Cuniculus taczanowskii is found in the higher elevation mountain ranges of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela.
Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )
Castro J. Castro M, Suárez E. El tinago o borugo, Agouti Taczanowskii, especie altoandina para conservar. Universidad Distrital Francisco José de Caldas. Bogotá. 2003.
Mountain pacas are large rodents, resembling large guinea pigs with an average weight of 9 kg and a length of 70 cm. Females are slightly smaller than males. They have short legs and rotund bodies with large heads and eyes. The skull is easily recognized, with an exceptionally large zygomatic arch. Pelage is red-brown to chocolate brown with two to seven white spots on the flanks; the young are born with this pelage as well. Mountain pacas have similar pelage to their close relative, Cuniculus paca, but with a denser undercoat to withstand the colder temperatures in the mountains.
Range mass: 6 to 12 kg.
Range length: 60 to 82 cm.
Average length: 70 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger
Mountain pacas live at elevations of 2000 to 3500 meters with most individuals found between 2000 and 3050 meters. They are terrestrial but live near rivers or swampy areas in dense forest thickets. They often use water to escape when in danger as they are good swimmers. They are nocturnal and spend the daytime in underground burrows they construct which are up to 5 meters deep.
Range elevation: 2000 to 3500 m.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; mountains
Other Habitat Features: agricultural ; riparian
Habitat and Ecology
Mountain pacas are opportunistic frugivores. They feed primarily on fruits and nuts, sometimes eating small grains. They often bring their food to a central midden in their large, fur-lined cheek pouches. Mountain pacas are important seed dispersal agents of many fruiting tree species.
Plant Foods: leaves; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit
Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food
Primary Diet: herbivore (Frugivore , Granivore )
Mountain pacas are important seed dispersers in their forested habitats. They prey mainly on fruit and nuts and will carry them in their cheek pouches to other locations where they then eat or drop them, causing dispersal of the plant seed.
Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds
Mountain pacas avoid predation by being nocturnal and cryptically colored. Their brown, spotted pelage allows them to blend in with the forest undergrowth. They are also good swimmers and usually escape to the water or their den when being chased by a predator.
- humans (Homo sapiens)
- jaguars (Panthera onca)
- large snakes (Serpentes)
Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic
Life History and Behavior
Mountain pacas are not highly social animals and few vocalizations are known. They sometimes bark and grind their teeth. Like most mammals, they probably use chemical cues in communication.
Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic ; chemical
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
There is little data on wild lifespan of mountain pacas and there are few in captivity. A lifespan of 12.5 years was recorded in the wild.
Status: wild: 12.5 (high) years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Mountain pacas have a monogamous mating system, although males and females live alone. Mates live in separate dens which are normally in close proximity. Other mating behaviors are unknown.
Mating System: monogamous
Mountain paca reproduction is not well studied, but is thought to be like that of Cuniculus paca (pacas) and much of the information below is based om that species. Pacas breed year round with a gestation period of around 118 days, and can give birth to two litters per year. A single offspring is usually produced with twins being rare. Young weigh 450 to 800g at birth, growing quickly to maturity at age of 1. Pacas are weaned at about 3 months old and females experience a post-partum estrous.
Breeding interval: Mountain pacas give birth up to two times each year.
Breeding season: Seasonality of mating is not known in mountain pacas.
Range number of offspring: 1 to 2.
Average number of offspring: 1.
Range gestation period: 100 to 130 days.
Average gestation period: 118 days.
Average weaning age: 3 months.
Average time to independence: 1 years.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 years.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous ; post-partum estrous
Like other mammals, female mountain pacas invest heavily in their offspring through gestation, lactation, and other care of the young. Male parental investment is not known in mountain pacas.
Parental Investment: precocial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)
Molecular Biology and Genetics
This species has an taxonomic status of 2N equal to 78 chromosomes (Castro J)
Mountain pacas are listed as "low risk" by the IUCN. In some areas they are rare because of hunting pressures, in other areas populations are high, up to 90 per square km. Reserves protect mountain pacas from hunting in some areas.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: appendix iii
State of Michigan List: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: near threatened
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
-Destruction of habitat
-Uncontrolled hunting for their meat consumption
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Mountain pacas cause few problems for humans. They have been known to cause some crop damage to fruit and nut crops in some areas.
Negative Impacts: crop pest
Mountain pacas are hunted extensively for food. Hunts occur at night with spotlights and with dogs by day. The meat is veal-like and fetches high market prices. Paca farms have been suggested as a sustainable and economically viable business.
Positive Impacts: food
Is hunted for meat consumption
The Mountain Paca (Cuniculus taczanowskii) is a small burrow-dwelling rodent whose habitats are high altitude South American forests. Pacas are nocturnal, sedentary, and solitary animals with territorial tendencies. It eats mostly fruits and seeds. The mountain paca primarily inhabits higher Andean Montane forest regions in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.
This paca has coarse fur without underfur, dark brown to black on the upper body and white or yellowish on the underbelly. It usually has three to five rows of white spots along its sides, against a dark grey background. It has thick strong legs, with four digits in the forefeet and five in the hind feet (the first and fifth are reduced); the nails function as hooves. The tail is short and hairless. The zygomatic arch is expanded laterally and dorsally and is used as a resonating chamber - a unique feature among mammals.
The Mountain Paca is hunted for its meat, which is high in calories and is considered a delicacy particularly in rural communities. Due to its quick growth, it may be bred in captivity for commercial use. However, it has a low reproductive capacity and its numbers have been significantly reduced in recent years due to hunting and habitat destruction. It is fairly abundant in protected areas.
|This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. Please improve this article by introducing more precise citations where appropriate. (April 2009)|
- Woods, C. A. and C. W. Kilpatrick. 2005. Hystricognathi. Pp 1538–1600 in Mammal Species of the World a Taxonomic and Geographic Reference 3rd ed. D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder eds. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C.