Mountain viscacha rat

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Mountain viscacha rat
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Octodontidae
Genus: Octomys
Thomas, 1920
Species: O. mimax
Binomial name
Octomys mimax
Thomas, 1920

The mountain viscacha rat or mountain vizcacha rat (Octomys mimax), historically viscacha rat or vizcacha rat, is a species of rodent in the family Octodontidae.[2] It is endemic to Argentina.[1]

It is the only living species within the genus Octomys.[3] This diploid genus (2n = 56) may be ancestral to the two unusual suspected tetraploid species Tympanoctomys barrerae and Pipanacoctomys aureus.[4] However, some genetic studies have rejected any polyploidism in mammals as unlikely, and suggests that amplification and dispersion of repetitive sequences best explain the large genome size.[5]


The mountain viscacha rat is a rat-like animal with a head-body length of about 11 to 18 centimetres (4.3 to 7.1 in) and weighing from 85 to 121 grams (3.0 to 4.3 oz). The feet are relatively long, while the tail measures 12 to 16 centimetres (4.7 to 6.3 in). It has light brown fur with white underparts and a bushy tail.[3][dead link]

Unusual features of the viscacha rat include greatly enlarged auditory bullae, and the presence of numerous whiskers on the roof of the mouth behind the incisor teeth. The exact function of the whiskers is unclear, but they may enable the animal to sense the position of food inside the mouth.[6]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Mountain viscacha rats are found only in the Monte Desert region of northwestern Argentina,[1] specifically in the provinces of Catamarca, La Rioja, San Luis, San Juan, and possibly Mendoza. They inhabit rocky desert and semidesert environments up to 800 metres (2,600 ft) above sea level.[3]


Mountain viscacha rats are nocturnal and solitary, spending the day sheltering in rock crevices. Although it does not construct burrows, it may place pieces of cactus close to crevice entrances to help protect against predators.[3] Individuals occupy large home ranges of around 12,300 square metres (3.0 acres), often overlapping with those of their neighbours.[7] They are herbivorous, feeding on the leaves and seeds of shrubland vegetation. During the dry season, their diet consists largely of the leaves of Prosopis trees, supplemented by caperbushes and alkaliweeds. During the wet season, they eat more seeds and fruit, including those from plants such as Maytenus and boxthorn shrubs.[3]


  1. ^ a b c Lessa, E.; Ojeda, R. & Bidau, C. (2008). "Octomys mimax". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2008. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 5 January 2009. 
  2. ^ Woods, C.A.; Kilpatrick, C.W. (2005). "Infraorder Hystricognathi". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 1572. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Sobrero, R.; et al. (2010). "Octomys mimax (Rodentia: Octodontidae)". Mammalian Species. 42 (1): 49–57. doi:10.1644/853.1. 
  4. ^ Gallardo, M.H. (2006). "Molecular cytogenetics and allotetraploidy in the red vizcacha rat, Tympanoctomys barrerae (Rodentia, Octodontidae)]". Genomics. 88 (2): 214–221. PMID 16580173. doi:10.1016/j.ygeno.2006.02.010. 
  5. ^ Svartman, Marta; Stone, Gary; Stanyon, Roscoe (2005). "Molecular cytogenetics discards polyploidy in mammals". Genomics. 85 (4): 425–30. PMID 15780745. doi:10.1016/j.ygeno.2004.12.004. 
  6. ^ Berman, S.L. (2003). "A desert octodontid rodent, Tympanoctomys barrerae, uses modified hairs for stripping epidermal tissue from leaves of halophytic plants". Journal of Morphology. 257 (1): 53–61. doi:10.1002/jmor.10115. 
  7. ^ Ebensperger, L.A.; et al. (2008). "Activity, range areas, and nesting patterns in the viscacha rat, Octomys mimax". Journal of Arid Environments. 72 (7): 1174–1183. doi:10.1016/j.jaridenv.2008.02.003. 

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