Little is known about the life history of the pacarana in the wild, therefore most information about this enigmatic rodent comes from studies of captive animals (2) (4). Mostly active at night, the pacarana can generally be found moving along the forest floor with a slow, ungainly, waddling gait (2). With relatively poor eyesight, this species mostly relies on smell, taste and touch to locate the fruits, leaves and tender stems that comprise the majority of its diet (2) (5). During feeding, the pacarana displays surprising dexterity, grasping food in its front paws and inspecting it, while sitting upright on its hind limbs (2).
During the day, wild pacaranas are believed to shelter in natural crevices, which they enlarge using their powerful claws. However, captive specimens have never been observed to dig, and prefer to shelter in trees which, in contrast to their ungainly locomotion on the ground, they climb with remarkable agility. Several different species prey on the pacarana, including ocelots, coatis and humans (2). In response to threats, the pacarana’s main defence involves backing its vulnerable hindquarters up against a rock or into a burrow, while making a low, guttural growl, and attacking using its powerful incisors and claws (2) (4).
Communication between pacaranas is believed to be facilitated through urination and defection at communal sites, by wiping whitish secretions from glands around the eye on vegetation, and by gnawing branches. During social encounters pacaranas display a variety of behaviours, including foot stamping with forepaws, tooth chattering, whimpers, whines, songs, and hisses. Such vocalisations are especially useful for attracting a mate, with the male making a complex series of calls in an attempt to locate a female, followed by a courtship song which may last over two minutes (4). Following a gestation period of around 223 to 283 days, the female gives birth to one or two well-developed offspring (2). The newborn pacaranas are quickly active, exploring and trying solid food at just two days old, although suckling may continue for an extended period (4).