Southern viscacha (Lagidium viscacia)

Also known as: southern mountain viscacha
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderRodentia
FamilyChinchillidae
GenusLagidium (1)
SizeHead-body length: 396 mm (2)
Weight1.5 kg (2)

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The southern viscacha is one of three South American rodent species commonly referred to as mountain viscachas (3) (4). In common with its two congeners, the southern viscacha looks remarkably like a long-tailed rabbit (3). Soft dense fur covers its body, from the tips of its elongate ears to the end of its long, curled tail (2) (3). The forelimbs are relatively short, while the contrastingly long and muscular hind-limbs enable it run and jump with ease (3) (4). The colour of its fur varies seasonally and with age, but generally the upperparts are grey to brown, with tints of cream and black, while the under-parts are pale yellow or tan (2).

The southern viscacha has a patchy distribution comprising parts of western Bolivia, northern Chile, western Argentina and possibly extreme southern Peru (1) (3).

Restricted to sparsely vegetated, rocky habitats, from 2,500 metres to 5,100 metres above sea level (1) (3).

During the day, the southern viscacha emerges from the clefts and crevices it colonises, to forage for food, and bask on rocky perches in the sun (1) (3) (4). It runs and leaps amongst the rocks with incredible agility, and eats a wide variety of plants including grasses, mosses, and lichens (3) (4).

Like all mountain viscachas, the southern viscacha is a gregarious species that forms small to very large colonies, comprising one or more family groups (4) (5). The timing of the breeding season is not documented for this species, but the gestation period has been estimated at 120 to 140 days, with just a single young born at a time. The young is born fully haired with its eyes open, and is normally weaned after eight weeks, and reaches sexual maturity at around a year (3).

Although the southern viscacha is locally hunted for its meat and fur, it is still a very common species, and is not thought to be declining at a rate to warrant significant concern (1).

There are currently no known conservation measures in place for the southern viscacha, but it does occur in several protected areas. Although hunting is not currently considered a major threat to this species, it needs to be monitored in case it starts to have a severe impact on the population (1).

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

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2008)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Eisenberg, J.F. (1989) Mammals of the Neotropics. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
  3. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker's Mammals of the World. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
  4. Macdonald, D. (2001) The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Tirado, C., Cort├ęs, A. and Bozinovic, F. (2007) Metabolic rate, thermoregulation and water balance in Lagidium viscacia inhabiting the arid Andean plateau. Journal of Thermal Biology, 32: 220 - 226.