Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

Little is known about the life history of the pacarana in the wild, therefore most information about this enigmatic rodent comes from studies of captive animals (2) (4). Mostly active at night, the pacarana can generally be found moving along the forest floor with a slow, ungainly, waddling gait (2). With relatively poor eyesight, this species mostly relies on smell, taste and touch to locate the fruits, leaves and tender stems that comprise the majority of its diet (2) (5). During feeding, the pacarana displays surprising dexterity, grasping food in its front paws and inspecting it, while sitting upright on its hind limbs (2). During the day, wild pacaranas are believed to shelter in natural crevices, which they enlarge using their powerful claws. However, captive specimens have never been observed to dig, and prefer to shelter in trees which, in contrast to their ungainly locomotion on the ground, they climb with remarkable agility. Several different species prey on the pacarana, including ocelots, coatis and humans (2). In response to threats, the pacarana's main defence involves backing its vulnerable hindquarters up against a rock or into a burrow, while making a low, guttural growl, and attacking using its powerful incisors and claws (2) (4). Communication between pacaranas is believed to be facilitated through urination and defection at communal sites, by wiping whitish secretions from glands around the eye on vegetation, and by gnawing branches. During social encounters pacaranas display a variety of behaviours, including foot stamping with forepaws, tooth chattering, whimpers, whines, songs, and hisses. Such vocalisations are especially useful for attracting a mate, with the male making a complex series of calls in an attempt to locate a female, followed by a courtship song which may last over two minutes (4). Following a gestation period of around 223 to 283 days, the female gives birth to one or two well-developed offspring (2). The newborn pacaranas are quickly active, exploring and trying solid food at just two days old, although suckling may continue for an extended period (4).
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Description

Resembling a gigantic guinea pig, the pacarana is the third largest rodent worldwide, and is the only living species of its genus. The pacarana has a large head with small eyes, short rounded ears, a blunt snout and long whiskers (2) (3). The coarse fur is mostly brown or blackish, with two well-defined rows of white spots running parallel to the spine, merging towards the neck and head into broad stripes. Two rows of white spots also run along the flanks, but are more diffuse. The limbs are short, and end in broad four-toed feet, equipped with long, powerful claws, while the tail is short, thick, and completely covered with dark hair (2).
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Distribution

Pacaranas are distributed throughout Western South American from Colombia to Bolivia (Anderson 1984 and White 1992).

Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )

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Range Description

This species occurs in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, and Bolivia (Woods and Kilpatrick, 2005). It is found in Colombia from 300 to 3,400 m (Alberico et al., 2000). In the Bolivian yungas it is known from 1,000 to 1,600 m; there are few records in Bolivia (Anderson, 1997; J. Vargas pers. comm.).
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Range

The pacarana has a large distribution extending from the Venezuelan Andes, southwards through western Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and eastern Brazil, as far as eastern and north-eastern Bolivia (1).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Pacaranas are the third largest living rodent with a head and body length ranging from 730-790mm and a tail length of about 190mm (Anderson 1984). Pacaranas have upper parts that are typically dark brown or blackish with two discontinuous white stripes along the back and a few rows of white spots down each side (Burton 1987, Anderson 1984). The ears are relatively short and curved, the upper lip has a deep cleft, and pacaranas have many long, greyish whiskers. The feet are plantigrade and there are four digits on each foot, each with a long and powerful claw (Grzimek 1975 and White 1992).

Range mass: 10.000 to 15.000 kg.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Ecology

Habitat

Pacaranas inhabit the slopes and valleys of rainforests in the Andes mountains. They are thought to be extremely rare, although some scientists speculate that this might be due to a lack of information about the animal's true habitat (White 1992 and Matthews 1971).

Terrestrial Biomes: forest

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This species is thought to inhabit high selva and upper parts of the lower selva (Grimwood, 1969). Little is known about the wild habits of this species, but in captivity it is tame. Claws indicate it to be a digger, appears to be easy to capture for both predator and man. It is active by night, resting in caves or dens at the base of trees. This rodent has some climbing ability, especially prominent in young animals. It feeds on fruits, leaves, and plant shoots. It produces a wide variety of vocalizations, and males seeking mates produce a complicated, intricate series of calls. Gestation lies between 222 and 280 days; generally only two young are born (Eisenberg, 1974; Eisenberg and Redford, 1999; Lord, 1999). Its behavior in captivity has been summarized by Meritt (1984).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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The pacarana is found in rainforest covered valleys and mountain slopes, from elevations of 240 to 3,400 metres (1) (2).
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Trophic Strategy

Pacaranas mainly feed on fruits, leaves, and stems of plants (Matthews 1971).

Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore , Frugivore , Lignivore)

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

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Life Expectancy

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
9.4 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
9.0 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 12.8 years (captivity) Observations: One captive specimen lived for 12.8 years (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Reproduction

Little is known about the reproductive characteristics of this species. Pacaranas in captivity have a gestation period of 222-283 days, and the female usually gives birth to no more than two young (Grzimek 1975). Each young weighs about 900g and shows considerable activity and curiosity about its environment within just a few days of birth (White 1992). Weaning period and age of sexual maturity are not known, but the life span of captive pacaranas can be over nine years. It also seems that pacaranas "cry" in the breeding season to attract sexual partners, and males approach females in a bipedal position during courtship (Anderson 1984).

Range number of offspring: 1.000 to 4.000.

Average number of offspring: 2.400.

Range gestation period: 223 to 283 days.

Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual

Average birth mass: 900 g.

Average number of offspring: 2.

Parental Investment: precocial

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Conservation

Conservation Status

Pacaranas are classified as threatened and possibly on the verge being classified as endangered (Bailie 1996). The classification is mostly due to the animal's rareness. They are probably not significantly affected by deforestation. The most important challenge is to learn more about the pacarana's life history in the wild and its habitat range (Burton 1987 and White 1992).

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
VU
Vulnerable

Red List Criteria
A2cd

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Tirira, D., Vargas, J. & Dunnum, J.

Reviewer/s
Amori, G. (Small Nonvolant Mammal Red List Authority) & Schipper, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
This species is listed as Vulnerable because of a population decline, estimated to be more than 30% over the last 10 years, inferred from over-exploitation, shrinkage in distribution, and habitat destruction and degradation.

History
  • 1996
    Endangered
  • 1994
    Endangered
    (Groombridge 1994)
  • 1990
    Endangered
    (IUCN 1990)
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Status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).
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Population

Population
It appears to be rare and its distribution is patchy (Lord, 1999). In Bolivia, the species appears to be rare in general; however, it appears to be common in Cotapata National Park (J. Vargas pers. comm.).

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
The major threats are deforestation and habitat loss. As an agricultural pest this species is hunted and its meat is eaten, especially in cultivated areas.
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Despite an overall large range, the pacarana appears to have a patchy distribution and a relatively small population, which is estimated to have declined by over 30 percent in the last decade. As an easily hunted species, one of the chief threats to this species is overexploitation, coupled with the ongoing habitat destruction and degradation occurring throughout its range (1).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
There are records in several protected areas.
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Conservation

The Universidad De Ciencias Aplicadas Y Ambientales, in Bogotá, Colombia, is working extensively to conserve the pacarana. The university's Fauna Research Group has implemented a comprehensive Pacarana Conservation Project, which involves international collaboration with the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) and the Zoological Society for the Conservation of Species and Populations (ZGAP). Through captive breeding programmes in Colombia, as well as at several European zoos, the project aims to develop a large, healthy captive population, which can be used to strengthen wild populations through reintroductions. In addition, the project will provide educational initiatives, and research into the pacarana's biology and ecology, so that a conservation management plan can be developed (6). In addition to this specific conservation action, the pacarana is recorded in several protected areas throughout its range, including Cotapata National Park in Bolivia (1).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Although rare, natives hunt pacaranas for food (Matthews 1971). Scientist believe the biggest enemy to pacaranas is the human (Grzimek 1975).

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Wikipedia

Pacarana

The Pacarana (Dinomys branickii) is a rare and slow-moving nocturnal rodent found only in tropical forests of the western Amazon River basin and adjacent foothills of the Andes Mountains from northwestern Venezuela and Colombia to western Bolivia, including the Yungas. It is common in Cotapata National Park in Bolivia.[1] It is known as the pacarama (false paca) by native Indians[who?] due to its superficial similarity to a different caviomorph rodent, the paca.[citation needed]

It is a hystricognath rodent, and the sole extant member of the family Dinomyidae in Caviomorpha; initially, it was placed with true mice. Some evidence places the pacarana as closely related to the prehistoric giant rodents that inhabited South America several million years ago, such as Phoberomys pattersoni and Josephoartigasia monesi.

It has a chunky body and is large for a rodent, weighing up to 15 kg (33 lb) and measuring up to 79 cm (31 in) in length, not including the thick, furry tail.

Pacaranas are typically found in fours or fives.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Tirira, D., Vargas, J. & Dunnum, J. (2008). Dinomys branickii. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 5 January 2009.
  2. ^ Saavedra-Rodríguez, Carlos A. "Multiscale patterns of habitat and space use by the pacarana Dinomys branickii: factors limiting its distribution and abundance". Inter-Research 2012. Retrieved 18 January 2013. 
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