The fourth largest rodent in the world, the Patagonian mara is a real oddity! With the body of a deer and the head of a hare, these guys are pretty unmistakeable. They are brownish grey in colouration, and as the name suggests, they come from Patagonia where they inhabit lowland areas of coarse grassland and scrub dessert.
Breeding & Behavious
The Patagonian mara has a few rather unusual traits, that really set it apart from many of its rodent cousins. Firstly, they are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day and sleep through the night (this is pretty rare amongst rodents!). Secondly, they’re monogamous, forming lifelong bonds with their chosen soulmate, staying well away from other mara, except for during austral summer breeding seasons when the mara do something rather peculiar… during an austral summer season, the female mara dig burrows which are communally reared. After a gestation of around 90 days, the young are born and moved into a communal burrow which can be home to the offspring of serval other pairs. The pair will return to the burrow only to feed their young, chasing off other pairs and offspring looking for a free meal! This behaviour is thought to aid in reducing predation, as more adult pairs are present in the vicinity of the burrow.
Threats & Conservation
The Patagonian mara is currently undergoing a worrying decline, due in part to habitat loss, hunting and competition with other larger, introduced species such as sheep and hares. These pressures have resulted in localised extinctions in Buenos Aires Province, and it is currently listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List. It is currently has 12 protected areas within its range, where it receives varying degrees of protection.