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Chinchilla Rats: Abrocomidae

Ashy Chinchilla Rat (abrocoma Cinerea): Species Account

Physical characteristics: The head and body length of the ashy chinchilla rat is 6 to 10 inches (15 to 25 centimeters) with a tail length of 2.4 to 7.2 inches (6 to 18 centimeters). They weigh from 7.1 to 10.6 ounces (200 to 300 grams). They have large, round ears, large eyes, and an elongated head. They have short legs with four toes on the front feet and five toes on the back feet. The fur of the ashy chinchilla rat is thick and soft. Fur coloring is silver-gray on the upper body and cream, white, or yellow on its underside.

The ashy chinchilla rat communicates through grunts and squeaks. (Hernan Torres. Reproduced by permission.)

Geographic range: Ashy chinchilla rats live in the Altiplano, a high plateau area of the Andes Mountains, from southern Bolivia and Peru to central Chile.

Habitat: They are found in rocky regions of 12,000 to 16,400 feet (3,700 to 5,000 meters). They usually live in burrows under rocks or at the base of shrubs.

Diet: Ashy chinchilla rats are herbivores, meaning they eat only plants. They feed at night on seeds, fruits, and nuts.

Behavior and reproduction: Ashy chinchilla rats live in burrows in colonies of up to six individuals. Colonies are usually close together, sometimes as little as 59 feet (18 meters) apart. Little is known about the reproductive behavior of ashy chinchilla rats. They usually mate in January or February. The gestation period, the length of time the female carries the babies in her womb, is 115 to 118 days. Litters are usually one or two babies.

This species of chinchilla rat makes several vocal sounds, including a grunt when it is fighting or about to fight, a squeak when it is frightened, and a low gurgle when being groomed by one of its colony members.

Ashy chinchilla rats and people: Ashy chinchilla rats are sometimes hunted by humans for their fur, which is sold at local fur markets and has a low value. It is sometimes sold to tourists as real chinchilla fur.

Conservation status: The ashy chinchilla rat is not listed as threatened by IUCN. However, its population is believed to be low and in decline due to hunting and habitat destruction by humans. ∎



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

Wilson, Don E., and DeeAnn M. Reeder. Mammal Species of the World— A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, 2nd ed. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993.


Braun, Janet K., and Michael A. Mares. "Systematics of the Abrocoma cinerea Species Complex (Rodentia: Abrocomidae), with a Description of a New Species of Abrocoma." Journal of Mammalogy (February 2002): 1–19.

Huchon, Dorothée, and Emmanuel J. P. Douzery. "From the Old World to the New World: A Molecular Chronicle of the Phylogeny and Biogeography of Hystricognath. Rodents." Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution (August 2001): 238–251.

Meserve, Peter, et al. "Role of Biotic Interactions in a Small Mammal Assemblage in Semiarid Chile." Ecology (January 1996): 133–148.

Meserve, Peter L., et al. "Thirteen Years of Shifting Top-Down and Bottom-Up Control." BioScience (July 2003): 633–646.

Web sites:

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

Nash, Natalee. "Abrocoma cinerea." Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Abrocoma_cinerea.html (accessed on July 12, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsChinchilla Rats: Abrocomidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Chinchilla Rats And People, Ashy Chinchilla Rat (abrocoma Cinerea): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, CONSERVATION STATUS