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Overview

Distribution

Dasyprocta punctata, commonly known as Central American agoutis, is found from southern Mexico to northern Argentina, and has been introduced to the Cayman Islands.

Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Introduced , Native )

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Range Description

This species is widespread in Mesoamerica and South America, and has a disjunct range. The northern portion of the range occurs from Chiapas and the Yucatan Peninsula (southern Mexico) to northern Ecuador and Colombia and western Venezuela. The southern portion of the range occurs from southern Peru and Bolivia, through south-western Brazil and Paraguay to northern Argentina (Woods and Kilpatrick 2005). It has been introduced to western and eastern Cuba and the Cayman Islands (Woods and Kilpatrick 2005). In Mesoamerica, it can be found from lowlands to 2,400 m (Reid 1997). In South America, it is found up to at least 1,500 m (Emmons and Freer 1997).
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Physical Description

Morphology

The coat ranges from pale orange to several shades of brown or blackish dorsally, and yellowish to white ventrally. The rump is a contrasting color. In some individuals inconspicuous stripes may be present. The fur of the agouti is course yet glossy. The hairs increase in length from the anterior to the posterior part of the body. The body length ranges from 415-620 mm and the tail is 10-35 mm. The weight ranges from 1.3-4.0 kg. The body form of the Central American agouti is slender. They have short ears, and the hind foot has three toes with hoof-like claws (Nowak 1999). Females have four pairs of ventral mammae (Nowak 1999).

Range mass: 1.000 to 4.000 kg.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Type Information

Type for Dasyprocta punctata
Catalog Number: USNM 108293
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Mammals
Sex/Stage: Male; Adult
Preparation: Skin; Skull; Baculum/Baubellum
Collector(s): E. Nelson & E. Goldman
Year Collected: 1900
Locality: Apazote, near Yohaltun, Campeche, Mexico, North America
  • Type: Goldman, E. A. 1913 Feb 28. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections. 60 (22): 12.
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Type for Dasyprocta punctata
Catalog Number: USNM 256459
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Mammals
Sex/Stage: Male; Adult
Preparation: Skin; Skull
Collector(s): C. Underwood
Year Collected: 1931
Locality: San Geronimo [= San Jeronimo], Pirris, Puntarenas, Costa Rica, North America
  • Type: Goldman, E. A. 1931 Nov 19. Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences. 21: 481.
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Type for Dasyprocta punctata
Catalog Number: USNM 51333
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Mammals
Sex/Stage: Female; Adult
Preparation: Skin; Skull
Collector(s): C. Richmond
Year Collected: 1892
Locality: Escondido River, 50 mi above Bluefields, Atlantico Sur, Nicaragua, North America
  • Type: Goldman, E. A. 1917 May 23. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. 30: 114.
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Type for Dasyprocta punctata
Catalog Number: USNM 179056
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Mammals
Sex/Stage: Female; Adult
Preparation: Skin; Skull
Collector(s): E. Goldman
Year Collected: 1912
Locality: Mount Pirri, near head of Rio Limon, Darien, Panama, North America
Elevation (m): 1585
  • Type: Goldman, E. A. 1913 Feb 28. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections. 60 (22): 11.
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Type for Dasyprocta punctata
Catalog Number: USNM 277152
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Mammals
Sex/Stage: Male; Adult
Preparation: Skin; Skull; Anatomical
Collector(s): J. Morrison
Year Collected: 1944
Locality: San Jose Island, Perlas Archipelago, Panama, North America
  • Type: Kellogg, R. 1946 Mar 11. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. 59: 59.
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Type for Dasyprocta punctata
Catalog Number: USNM 77997
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Mammals
Sex/Stage: Female; Adult
Preparation: Skin; Skull
Collector(s): E. Nelson & E. Goldman
Year Collected: 1896
Locality: Huehuetan, Huehuetan Municipality, Chiapas, Mexico, North America
Elevation (m): 91
  • Type: Goldman, E. A. 1913 Feb 28. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections. 60 (22): 13.
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Ecology

Habitat

Central American agoutis are found in forests, thick brush, savannas, and cultivated areas. In Peru, they are confined to the Amazonian region where they are found in all parts of the low selva rainforest zone and many parts of the high selva zone (altitudes of up to 2,000 meters) (Nowak 1999). Agoutis are closely associated with water and often found along the banks of streams, rivers and lakes. They often build dens and numerous sleeping spots in hollow logs, among limestone boulders, under roots of trees or other vegetation.

Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest

Other Habitat Features: agricultural ; riparian

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This species occurs in mature deciduous and evergreen forest, secondary forest, and in gardens and plantations (Emmons and Freer 1997; Reid 1997).

