Southern tuco-tuco (Ctenomys australis)

GenusCtenomys (1)
SizeHead-body length: 15 - 25 cm (2)
Tail length: 6 - 11 cm (2)
Weight250 - 600g (2)

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

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

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).

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).

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).

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

Find out about wildlife conservation in Argentina:

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:

  1. IUCN Red List (February, 2012)
  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.