Red acouchi

Myoprocta exilis

TAXONOMY

Myoprocta exilis (Erxleben, 1777).

OTHER COMMON NAMES None known.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Weight is 2.2-3 lb (1-1.4 kg); shoulder height is 6.7-7.9 in (17-20 cm). Smaller than adult agoutis, but has a significantly longer tail. The eyes and ears are large compared to those of agoutis. They are often beautifully marked. The fur is coarse, stiff, and shiny. The upper parts are reddish, and the belly and throat are brownish or orange. The cheeks and muzzle are often yellow or orange. The tail is white underneath.

DISTRIBUTION

Found in northern South America, in two isolated populations: one in the east of the Amazon basin and the second in the foothills of the Colombian Andes. It is also found east to the Uaupes river basin.

HABITAT

Found in primary forest and avoids disturbed areas. It favors areas of dense vegetation such as natural tree-falls and areas dense with vines. It avoids swampy ground.

BEHAVIOR

Diurnal, its activity starting at sunrise and tailing off until a second peak in the declining hours of daylight. Lactating females have four periods of activity, each separated by resting periods of three to four hours. Nocturnal activity is rare and normally due to disturbance by a perceived threat. It uses hollow logs as refuges during the day. It holds its tail erect to show white underside. When frightened, it will skip away, giving birdlike whistles. It does not use established paths through its territory, preferring to push through dense vegetation. Up to seven acouchis will share a territory, with females using dense vegetation more often than males. Individuals rarely travel together unless it is a female with dependant young. Group territories are not continuous.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

An important agent of seed predation and dispersal in primary rainforests; it is known to cache seeds under leaf litter. Utilizes the seeds of the palm Astrocaryum paramaca. Such seeds are large and are cached individually. Other smaller seeds may be cached in groups. It is highly dependant on caches in the dry season.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

The litter size is usually two. In juveniles, males are more numerous than females. By adulthood, this has dropped to 1:1, reflecting the greater predation rates on young males who disperse farther than females. Mating system is not known.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS Hunted for its meat in rural areas. ♦

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