Behavior

Plains viscachas excavate complex burrow systems with their front feet that can be occupied for up to 70 years. Burrow systems of the plains viscacha are colloquially known as a "viscacheras," a term used to describe the characteristic piles of debris collected and placed at the burrow's entrance. Both the mountain viscacha and chinchilla are equipped for leaping and generally live in crevices under rocky outcrops. Like chinchillas, plains viscachas are nocturnal, whereas the mountain viscacha is active during the day. All species of chinchillids are colonial, yet vary in the

A baby long-tailed chinchilla (Chinchilla lanigera) greeting its mother in the Peruvian Andes. (Photo by Jane Burton. Bruce Coleman, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)
In the wild, the long-tailed chinchilla (Chinchilla lanigera) can be found in groups of 100 or more. (Photo by H. Reinhard/OKAPIA/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)
A southern viscacha (Lagidium viscacia) basking at Atliplano Lauca National Park and Biosphere Reserve, Chile. (Photo by Fran├žois Gohier/ Photo Researchers, Inc.Reproduced by permission.)

degree of social structure. According to some accounts, colonies of the plains viscacha are restricted to a communal burrow system and consist of a dominant male and other member of the family group. Colony size range is 15-30 individuals. Both chinchillas and mountain viscachas live in smaller family groups, with a more dispersed colonial structure of individual groups within an area. These large, more sparsely distributed colonies range in size from as few as four up to 100 individuals. Plains viscachas have a broad repertoire of vocalizations consisting of high-pitched whines, alarm calls, and the characteristic "uh-huh" sound. The mountain viscacha's warning call consists of a tweeter or high-pitched whistle.

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