It is a lowland tropical forest species that feeds on palm (Attalea butyraceae), and is an important seed disperser (Wright and Duber 2001). It is diurnal; activity starts early in the morning and continues on and off throughout the day. It is sometimes seen at night as it is easily disturbed when sleeping, and it may continue feeding after sunset. It sleeps in hollow logs, under buttress roots, or in tangles of vegetation. Burrows in banks may be used in some regions. Each individual has several sleeping sites that are used repeatedly. The diet consists mainly of seeds and fruits; small amounts of plant material and fungi are included when supplies of fruit are low. When food is abundant, it carries seeds away and buries them for future use, depositing each seed in a different place. Since not all seeds are recovered, this rodent is an important seed disperser for a number of tree species including Guapinol (Hymenaea courabil) (Hallwachs 1986).

Agoutis live in stable pairs that remain together until one of the pair dies. Often only one individual may be seen, as members of the pair do not stay in close contact with each other. Pairs maintain territories but are fairly tolerant of other agoutis if food is plentiful. In aggressive interactions, the long rump hairs are raised to form a fan-shaped crest. Females give birth to 1 or 2 well-developed young. Soon after birth, the mother leads the young to a small nest hole. Young are independent at 4 to 5 months (Reid 1997).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Trophic Strategy

Agoutis mainly feed on fruits and, on their daily excursions, look for fruit-bearing trees (Grzimek 1990). It has been recorded that agoutis are able to hear fruit falling from trees from far away, and the sound of ripe fruit hitting the ground attracts them (Grzimek 1990). When food is abundant, they carefully bury seeds to use as food when fruit is scarce or not in season. This behavior is important in the dispersal of the seeds of many species of forest trees (Macdonald 1984). Individuals often follow bands of monkeys and pick up fruit dropped from trees (Smythe 1978). Dasyprocta punctata also sometimes browsed and ate crabs, vegetables and other succulent plants (Nowak 1999). Agoutis feed by sitting on their hind legs and holding their food in their forepaws. They then turn the fruit around several times while peeling it with their teeth. If there are any remaining parts of the fruit not eaten at the end of meal time, they are buried.

Animal Foods: aquatic crustaceans

Plant Foods: leaves; roots and tubers; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit

Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food

Primary Diet: herbivore (Frugivore )

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Associations

Agouti are important prey animals for medium to large predators, such as eagles and jaguars. Agouti are also important in facilitating the regeneration of tropical fruit-bearing trees through their seed caching activities.

Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds

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Agouti are preyed on by medium to large predators throughout their range, including humans. They avoid predation by being alert and agile in dense undergrowth.

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Known prey organisms

Dasyprocta punctata preys on:
Crustacea

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Odors play an important role in agouti communication. Both males and females posses anal scent glands used to mark various structures of the environment (Smythe 1978). Agouti also have good vision, hearing, and use tactile communication through grooming.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: scent marks

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Life Expectancy

There is little information on lifespan in agoutis.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
10.0 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 13.8 years (captivity)
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Reproduction

Central American agoutis are monogamous. During courtship, the male sprays the female with urine, which causes her to go into a "frenzy dance." After several sprays she allows the male to approach (Smythe 1978).

Mating System: monogamous

Central American agoutis breed throughout the year, but the majority of the young are born during the time of year when fruit is most plentiful between March and July. Individuals in some populations of agoutis mate twice a year.

The gestation period is 104-120 days. A litter normally contains two young, though there are sometimes three and four young have been recorded in captivity.

Breeding interval: Breeding interval is determined by fruit abundance.

Breeding season: Populations typically breed throughout the year.

Range number of offspring: 1 to 4.

Average number of offspring: 1.9.

Range gestation period: 90 to 126 days.

Average weaning age: 140 days.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); viviparous

Average birth mass: 22.7 g.

Average number of offspring: 2.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)

Sex: female:
487 days.

The females dig caves for their young or bring them to old lairs they constructed usually located in hollow logs, among tree roots, or under tangled vegetation. The dens often exactly match the size of the young (Grzimek 1990). As the offspring grow, the mother relocates the litter to a larger den. The female has its own den apart from the young.

The newborn are fully furred, their eyes are open, and they are able to run in their first hour of life (Smythe 1978).

The mother usually nurses for 20 weeks. Offspring become completely separated from the mother upon the arrival of a new litter, because of parental aggression, or due to lack of food. Young born during the fruiting season have a substantially greater chance of surviving than those born during the off season.

