Ecuadorean grass mouse (Akodon latebricola)
|Size||Head-body length: 16 cm (2)|
Tail length: 8 cm (2)
The Ecuadorean grass mouse is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).
The rare Ecuadorean grass mouse (Akodon latebricola) has only been studied once since its original discovery in 1924 (3). The original specimen was described as being black, with a few silver hairs, but it is now believed this individual was in fact an unusually dark mutant (2) (3). From its second sighting, the Ecuadorean grass mouse is now believed to be dark brown, with a greyish belly and dark brown ears, feet and tail. The tail also has long silvery hairs on the underside (3).
The Ecuadorean grass mouse was originally found east of Ambato in central Ecuador, at an elevation of around 2,500 metres (2). Even now it is only known from few locations in north central Ecuador (3).
It may also occur in southern Colombia, but has not yet been formally recorded there (1).
True to its name, the Ecuadorean grass mouse has been recorded mainly on the ground among grasses, although it also occurs among mossy shrubs, under low herbs or under mats of moss. It is commonly found in grassy glades surrounded by rainforest and in shrubby páramo (3).
Very little is known about this illusive rodent as it has been seen so few times. The only solid piece of evidence as to its behaviour is the fact that it has only ever been captured in broad daylight, suggesting it is generally active during the day (3).
However, the Ecuadorean grass mouse is likely to have a similar biology and ecology to closely-related species (those in the genus Akodon), which tend to be omnivorous, feeding on insects, seeds and berries or fruit (4).
Other Akodon mice tend to give birth to litters of 1 to 5 young, after a gestation period of 21 to 25 days (5) (6), during a breeding season that takes place from around September or October, through to April or May (7).
The main threat posed to the Ecuadorean grass mouse is the loss and fragmentation of its natural habitat, as the forests in which it occurs are often cleared for agriculture. As a result of this habitat destruction, the population of this rare mouse is thought to be declining (1).
Some hope remains for the Ecuadorean grass mouse, as many of its occurrences were recorded in protected areas (1). There are, however, no current laws or measures in place to specifically protect this endearing rodent.
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- Genus: a category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
- Gestation: the state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
- Mutant: an individual that has characteristics resulting from a chromosome alteration.
- Omnivorous: feeding on both plants and animals.
- Páramo: a unique alpine ecosystem of South America, located above the tree line and below the permanent snow line. It consists of glacier-formed valleys and plains with lakes, peat bogs, and wet grasslands.
IUCN Red List (November, 2010)
- Anthony, H.E. (1924) Preliminary report on Ecuadorean mammals. American Museum Novitates, 139: 1-9.
- Voss, R.S. (2003) A new species of Thomasomys (Rodentia, Muridae) from eastern Ecuador, with remarks on mammalian diversity and biogeography in the Cordillera Oriental. American Museum Novitates, 3421: 1-47.
- Casella, J. and Cáceres, N.C. (2006) Diet of four small mammals species from Atlantic forest patches in south Brazil. Neotropical Biology Conservation, 1: 5-11.
- Merani, M.S. and Lizarralde, M.S. (1980) Akodon molinae (Rodentia Cricetidae), a new laboratory animal: breeding, management and reproductive performance. Laboratory Animals, 14: 129-131.
- De Conto, V. and Cerqueira, R. (2007) Reproduction, development and growth of Akodon lindberghi (Hershkovitz, 1990) (Rodentia, Muridae, Sigmodontinae) raised in captivity. Brazilian Journal of Biology, 67(4): 707-713.
- Mills, J.N., Ellis, B.A., McKee, K.T., Maiztegui, J.I. and Childs, J.E.(1992) Reproductive characteristics of rodent assemblages in cultivated regions of Central Argentina. Journal of Mammalogy, 73(3): 515-526.