Mara

Dolichotis patagonum

SUBFAMILY Dolichotinae

TAXONOMY

Dolichotis patagonum (Zimmermann, 1780), Puerto Deseado, Santa Cruz Province, Argentina.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Patagonian hare, Patagonian cavy.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Largest of the cavids with head and body length average 28.3 in (720 mm), tail short averaging 1.4 in (35 mm), and weight averages 26.4 lb (12 kg). Males tend to be larger than females. Highly adapted for fast running, appearing rabbit-like. Large body and head, hind legs are long and claws appear hoof-like; the foot posture is digitigrade. The muzzle is broad and rostrum short. Dorsal pelage is agouti in color, the rump black, and the under parts are cream colored. Rump area with a distinctive patch and chin appears orange colored.

DISTRIBUTION

Resides in central and southern Argentina, and is subdivided into two subspecies, one occurring in the more northern provinces of Catamarca, La Rioja, and Cordoba, and the other found in the provinces of Buenos Aires, southern Cordoba, San Luis, and Mendoza.

HABITAT

Preference for temperate steppe habitats in more arid area characterized by coarser grasses and sparsely distributed shrubs, flats containing creosote bush of the genus Larrea; also occurs in forested gullies and more open grassland and steppe regions of Patagonia.

BEHAVIOR

Diurnal, active throughout most of the day, and lives in burrows. Monogamous and establish pair bonds that span several breeding seasons. The mated pair stays in close proximity, and the male tends the female, keeping his guard against other males and predators. Males enurinate over females. Contact between the male and female is maintained by vocalizations consisting of "grumbles." Form colonial groups consisting of communal den sites that house offspring from several different pairs; however, mara mothers attend to only their offspring and visit the den one pair at a time.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Herbivorous and eats a variety of vegetation including Acacia seeds, cactus, fruits, grasses, herbs, and leaves. Captive animals in zoos subsist on hay, green vegetation, vegetables, and crushed oats. A considerable amount of required water is obtained directly from their diet without the need for drinking standing water.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Monogamous over several breeding seasons. Gestation is generally 93-100 days, and females tend to reproduce for the first time around eight months of age. Multiple litters are produced, and the litter size is one to two offspring. Females have postpartum estrus. Reproduction in Patagonia tends to be more seasonal.

CONSERVATION STATUS

In portions of its range, the mara appears to be declining. While some consider the mara to be vulnerable, the species is not officially listed. Habitat destruction and over-hunting are threatening populations in some areas, especially in the Buenos Aires Province.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Humans have hunted maras for their skins. ♦

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