Rabbit rat

Reithrodon auritus TAXONOMY

Reithrodon auritus (Fischer, 1814), Buenos Aires Province, Argentina. Tribe Reithrodontini.

OTHER COMMON NAMES Spanish: Rata conejo.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Total length 8.3-10.6 in (212-269 mm), tail length 3.3-4.0 in (84-103 mm), ear length 0.6-1.1 in (15-29 mm). Weight 0.7-4.1 oz (20.5-116 g). Pelage color varies from dark brown to pale buffy gray dorsally, and from white to brownish ochre-ous ventrally. Eyes and ears are large. It has four pairs of mammary glands. Hind legs are very long. Upper incisors have two frontal grooves. Molars are markedly high.

DISTRIBUTION

Patagonian region of Argentina, from Tierra del Fuego and southern Chile to 36°S. North of 36°S is restricted to a few high-altitude (> 6,562 ft; > 2,000 m) localities in central and northern Argentina. There is an unconfirmed record from Malvinas Islands.

HABITAT

Most common in steppes and prairies. However, the rabbit rat inhabits a wide range of environments, including beech forests, sparse shrub lands, bunchgrass prairies, dense grasslands, cultivated fields, overgrazed pastures, sandy coasts, and stony hills.

BEHAVIOR

Active both diurnally and nocturnally year-round. Activity begins in the evening and lasts until the early hours of the morning. Reithrodon excavates tunnels of 1.6-2.8 in (4-7 cm) in diameter. It also uses tunnels made by other animal such as those of tuco-tucos (Ctenomys).

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

The diet consists only of grasses.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Females reach reproductive maturity at about two months of age. Males reach maturity later than females. Specimens repro-ductively active have been collected in spring and summer (September to March). Most gravid females were found in spring. Litter size ranges from one to eight. Juveniles were found in spring and in higher numbers during summer and autumn.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened. Populations are protected in several Argentinean and Chilean national parks and reserves.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

In the Argentinean Province of Buenos Aires the rabbit rat is considered a pest because it eats large amounts of grass. ♦

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