Parental Investment: precocial ; female parental care

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Dasyprocta punctata

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

In some areas agouti populations have greatly declined because of both hunting and habitat destruction.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: appendix iii

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2013

Assessor/s
Ojeda, R., Bidau, C., Timm, T., Samudio, R. & Emmons, L.

Reviewer/s
Amori, G. & Schipper, J.

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, presumed large population, occurrence in a number of protected areas, and because it is unlikely to be in decline. If the northern and southern ranges are split into two species, each should be re-assessed.
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Population

Population
This rodent is widespread, and is one of the most common species throughout most of its range (Emmons and Freer 1997; Reid 1997).

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
It is a preferred game species (Wright and Duber 2001). This agouti is heavily hunted for meat, and populations are much reduced in many areas with suitable habitat (Emmons and Freer 1997; Reid 1997). It is reluctant to leave its territory and so can be run to ground by dogs and killed with machetes (Reid 1997). In the northern portion of its range, this species is also threatened by habitat loss (conversion to pasture) (Emmons and Freer 1997).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
This species is listed under CITES Appendix III in Honduras. Guyana had a CITES Annual Export Quota of 350 live animals for 2001. In Panama it is listed as Least Concerned. Occurs in Panamanian national parks and on Panamanian islands.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

There are no negative impacts of agouti on humans.

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Agoutis are commonly hunted in their range by humans a a source of food. As mentioned before, D. punctata is thought to contribute largely to seed dispersal of many types of fruiting trees. Agoutis are also easily tamed and make very affectionate pets.

Positive Impacts: pet trade ; food

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Wikipedia

Central American Agouti

The Central American Agouti (Dasyprocta punctata) is an agouti species from the Dasyproctidae family. The species is widespread in Mesoamerica and South America. The northern section of the range occurs from Chiapas and the Yucatan Peninsula (southern Mexico) to northern Ecuador and Colombia and western Venezuela. The southern portion of the range occurs from southern Peru and Bolivia, through southwestern Brazil and Paraguay to northern Argentina (Woods and Kilpatrick, 2005). It has been introduced to both eastern and western Cuba and the Cayman Islands (Woods and Kilpatrick, 2005). In Mesoamerica, it can be found from lowlands to 2400 m (Reid, 1997).

Contents

Morphology

The body length of the agouti is 41.5 to 62.0 centimetres (16.3 to 24.4 in) and the tail is 1.0 to 3.5 centimetres (0.39 to 1.4 in). It weighs around 1.3 to 4.0 kilograms (2.9 to 8.8 lb). The Central American agouti is typically slender. They have short ears and the hind foot has three toes and have hoof-like claws (Nowak, 1999). Its coat varies from pale orange to different shades of brown or black and varies from white and yellow ventrally. Some have stripes, and the fur is coarse and glossy.

Reproduction and development

Central American agoutis are monogamous and mate with the each other for life. During courtship the male agouti sprays urine on the female, which causes her to go into a “frenzy” dance, which is necessary before mate acquisition (Smythe, 1978). They breed throughout the year, but majority of the young are born during fruit abundance (between March and July). The gestation period is 90 to 126 days. They typically have 1–4 offspring, which weighs about 22.7 g at birth, and mothers usually nurse young for about 140 days. Young reach maturity in about 487 days. Offspring typically become independent once a new litter is born due to aggression or lack of food. The average lifespan of an agouti is 13.80 years.

Ecology

Agoutis are terrestrial and cursorial which means ground dwelling and built for running with speed. They walk, trot or gallop on their toes, and can jump up more than six feet from a standing position. They prefer tropical, terrestrial habitats. They also build small caves around sources of water. When their territory is challenged, males often get into fights.

They mainly feed on fruits, and on excursions, they search for fruit bearing trees (Grzimek, 1990). They are able to hear fruit falling from trees from far away, which attracts them. When food is abundant they bury the seeds of many species of forest trees (Macdonald, 1984). Dasyprocta punctata also sometimes browsed and ate crabs, vegetables and other plants (Nowak, 1999).

Physiological attributes

Agoutis spend much of their daily activities grooming with their forefeet. It is used as a comb. They remove parasites, ticks and mites. They are diurnal, but shift to night hours if there is much human predation around. They are endothermic, and live near water as a homeostatic strategy.

Behavior

They use good vision, hearing and tactile communication through grooming. Also, males and females possess anal scent glands which they use to mark territory or various structures.

References

  1. ^ Less, E., Ojeda, R., Bidau, C., Timm, T., Samudio, R. & Emmons, L. (2008). Dasyprocta punctata. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 5 January 2009.
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