Valdivian Temperate Forests Habitat
This taxon is found in the Valdivian temperate forests, the more hygrophilous vegetation of the mediterranean climate zone of central Chile, representing a biogeographic island, separated from climatically similar areas by the extensive Pacific Ocean barriers and flanking deserts. Rainfall varies so dramatically within the ecoregion, that some of the sub-units can be considered dry forests, with others classified as rainforest.
The Valdivian temperate forest is characterised by its extraordinary endemism (e.g., 90 percent at the species level and 34 percent at the genus level for woody species) and the great antiquity of its biogeographic relationships. However, faunal species richness is only modest, with only 290 vertebrate taxa having been recorded, in spite of the broad latitude niche available.
In general, the southern temperate forests are characterized by flora with one of the highest incidences of pollination and dissemination by animals recorded in any temperate biome, particularly in comparison with the northern hemisphere. In temperate forests of southern South America, the flowers of about 85 percent of woody plant genera are visited and presumably pollinated by animals. This ecoregion has extremely singular bees, in which many important neotropical subfamilies like Meliponinae and Euglosinae are entirely absent, but characterised by the presence of endemic and possibly relict groups such as Xeromelissinae, Diphaglosa, Cadeguala, Corynura, Neofidelia, Manuelia, and Eucerinoda.
There is a highly diverse set of anuran species Many of the amphibians in these forests have very narrow distribution ranges, particularly in the coastal range. Amphibians limited to the Nahuelbuta Range at 38°S include Bullock's False Toad (Telmatobufo bullocki CR), an endemic anuran to the Valdivian temperate forests. Also limited to the Nahuelbuta Range and endemic to the Valdivian temperate forests are Vanzolini's Spiny-chested Frog (Alsodes vanzolinii CR), Cabreria Spiny-chest Frog (Alsodes barrioi VU), and Contulmo Toad (Eupsophus contulmoensis VU).
There are a number of reptilian taxa present in the Valdivian temperate forests, especially within the Tree Iguana group; example ecoregion endemics here are: the Curicen Tree Iguana (Liolaemus curicensis) and the Cyan Tree Iguana (Liolaemus cyanogaster). Endemic mammal species are also biologically interesting because of their kinship to geographically remote groups. This is the case with Dromiciops gliroides, an arboreal marsupial found in this ecoregion, located in the basal trunk of Australasian and American marsupials. Another Valdivian temperate forests ecoregion endemic is the Chilean Climbing Mouse (Irenomys tarsalis). An endangered herbivore found in the ecoregion is the Chilean Guemal (Hippocamelus bisulcus). The Chilean Shrew Opossum (Hippocamelus bisulcus NT) is another Valdivian temperate forests endemic.
- C.Michael Hogan & World Wildlife Fund. 2010. ''Valdivian temperate forests".. Encyclopedia of Earth, National Council for Science and the Environment, Washington DC eds.S.Draggan & M.McGinley. rev. 2013
- J. Armesto, R. Rozzi and J. Caspersen. 2001. Past, present, and future scenarios for biological diversity in South American temperate forest: contrasts with North America. In: Future Scenarios of Global Biodiversity. Editors: F. Stuart Chapin, III, Osvaldo E. Sala, Elisabeth Huber-Sannwald. Springer Verlag, N.Y.
Habitat and Ecology
IUCN Red List Assessment
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Red List Criteria
Irenomys tarsalis, also known as the Chilean Climbing Mouse, Chilean Tree Mouse, or Long-footed Irenomys, is a rodent found in Chile, from about 36° to 46°S, and in adjacent Argentina, mainly in forests. It is a large, long-tailed, soft-furred mouse characterized by grooved upper incisors and specialized molars with transverse ridges, divided by deep valleys, which are connected by a transverse ridge along the midline of the molars.
I. tarsalis is a docile, herbivorous animal that lives in trees. It is so distinct from other species that it is placed in its own genus, Irenomys, which was named in 1919 in reference to the end of World War I. Although it has been generally placed in the tribe Phyllotini, genetic evidence does not support any close relationships with other genera, so that it is now classified as a member of the subfamily Sigmodontinae incertae sedis (of uncertain position).
