The Agouti is a common mammal found in rainforests and other tropical habitats from eastern Mexico south to northern Argentina. The species that occurs in the rainforests of Tambopata is officially called the Central American Agouti (Dasyprocta punctata) although it is usually simply referred to as “Agouti”. The name of this forest floor rodent is a derivation of “Akuti”, the word for this animal in the Tupi language of eastern Brazil.
Agoutis are one of the more frequently seen mammals in the rainforests of Tambopata and elsewhere. They are encountered on a regular basis because they often forage during the day, occur at fairly high densities, and don’t seem to be as shy of people as other animals. When sighted, guests of Posada Amazonas and the other Rainforest Expeditions lodges sometimes wonder if they are watching some sort of strange Guinea Pig on account of its appearance. Looking like a cross between a Guinea Pig and a squirrel, or perhaps a miniature Capybara, agoutis are rodents that have become adapted to foraging for seeds on the forest floor.
Although they prefer to stay in the shade of the forest understory, they will take to water to avoid predators and can run for fairly long distances as fast as a rabbit. Agoutis also give a loud, “honking” alarm call when startled.A few interesting facts about the Central American Agouti:
- Eats Brazil nuts: The agouti is one of very few animals that can actually open a Brazil nut seed pod without tools. They manage this feat by gnawing on the seed pod with strong, sharp incisors. After gnawing a hole in the “bowling ball” like seed pod, they remove and eat a few of the Brazil nuts inside. The only other animal capable of opening a Brazil Nut seed pod may be the Red and Green Macaw.
- “Plant” Brazil Nut trees: Agoutis may destroy Brazil Nut seeds but they also help to inadvertently cultivate the plant. They accomplish this by burying Brazil Nut seeds for later use. Some seeds are forgotten and eventually grow into Brazil Nut Trees.
- Raises fur on back when alarmed: Agoutis raise the fur on their hindquarters when alarmed and in aggressive interactions. This makes them look bigger than their actual size and is often apparent when one of these interesting mammals is sighted.
- “Agouti” colored fur: The fur of agouti species can appear to show different shades of brown depending on the angle of the light. This is due to each hair having bands of both light and dark colors with a black tip. Such a color pattern is also found in some other mammal species and is referred to as “agouti”.
How to see agoutis when taking an Amazon adventure tour:
To see agoutis in the Peruvian rainforest, take a jungle adventure tour with Rainforest Expeditions!
- Go on a hike in the rainforest with a trained guide: As with most wildlife in Brazil Nut seed pod. This noise gives away the presence of the agouti and it often turns up right near the trail.