Golden-rumped agouti, Orange-rumped agouti, Brazilian agouti
The term agouti designates several rodent species of the genus Dasyprocta. They are native to Middle America, northern and central South America, and the southern Lesser Antilles. They are related to guinea pigs and look quite similar, but are larger and have longer legs adapted for fast running. Red-rumped Agouti have a short tail and small ears, though their hearing is excellent. Their coat is glossy and coarse, colored brown to black, the underparts being yellow to white.
The agouti is native to the northeast of South America, and is found in Venezuela, Guyana, French Guiana, Suriname, northeastern Brazil, the Lesser Antilles, Trinidad and Tobago. It has been introduced in the Virgin Islands. Agoutis live in a wide range of habitats where good cover exists, especially near old logs, swamps and bodies of water. They sometimes live near humans on farms and in gardens. However, they seem to prefer all types of forests to human-inhabited areas.
Habits and lifestyle
The agouti is diurnal, but if it feels threatened it will not feed until dusk. They live in small groups, which helps them to better monitor predators. They live in burrows under rocks, in sloping banks or between tree roots. They can jump nearly six feet up in the air. They often sit with erect bodies and with ankles flat to the ground so that they can run off at full speed when threatened. If they are disturbed, they may thump on the ground with their back feet. They can use many vocalizations, most notably an alarm bark at the time of running from danger.
Diet and nutrition
The main ingredients in an agouti’s diet are fruit and seeds, though they eat leaf, plant and animal parts when fruit and seeds are in short supply. The zoo diet is made up of rodent chow, greens, fruit, timothy hay, yams and endive.
Red-rumped agoutis are monogamous, one male mating with one female only. They live in pairs or in small family groups of parents and offspring. The male aggressively chases away intruding agoutis and this vicious fighting can result in severe wounds. There is no distinct breeding season. Usually 1 to 3 young are born, after a gestation period of 104 to 120 days. Babies can run at only an hour after being born. It takes about 20 weeks until the young are weaned.
This species is under no major threats. It is hunted locally.
The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Red-rumped agouti total population size. Currently this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.
Agoutis are important for the dispersal of seeds, as they regularly bury nuts and fruits in a cache at times when food is plentiful. They are also an important connection in food webs. As a prey species, numbers of agoutis may affect populations of predators.