel. It turns the fruit around several times, peeling it with its teeth.


Behavior and reproduction: A pair of Central American agoutis claims a territory of about 2.5 to 5 acres (1 to 2 hectares), an area containing fruit trees and a water supply. When other agoutis enter the territory, the male drives them off, fighting occasionally becoming vicious and causing serious wounds.

This agouti species is diurnal, meaning they are most active during the day. They are fast and agile. Their movements include walking, trotting, galloping, and they can jump up to 6.6 feet (2 meters) from a stationary position. When in danger, the Central American agouti stands motionless with one front paw raised. They spend much of their time grooming to remove parasites, such as ticks and mites.

Central American agoutis have a courtship ritual in which the male sprays the female with his urine several times, causing the female to jump around in frenzy, before mating. The female has one or two litters a year, each usually with two young although she can have three or four. Her gestation period, the time they carry their young in the womb, is 104 to 120 days.


Central American agoutis and people: Central American agoutis are hunted extensively for their meat and skin. They are important seed dispersers in the tropical forests of South America. They are also easily tamed as pets.


Conservation status: The Central American agouti is not listed by the IUCN. ∎

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Books:

Bernard, Hans Ulrich. Insight Guide: Amazon Wildlife, 4th ed. London: Insight Guides, 2002.

Eisenberg, J. F., and K. H. Redford. Mammals of the Neotropics. Vol. 3, The Central Tropics: Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

Macdonald, David. The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Nowak, Ronald M. Walker's Mammals of the World, 6th ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.

Periodicals:

Asquith, N. M., et al. "The Fruits the Agouti Ate: Hymenaea courabil Seed Fate When Its Disperser is Absent." Journal of Tropical Ecology 15 (1999): 229–235.

Lambeth, Ellen. "The Tree, the Bee, and the Agouti." Ranger Rick (March 2000): 26.

Lee, T. E. Jr., et al. "The Natural History of the Roatán Island Agouti (Dasyprocta ruatanica), a Study of Behavior, Diet, and Description of Habitat." The Texas Journal of Science 52 (2000): 159–164.

Taylor, David. "The Agouti's Nutty Friend." International Wildlife (March–April 2000).

Web sites:

Myers, Phil. "Dasyproctidae." Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Dasyproctidae.html (accessed on July 12, 2004).

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