Kerodon rupestris (Wied-Neuwied, 1820)

Don E. Wilson, Thomas E. Lacher, Jr & Russell A. Mittermeier, 2016, Caviidae, Handbook of the Mammals of the World – Volume 6 Lagomorphs and Rodents I, Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, pp. 406-438 : 437

publication ID 10.5281/zenodo.6585510


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scientific name

Kerodon rupestris


17. View Plate 25: Caviidae

Rock Cavy

Kerodon rupestris View in CoL

French: Cobaye des rochers / German: Felsenmeerschweinchen / Spanish: Mocé de roca

Other common names: Moco

Taxonomy. Cavia rupestris Wied-Neuwied, 1820 ,

“Rio Grande de Belmonte, am Rio Pardo, am S. Francisco,” Bahia, Brazil.

This species is monotypic.

Distribution. NE Brazil, from Ceara S to N Minas Geraisstates. View Figure

Descriptive notes. Head—body 297 mm, ear 32-35 mm, hindfoot 62 mm; weight 612 g¢ (maximum of 950 g). Mean greatest length of skull is 70-6 mm, with a very large diastema. The Rock Cavy has dense, soft fur thatis gray-agouti on back, with black and white flecking. Hairs have black tips. Hindquarters are brown to rufous brown that becomes more intensely rufous on rump and hindlegs. Throat and venter are white to yellowish white. Feet have soft, leathery soles padded for locomotion on rocky outcrops. Rock Cavies do not have claws, except small grooming claws on innermost digit of hindfeet, and nails are subcutaneous. Tail is vestigial.

Habitat. Rocky outcrops in semiarid caatinga, finding shelter in deep fissures or under boulders. Habitats of Rock Cavies vary from small, scattered boulders on flat granitic surfaces to large, exposed granitic ranges. In all of these habitats, vegetation remains green during the dry season and all but the most severe irregular droughts, providing green vegetation for foraging.

Food and Feeding. Rock Cavies are herbivorous and maintains a varied diet of leaves, flowers, buds, bark, and occasionally fruit when available. They emerge from rocky shelters and forage in shrubs and trees. They are excellent climbers and often are observed foraging high in treetops, where they gather tender leaves from tips of branches.

Breeding. Rock Cavies breed year-round, although breeding lapses for a few months in some areas. Mating system is a form of resource defense polygyny, where males defend a cluster of boulders that provides food and shelter for multiple females. Young are highly precocious and grow extremely fast. Mean age at conception was 151 days in captivity. Gestation lasts 75-76 days, and litter size averages 1-4 young, with triplets rarely observed. Sex ratio at birth is 1:1.

Activity patterns. The Rock Cavy is largely crepuscular, but it can be observed throughout the day depending upon weather conditions. It is active throughoutthe year.

Movements, Home range and Social organization. Home range of the Rock Cavy is difficult to estimate due to structural habitat complexity and avoidance of any form oflive traps. Males defend a cluster of boulders large enough to provide resources for several females and recent offspring. Males maintain a harem of females in a form a resource defense polygyny, where one dominant male defends sufficient resources for multiple females that use rocks and associated trees for shelter and foraging. Male Rock Cavies are rarely aggressive toward their offspring but are very aggressive toward outsider males. Females maintain a strong linear dominance hierarchy within the breeding group.

Status and Conservation. Classified as Least Concern on The IUCN Red List. The Rock Cavy occurs over a very broad area, much of which is isolated. Its distribution also includes large protected areas. Hunting pressure in rural areas is high, so careful monitoring of Rock Cavies is warranted.

Bibliography. Dunnum (2015), Eisenberg & Redford (1999), da Fonseca et al. (1996), Lacher (1979, 1981), Lacher et al. (1982), de Oliveira & Bonvicino (2006), Roberts et al. (1984), Woods & Kilpatrick (2005).














Kerodon rupestris

Don E. Wilson, Thomas E. Lacher, Jr & Russell A. Mittermeier 2016

Cavia rupestris

Wied-Neuwied 1820
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