Southern cavies, Microcavia austrialis, are found in Argentina, southern Chile, and southern Bolivia. In central Argentina the species is the most abundant of the Caviinae in semiarid thornbush habitats but the species is not found in the humid northeastern provinces. These animals are often found in the Monte and Patagonian deserts. (Nowak, 1997)
This animal uses pedal locomotion, which is when the animal walks on its soles and has its heels touching the ground. The hair sheds easily when these animals are handled. Incisors are short, and the cheek teeth are constantly growing. (Tognelli-Marelo, 2001)
In Argentina breeding takes place between August to April. Gestation lasts for between 50 and 75 days. Litters typically contain about three young. (Tognelli-Marelo, 2001)
The young of M. austrialis are precocious. They weigh about 30 grams at birth and are able to run and eat solid food during the first day of life. The average weaning time is about three weeks of age. Interestingly, the young will nurse from any female that is lactating at the time. (Tognelli-Marelo, 2001)
Females are polyesterous, and have a postpartum estrus immediately after giving birth. A female may be able to mate again within 15 days if fertilization does not occur. The females become reproductively mature at about 1 to 3 months of age. (Tognelli-Marelo, 2001)
The adults of both sexes tolerate young animals up to 1 month old. At this time, apparently the young are expelled from the group and become totally independent. (Tognelli-Marelo, 2001)
The young of this species are precocious, and parental care does not last very long. Neonates have eyes open, can eat solid food, walk, and run, all from birth. The mother weens young at about 3 weeks. Young animals sometimes nurse from a female other than their own mother. Young become independant at about one month of age. Males do not contribute to parental care in this species. (Tognelli-Marelo, 2001)
Maximum life expectancy in the wild is about 3 to 4 years, and can be up to 8 years in captivity. (Tognelli-Marelo, 2001)
Stability of social groups seems to vary between habitats. In the deserts, Cavia and Microcavia never occur in the same area. And competition between Galea and Microcavia seems to be minimized by the utilization of different foraging tactics. never stray more than 4 meters from cover. This species a diurnal herbivore. (Campos, 2001; Rood, 1970)keep strict fidelity to a burrow system. In a less arid habitats, these animals show a loose social organization.
The home range sizes is on average about 3,200 square meters for one study while in another study male ranges overlapped sometimes and were slightly larger than the ranges of the females. Males having a range of 7,720 square meters and females 3525 square meters. (Tognelli-Marelo, 2001)
Cochinus fasciculatus, Condalia microphylla, and Lycium gilliesianum. (Tognelli-Marelo, 2001)helps maintain the plants that they utilize as shelter and a food source including, Argentinean thornbushes,
In addition to effects on plant communities, this species may have impact on other mammal populations. Cavia and Microcavia never occur in the same area, possibly because of niche overlap. Competition between Galea and Microcavia seems to be minimized by the utilization of different foraging tactics. (Tognelli-Marelo, 2001)
Finally, this species provides an important part of local food webs. Raptors as well as South American weasals are reported to prey upon (Tognelli-Marelo, 2001), although it is likely that they are taken by a much wider variety of predators.
There are no data available allowing assessment of the impact of this species on human economies.
The negative impact of this species on human economies has not been detailed in the literature.
At this time the animal is not threatened, endangered or exploited. It is not listed by CITES or IUCN. (Tognelli-Marelo, 2001)
Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.
Kristina Chartier (author), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Chris Yahnke (editor, instructor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.
uses sound to communicate
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
Found in coastal areas between 30 and 40 degrees latitude, in areas with a Mediterranean climate. Vegetation is dominated by stands of dense, spiny shrubs with tough (hard or waxy) evergreen leaves. May be maintained by periodic fire. In South America it includes the scrub ecotone between forest and paramo.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.
ranking system or pecking order among members of a long-term social group, where dominance status affects access to resources or mates
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
union of egg and spermatozoan
an animal that mainly eats leaves.
An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
having more than one female as a mate at one time
breeding is confined to a particular season
remains in the same area
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
associates with others of its species; forms social groups.
uses touch to communicate
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.
uses sight to communicate
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
young are relatively well-developed when born
Campos, C. 2001. Utilization of food resources by small and medium-sized mammals on the Monte desert biodome, Argentina. Austral-Ecology, 26 (2): 142-149.
Lacher, T., M. Cassini, D. MacDonald, S. Norris. 2001. Cavidae. Pp. 672-675 in The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford: Adromedia Oxford Limited.
Nowak, R. 1997. "Walker's Mammals of the World Online" (On-line). Accessed October 24, 2002 at http://www.press.jhu.edu/books/walkers_mammals_of_the_world/rodentia/rodentia.caviidae.microcavia.html.
Rood, J. 1970. Ecology and social behavior of the Desert Cavy (Microcavia australis). American Midland Naturalist, 83/2: 415-454.
Tognelli-Marelo, F. 2001. Microcavia australis. Mammalian Species, 648: 1-4.