Southern tuco-tuco (Ctenomys australis)

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Southern tuco-tuco at its burrow entrance
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Southern tuco-tuco fact file

Southern tuco-tuco description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderRodentia
FamilyCtenomyidae
GenusCtenomys (1)

The southern tuco-tuco (Ctenomys australis) is a rodent typical of the genus Ctenomys, with a large head, no distinguishable neck, short legs and big incisors. Coat color in the genus Ctenomys varies from black to light grey, and the southern tuco-tuco is usually dark brown to almost black, with pale grey underparts. The tail is hairless (3).

The common name tuco-tuco comes from the vocalisations of species in this genus; they make short ‘tuc-tuc’ sounds which can be heard far outside their burrows (4).

Size
Head-body length: 15 - 25 cm (2)
Tail length: 6 - 11 cm (2)
Weight
250 - 600g (2)
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Southern tuco-tuco biology

Like other members of the genus Ctenomys, the southern tuco-tuco is herbivorous and feeds on grasses and shrubs. It eats both the leaves and roots of the plants (6).

The southern tuco-tuco is solitary and highly territorial, building large burrow systems in sand dunes (7). Further information on the southern tuco-tuco’s behavior is scarce; however, members of the genus Ctenomys are typically diurnal, alternating periods of activity and rest throughout the day (6).

Little is known about the courtship and mating of tuco-tucos, as these behaviours take place inside the burrows. The male is known to take an aggressive posture, and both the male and female probably exchange chemical or acoustic signals, but further details are unknown. The southern tuco-tuco is polygynous, meaning that a male may mate with several females (8).

The gestation period of the southern tuco-tuco is approximately 100 days. After this time, the female gives birth to between two and six pups, with lactation lasting around two months. The southern tuco-tuco has two reproductive periods per year (8).

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Southern tuco-tuco range

The southern tuco-tuco is found in Argentina, in the southeast of the Buenos Aires Province (3).

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Southern tuco-tuco habitat

The southern tuco-tuco lives in sand dunes in coastal areas. Its range is very narrow, within just 50 metres of the coast, where the plants it feeds on are found and the soil conditions are ideal for digging burrows (1) (5).

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Southern tuco-tuco status

The southern tuco-tuco is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered

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Southern tuco-tuco threats

The main threat to the southern tuco-tuco is the loss of its costal habitat, a consequence of both the development of tourist resorts and the creation of pine plantations (1).

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Southern tuco-tuco conservation

There are currently no known specific conservation measures in place to protect the southern tuco-tuco (1).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

Find out about wildlife conservation in Argentina:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

This species information was authored as part of the ARKive and Universities Scheme.
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Glossary

Diurnal
Active during the day.
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.
Herbivorous
Having a diet that comprises only vegetable matter.
Polygynous
A mating system in which males have more than one female partner.
Territorial
Describes an animal, a pair of animals or a group that occupies and defends an area.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (February, 2012)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Luna, F. and Antinuchi, C. (2006) Energy and distribution in subterranean rodents: Sympatry between two species of the genus Ctenomys. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, 147(4): 948-954.
  3. Wilson, D.E. and Reeder, D.M. (2005) Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. Third edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
  4. Francescoli, G. (2011) Tuco-tucos’ vocalization output varies seasonally (Ctenomys pearsoni; Rodentia, Ctenomyidae): implications for reproductive signaling. Acta ethologica, 14(1): 1-6.
  5. Comparatorve, M. and Busch, C. (1992) Habitat relations in sympatric populations of Ctenomys australis and Ctenomys talarum (Rodentia, Octodontidae) in natural grassland. Zeitschrift fiir Saugertierkunde, 57: 47-55.
  6. Parada, A., Bidau, C. and Lessa, E.P. (2011) Species groups and the evolutionary diversification of tuco-tucos, genus Ctenomys (Rodentia: Ctenomyidae). Journal of Mammalogy, 92(3): 671–682.
  7. Mora, M.S., Mapelli, F.J., Gaggiotti, O.E., Kittlein, M.J. and Lessa, E.P. (2010) Dispersal and population structure at different spatial scales in the subterranean rodent Ctenomys australis. BMC Genetics, 11: 9.
  8. Mora, M.S., Lessa, E.P., Kittlein, M.J. and Vassallo, A.I. (2006) Phylogeography of the subterranean rodent Ctenomys australis in sand-dune habitats: evidence of population expansion. Journal of Mammalogy, 87(6): 1192–1203.
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Image credit

Southern tuco-tuco at its burrow entrance  
Southern tuco-tuco at its burrow entrance

© Dr Matías Sebastián Mora

Dr Matías Sebastián Mora
Laboratorio de Ecofisiología
Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata
CONICET CC 1245 Mar del Plata
Argentina
msmora@mdp.edu.ar

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