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- My Arts Community
Patagonian Cavy (or Mara)
These large relatives of guinea pigs are common in the Patagonian steppes of
Cavies have stocky bodies and can weigh up to 25 pounds in adulthood. They also grow much taller than most rodents,
standing two feet tall when they reach maturity. The front feet have 4 toes and the back 3 have a sharp claw. They are grayish-brown above and white below and the hindquarters have a large white patch. The cavy has rear legs which are slightly larger than their forelegs. This means they can move in a variety of ways. They may walk normally, hop in a rabbit-like fashion, gallop, or bounce on all fours. They have been known to leap up to six feet and have been observed running at nearly 30 miles per hour for a distance of over a half mile.
Patagonian cavies have very unusual reproductive behavior, especially for mammals. Monogamous for life, a cavy pair breeds two or three times a year, usually around mid-winter and spring, when the female enters her very brief estrus. The litters of 1-3 young are born after a 3 month gestation period. The young are well developed at birth and are quickly placed in a communal den, usually made from a hole or tunnel abandoned by another animal. This den (called a creche) is home to the offspring of as many as 15 cavy pairs. The adult pairs intermittently travel to the den to nurse their young. Pairs do not tolerate other pairs when nursing, and the males drive off other parents. The female uses scent to locate her young and drives off offspring other than her own. The young are weaned after 2-3 months and quickly reach sexual maturity (2-3 months for females, 6 months for males).
Patagonian cavies travel in mated pairs and are active mostly during the day. Although cavies spend more of their time in pairs seasonally they will travel in very large groups (70+). Very little territoriality is evident, but males appear to have a dominance hierarchy. Cavies also vocalize with grunts, grumbles, and screams and spend a great deal of the day basking in the sun.
Although cavies are among the most representative mammals of
Sources: http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Dolichotis_patagonum.html; http://www.hoglezoo.org/animals/view.php?id=146; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mara_%28mammal%29; http://www.pbs.org/edens/patagonia/steppanm.htm; http://www.clemetzoo.com/conservation/grants/scott/2006/baldi.asp; http://www.twycrosszoo.com/PDF/Mara.pdf