Hispaniolan Hutia

Taxobox
name = Hispaniolan Hutia
status = EN
status_system = iucn2.3
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Mammalia
ordo = Rodentia
familia = Capromyidae
genus = "Plagiodontia"
species = "P. aedium"
binomial = "Plagiodontia aedium"
binomial_authority = (F. Cuvier, 1836)

The Hispaniolan Hutia ("Plagiodontia aedium") is one of several hutia (also called zagouti, and "jutía" in Spanish) species to have inhabited at some time the island of Hispaniola (island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic). The "P. aedium" is the only scientifically confirmed extant species of the "Plagiodontia" genus; other species are either extinct or being debatedly catalogued as "P. aedium" subspecies. The name "Plagiodontia" means "oblique tooth" in Greek.

Description and behaviour

Head and body length is about 312 mm and tail length is about 153 mm. The listed adult weight as 1,267 grams. In the species "P. hylaeum", head and body length is 348-405 mm and tail length is 125-45 mm. Judging from the skeletal remains, the largest species in the genus is "P. ipnaeum" (or Samaná hutia) and the smallest is "P. spelaeum". In the living species, the short, dense pelage is brownish or grayish on the upper parts and buffy on the underparts. The tail is scaly and practically naked. Both the forefoot and the hind foot have five digits, all armed with claws except the thumb, which has a short, blunt nail. Females have three pairs of lateral thoracic mammae.

Captives hutias have been observed to be nocturnal and arboreal and to use nest boxes placed high off the ground. Wild "P. aedium" are reported to be active only at night, to hide during the day, to feed mainly on roots and fruits, and to live in male-female pairs. Reports also stated that three or four individuals commonly occupy the same burrow system. Specimens of "P. hylaeum" were caught in December in hollow trees near a lagoon; four pregnant females each contained a single embryo. Purportedly, captive female "P. aedium" have an estrous cycle of 10 days, a gestation period of 119 days, and apparently a single offspring. Recorded gestation has been 123-150 days and litter sizes of one to two young in this species, which are highly precocial, much unlike most rodents, which are totally helpless when born. A captive "P. aedium" was still alive after 9 years and 11 months. Individuals communicate through soft, almost bird-like chirps.

Ecology

Hispaniolan hutias inhabit forests. It is reported that they occupy rough hillsides and ravines from sea level to 2,000 meters in elevation, that some populations use burrows and feed near the ground, and that other populations may den in tree cavities and move through the trees, rather than descend to ground level.

Five of the seven species in this genus are known only by skeletal remains, often found in association with human kitchen middens. These five species probably disappeared by the seventeenth century because of excessive hunting by people. "P. aedium" and "P. hylaeum" have been greatly reduced in range and numbers and are threatened by deforestation, hunting, and predation by the introduced mongoose ("Herpestes auropunctatus"). The human population of Hispaniola is increasing, most of the island's forest cover is being cleared for agriculture, and hutias are killed whenever encountered.

The IUCN regards "P. hylaeum" as a subspecies of "P. aedium". "P. a. hylaeum" is called the Dominican hutia, while the nominate race, "P. a. aedium" is referred to as Cuvier's hutia. Recent surveys in Haiti have found "P. aedium" to be somewhat more common than once estimated, though still in jeopardy, and also have received unconfirmed reports of the possible survival of "P. velozi". The IUCN Red List classifies the "P. aedium" as "vulnerable".

Currently, the hutias may only be locally common in two places in the Domincan Republic: Jaragua and Del Este National Parks. Its presence in other parks is inferred but unconfirmed. There were sightings in 2005 which were confirmed photographically (E.M. Fernández, "et al." - see external links) in the Bahoruco region.

See also

* Hutia
* Haitian Solenodon

External Links/Sources

* [http://www.geocities.com/cuyaya/jutiaen.html Hispaniolan Hutias]
* [http://marcano.freeservers.com/areas/parques/bermudez.html Parque Nacional Armando Bermúdez]
* [http://www.grupojaragua.org.do/pnj.html Parque Nacional Jaragua] Grupo Jaragua
* [http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/classification/Plagiodontia_aedium.html "Plagiodontia aedium"] The Animal Diversity Web
* [http://www.kingsnake.com/westindian/metazoa18.html West Indian Mammals] Includes the best photos of "P. aedium" available on the web.


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