Behavior

The cuis, mountain cavy, and mara excavate burrows. All species have diverse repertoires of vocalizations related to

Guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus) in grass. (Photo by Hans Reinhard/ OKAPIA/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)
A female Patagonian mara (Dolichotis patagonum) with her young. (Photo by Rod Williams. Bruce Coleman, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

alarm calls, aggressive interactions (especially among males), courtship, and play. Most species exhibit scent-marking behaviors, especially rubbing of the ano-genital region. Males may urinate on females during courtship (enurination). All species are diurnal, with highest activity peaks in mornings and afternoons. Species within the family are colonial and vary in mating system. According to Rood's classic study in 1972, which detailed the behavior of cavies, species within these three genera are colonial, and males have a linear dominance hierarchy that maintained by aggressive interactions. In 1995 Kunkele and Hoeck observed communal suckling in the cuis,

The rock cavy (Kerodon rupestris) does not hibernate and can be found in dry rocky areas in Brazil. (Photo by © Ken Lucas/Visuals Unlimited, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)
The Brazilian guinea pig (Cavia aperea) is the ancestor of the domestic guinea pig. (Photo by Tom McHugh/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Galea musteloides. During courtship, cuis males perform hops, and individuals within a colony socially groom. Vocalizations are varied squeaks, "churrs," screeches, whistles, and chattering of teeth. Male cavies have very distinctive courtship, with a "rhumba" display, best described for guinea pigs. The mating system of guinea pigs (genus Cavia) and mountain cavies (genus Microcavia) is polygynous with a dominant male breeding several females. The cui is promiscuous, and there is evidence of multiple paternities for single litters of the cuis. Sachser and others in 1999 indicated that these contrasting mating systems in the cuis and guinea pig are related to testes size in males, with male cuis having larger testes sizes than male guinea pigs.

A Patagonian mara (Dolichotis patagonum) foraging. (Photo by Norman Owen Tomalin. Bruce Coleman, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)
A Patagonian mara (Dolichotis patagonum) mother with her young. (Photo by Ernest A. James. Bruce Coleman, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Rock cavies display resource defense polygyny, whereby males protect rock piles and attract groups of females. Both males and females have linear dominance hierarchies. Maras have a male-dominant hierarchy and display monogamy. The studies of Taber and Macdonald revealed the formation of pair bonds lasting several breeding seasons with the female representing a mobile "territory" defended by the male. During the breeding season, the offspring of multiple pairs occupy a communal den, unlike the cuis, whose mothers nurse only their offspring.

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