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The Patagonian cavy (Dolichotis patagonum) is a massive guinea pig, conspicuous due to his slender limbs and lengthy, almost floppy ears, neither of which are common physical traits within the cavy world. The South America native has several common monikers, including "Patagonian mara" and "Patagonian hare."
Geography and Habitat
Patagonian cavies live only in South America's Argentina, specifically in provinces such as La Rioja, Catamarca, Santiago del Estero and Cordoba. They inhabit dry areas and habitat types including shrubland, desert, brushland and grassland. Patagonian cavies are often drawn to environments that are open and airy.
Patagonian cavies feed exclusively on plants. Most of what Patagonian cavies eat is grass, particularly of the Pappophorum variety. Outside of grass, these grazing rodents also take in cacti, foliageand herbs. As coprophagous animals, they also occasionally take in fecal matter.
These diurnal cavies are usually between approximately 27 and 30 inches long, indicates Dudley Zoological Gardens. Their typical weight is in the range of about 18 to 35 pounds. Their basic fur coloration is brown, although their underbellies are white. Facially, Patagonian cavies possess big eyes and wide muzzles.
Patagonian cavies are monogamous animals; male and female duos generally stay together for their entire lives. Male Patagonian cavies essentially function as protectors of the females against predators and other threats, and they are a constant and vigilant presence. Females are generally reproductively capable at 5 months of age. The gestational period of Patagonian cavies is about three months. These guinea pigs generally produce between one and three offspring at a time, according to the Twycross Zoo. They stop nursing their youngsters when they are roughly 11 weeks old or so.
Patagonian cavies are, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species' 2008 report, a "near threatened" animal due to their decreasing numbers. Patagonian cavies are threatened as a result of a combination of skin hunting and habitat ruination. A lot of the species' natural habitat has been eliminated by farming.
These agile rodents are not immune to the threats of predators, with some of their prominent dangers including birds of prey, lesser grisons, pumas and foxes. Since Patagonian cavies are not meat eaters, they are not predators themselves.
- Lincoln Park Zoo: Patagonian Mara
- WAZA: Patagonian mara, Patagonian Cavy, Patagonian Hare
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Dolichotis patagonum
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Dolichotis patagonum
- Smith College Clark Science Center: Dolichotis patagonum
- Dudley Zoological Gardens: Patagonian Mara
- Twycross Zoo: Patagonian Mara
- Phoenix Zoo: Patagonian Mara
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images