In 1900, Rodolfo Armando Philippi named both Mus tarsalis (from Valdivia Province in mainland Chile) and Reithrodon longicaudatus (from a small island near Chiloé), both of which are now classified as Irenomys tarsalis. Philippi's Reithrodon longicaudatus was transferred into a new genus, Irenomys, by Oldfield Thomas in February 1919. The name, which means "peace mouse" in Greek, referred to the end of World War I four months before. Another of the species Philippi described in 1900, Mus mochae, was later transferred to Irenomys because of a mismatch between the skin and skull, but it is in fact a member of the genus Abrothrix and not closely related to Irenomys. In his 1943 work on The mammals of Chile, Wilfred Hudson Osgood recognized the close relation between Philippi's Mus tarsalis and Reithrodon longicaudatus and referred them to a single species, then called Irenomys tarsalis. Osgood retained two subspecies, Irenomys tarsalis tarsalis on the mainland and Irenomys tarsalis longicaudatus on Chiloé and nearby islands, on the basis of slight differences in pelage coloration. In the few mature specimens of the latter subspecies that Osgood had, the underparts are somewhat lighter than in examples of I. t. tarsalis, which has a pinkish color in the underparts, but Osgood stressed that further material could well indicate that the two forms could not be distinguished.
In his description of the genus, Thomas opined that Irenomys is most closely related to Phyllotis. The group of genera related to Phyllotis was later formalized as the tribe Phyllotini, and Irenomys was often included there, but also excluded from it by some authors. In 1995, a cladistic analysis of Phyllotini on the basis of morphology provided evidence in favor of placement of Irenomys in the group, with some support for a close relation to Andinomys. From 1999 on, DNA sequence data cast doubt on this assignment, as studies using the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene and the nuclear IRBP gene placed Irenomys in a variety of positions, all outside Phyllotini, with Scolomys, Sigmodon, Euneomys, and various large clades of sigmodontines all as sister groups in some analyses. Accordingly, it is now classified outside Phyllotini and considered as Sigmodontinae incertae sedis.
Irenomys is a large mouse with a long, hairy tail, large eyes, and long and soft fur. The upperparts are rufous with fine dark lines and the underparts are buff, with the exact color varying by subspecies. The densely haired ears are medium-sized and blackish in color. The feet, which are large and broad, are nearly white. The tail, which ends in a slight pencil, is dark brown, with a somewhat lighter area present on the ventral side in some individuals. The total length is 270 to 326 millimetres (10.63 to 12.83 in), averaging 280 millimetres (11.02 in), the tail length is 162 to 196 millimetres (6.38 to 7.72 in), averaging 165 millimetres (6.50 in), the hindfoot length is 28 to 32 millimetres (1.10 to 1.26 in), averaging 30 millimetres (1.18 in), the ear length is 20 to 25 millimetres (0.79 to 0.98 in), averaging 22 millimetres (0.87 in), and weight is 40 to 59 grams (1.4 to 2.1 oz), averaging 42 grams (1.5 oz). The karyotype includes 64 chromosomes, with a fundamental number (FN) of 98.
The skull resembles that of some Rhipidomys species. The interorbital region is narrow and the incisive foramina are long, extending between the first molars. The upper incisors are deeply grooved. The molars are strongly hypsodont (high-crowned) and consist of transverse, diamond-shaped laminae (plates), separated by deep valleys, which are joined at the midline by narrow ridges, similar to those of the African elephant.
Distribution and ecology
Irenomys tarsalis is restricted to forested habitats in Chile and western Argentina. In the northern part of its range, its distribution falls into two segments, one in coastal Chile and one further east in Chile and in adjacent Argentina, both of which extend north to about 36°S. Further south, it also occurs in Chile and adjacent Argentina, and also on numerous Chilean islands, including Chiloé. The southernmost records are at about 46°S. No fossils are known. It generally occurs in humid and densely forested habitats, often with bamboo vegetations, but a specimen has been reported from ripuarian vegetation at a small stream near the southern limit of its distribution and it is also found in unforested steppe habitat with scattered Austrocedrus chilensis trees. It does not occur on high elevations. It was a common species during a population peak of small rodents evidently caused by the flowering of quila (Chusquea quila) bamboo.
