Roatan Island agouti

Dasyprocta ruatanica

TAXONOMY

Dasyprocta ruatanica Thomas, 1901, Roatan Island, 40 mi (64 km) off the coast of northern Honduras.

OTHER COMMON NAMES French: Agouti de l'lle de Ruatan.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Head and body length, 12.6-25.2 in (32-64 cm); tail, 0.4-2.75 in (1-7 cm); weight, 1.3-8.8 lb (0.6-4 kg). A classic case of island dwarfism. This species is like a small Dasyprocta punctata, the ancestral mainland species from which it is thought to be descended. The body appears brown with each hair having alternating black and yellow rings. Undersurface is a lighter brown, with a white spot on the chin and a yellow patch in the middle of the belly.

DISTRIBUTION

Only on Roatan Island, Honduras.

Roatan Mammals

HABITAT

Occurs mainly in forest and vegetation heavily disturbed by humans.

BEHAVIOR

Agoutis are diurnal and wary of humans. They have been observed to use bamboo patches for sleeping. They are attracted to bat roosts, under which they feed on dropped fruits. Recorded as spending 23% of time sitting and 22% feeding; walking, sniffing, and digging (unearthing or burying nuts or excavating burrows) occupied 29% of their time. Socially interactive muzzling reported as a frequent interaction in the island's dense agouti population. Scent marking with anal glands also observed. In aggressive interactions one animal will flee with rump hairs erect. No territorial behavior was observed, but food was abundant and supplemented by local people.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

They are known to eat coconuts, hibiscus flowers (both introduced), and pods of indigenous leguminaceous trees. They also eat rice, oranges, and corn.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

This has not been studied in detail. Mothers have been observed being followed by single young in March. All females rebutted attempts of young to nurse, suggesting some breeding synchronicity. Young were seen experimentally sampling foodstuffs.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Endangered. They are thought to have declined by 50% between 1985 and 1995.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

They are hunted by local people. Their habitat is threatened by resort and hotel development. Resort management wishes to protect the agouti as an ecotourism attraction, but the habitat fragmentation the hotels have caused may destabilize the populations. The Honduran government is making strong efforts to protect the area. ♦

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