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The agouti resembles a giant guinea pig, being short-tailed and rather round of body, a little bigger than a rabbit. It is a type of rodent, classified in the its own family, Agoutidae. Their taxonomy is poorly known, and most are put in the same genus, Dasyprocta. There are four or five recognized species in lowland Amazonia. (The exact number depends on how the species' ranges are measured.) However, they are highly variable so this classification is likely to change. Most agouti species are defined by their geographic location rather than their appearance, which makes life rather difficult for scientists. Like other large rainforest rodents, the agoutis are long-legged with straight, bristly hair and lacking a tail. Their large heads bear small ears but bulging jaw muscles.

Agoutis occur in lowland rainforest throughout Bolivia and southern Brazil into Central America. They are limited by high mountains; the Andes to the west and the Argentinian pampas to the south. The black agouti (D. fuliginosa photo) and the red-rumped agouti (D. agouti) are the most widespread Amazon species, respectively found in eastern and western portions of the river basin.

Agoutis thrive in a wide range of habitats, from old growth rainforest to disturbed areas and even fields, gardens and plantations. They prefer areas with dense undergrowth that can afford them cover. Forest edges such as treefalls, along streams and rivers and swampy areas are best. If threatened the agouti will run to the nearest stilt palm (photo), finding refuge within its dense root system. (See for an idea of how this works.) They are easiest to see at dawn or dusk when they are more active and the poor light makes it harder for them to see.

They typically chew their food while sitting on their haunches. They are rather specialist feeders, not eating much besides include fruits and nuts that have fallen from the tree canopy above. In the manner of squirrels the agouti buries nuts here and there to dig up later during food shortages. Of course, much of the cache is forgotten, whereupon the seed sprouts to begin the tree's cycle of life over again.

Like most rodents, agoutis tend to solitary ways. Some species form monogamous pairs, and will defend a territory occupied by the pair and its young. The newborn live in a den that the mother does not enter; she calls them out instead.

Where they are not hunted, agoutis are locally quite abundant, and an important part of the forest ecosystem. Around villages and towns, the agouti is a favorite prey for hunters and so may become scarce near inhabited areas. The greatest threat to agoutis is destruction of their forest habitat.


Honolulu Zoo: Agouti
Chaffee Zoo: Agouti
Wellington Zoo: Agouti
NaturSpot: Agoutis (Genus Dasyprocta) — Masters of the Brazil nut
Mammal Directory: Agoutis
Wikipedia: Dasyproctidae
Animal Diversity Web: Family Dasyproctidae
BioOne: Red-rumped Agouti (Dasyprocta leporina) Home Range Use in an Amazonian Forest
PubMed: Karyotypic analysis in species of the genus Dasyprocta (Rodentia: Dasyproctidae) found in Brazilian Amazon.
PubMed: The agouti (Dasyprocta sp) in biomedical research and captivity.
Skulls Unlimited: Agouti Skull
PUC del Ecuador: Guatusa (Dasyprocta fuliginosa)
ITIS: Dasyprocta fuliginosa

Mainly photos
The Ares Web Site: Nivel Cuatro/Grade Four: Animales/Animals
Dan Heller Photography: Agouti
Animal Photo Album: Agouti Dasyproctidae
Dasyprocta skulls

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