Agoutis are South American rodents that resemble large guinea pigs. They are important seed disbursers for tropical plants and they have a special relationship with the towering 160-foot-tall Brazil nut tree. Brazil nut trees produce fruit or pods known as “cocos” that can weigh up to 5 pounds and fall to the ground at 50 mph. Like all rodents, agoutis have ever-growing incisors, but their chisel-like teeth are unique. Agoutis are one of the few animals that can chew through the woody, coconut-like pods to get to the nearly two dozen nuts inside the cocos. After eating their fill, agoutis bury extra nuts to eat later. Forgotten nuts are seeds that will germinate and grow into new trees. Without agoutis to disburse seeds, Brazil nut trees could disappear, and these giants of the forest (reaching up to 200 feet in height) provide countless animal species food and shelter.
Shy animals, agoutis live in family groups of parents and offspring. They use their dexterous forepaws to grasp food and eat while sitting on their haunches. Agoutis walk, trot, and gallop swiftly. Newborn agoutis are able to run within one hour of birth. When they sense danger, they freeze with a forefoot raised and give an alarm call consisting of low grunts, squeaks, or barks, then they will stamp their feet and run away. They can jump six feet straight up in the air from a standing position. While most of their fur is brown, their hindquarters are covered with hairs that are ticked (banded) with red; the term “agouti” in refers to any animal with a coat that displays this color pattern.
Open forests of South America including Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname, and Venezuela.
Herbivorous, primarily eating fallen fruits, nuts, and succulent plants.
Body length roughly 2 feet. Weight ranges from 6–13 pounds.