It is found in association with other rodents such as Abrothrix olivaceus, Abrothrix longipilis, Oligoryzomys longicaudatus, Geoxus valdivianus, and Auliscomys pictus, as well as the marsupials Rhyncholestes raphanurus and Dromiciops gliroides. Remains of Irenomys have been found in owl pellets of the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus), Rufous-legged Owl (Strix rufipes), and Barn Owl (Tyto alba); other potential predators include another owl, the Austral Pygmy-owl (Glaucidium nanum), and the South American Gray Fox (Pseudalopex griseus), Darwin's Fox (Pseudalopex fulvipes) and Kodkod (Leopardus guigna).
Natural history and behavior
Irenomys lives mainly in trees, but has also been caught on the ground. It climbs by moving both forefeet and both hindfeet alternately. It is docile, but will not readily enter a trap. The breeding season is in the Southern Hemisphere spring, extending into late summer. Litter size is three to six. The animal mostly eats seeds and fruits, but its diet also includes various other plant and fungal materials.
Irenomys is not currently threatened and it is classified as "least concern" by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. It occurs in several protected areas, but destruction of its forest habitat may pose a threat to some populations.
- Pardinas et al., 2008
- Kelt, 1993, p. 1
- Musser and Carleton, 2005, p. 1121
- Osgood, 1943, p. 220
- Thomas, 1919, p. 201
- Osgood, 1943, pp. 171–172
- Musser and Carleton, 2005, p. 1090
- Osgood, 1943, p. 219
- Steppan, 1995, pp. 6–7
- Steppan, 1995, figs. 22–24
- Smith and Patton, 1999; D'Elía et al., 2003; D'Elía, 2003; D'Elía et al., 2006
- Osgood, 1943, pp. 218, 220
- Osgood, 1943, p. 218
- Ojeda et al., 2004
- Osgood, 1943, p. 218; Steppan, 1995, fig. 40; Hershkovitz, 1962, pp. 93–95; Thomas, 1919, p. 201
- Kelt, 1993, p. 2; Kelt et al., 2006, p. 126
- Kelt, 1993, p. 2; Kelt et al., 2006
- Kelt, 1993, pp. 2–3
- Kelt, 1993, p. 3
- Martínez, 1993, p. 214
- Kelt, 1993, p. 2
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- D'Elía, G. 2003. Phylogenetics of Sigmodontinae (Rodentia, Muroidea, Cricetidae), with special reference to the akodont group, and with additional comments on historical biogeography. Cladistics 19:307–323.
- Hershkovitz, P. 1962. Evolution of Neotropical cricetine rodents (Muridae) with special reference to the phyllotine group. Fieldiana Zoology 46:1–524.
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- Kelt, D.A., Engilis, A., Jr., Torres, I.E. and Hitch, A.T. 2006. Ecologically significant range extension for the Chilean tree mouse, Irenomys tarsalis. Mastozoología Neotropical 15(1):125–128.
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- Musser, G.G. and Carleton, M.D. 2005. Superfamily Muroidea. Pp. 894–1531 in Wilson, D.E. and Reeder, D.M. (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: a taxonomic and geographic reference. 3rd ed. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2 vols., 2142 pp. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0
- Ojeda, A.A., Ríos, C.A. and Gallardo, M.H. 2004. Chromosomal characterization of Irenomys tarsalis (Rodentia, Cricetidae, Sigmodontinae). Mastozoología Neotropical 11(1):95–98.
- Osgood, W.H. 1943. The mammals of Chile. Fieldiana Zoology 30:1–268.
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- Smith, M.F. and Patton, J.L. 1999. Phylogenetic relationships and the radiation of sigmodontine rodents in South America: Evidence from cytochrome b. Journal of Mammalian Evolution 6(2):89–128.
- Steppan, S.J. 1995. Revision of the tribe Phyllotini (Rodentia: Sigmodontinae), with a phylogenetic hypothesis for the Sigmodontinae. Fieldiana Zoology 80:1–112.
- Thomas, O. 1919. On small mammals collected by Sr. E. Budin in North-western Patagonia. Annals and Magazine of Natural History (9)3:199–212.