Mara

MaraThe maras (Dolichotis) are a genus of the cavy family. They are the sole representatives of the subfamily Dolichotinae. These large relatives of guinea pigs are common in the Patagonian steppes of Argentina, but also live in Paraguay and elsewhere in South America. Maras are the fourth-largest rodent in the world, after capybaras, beavers, and porcupines, reaching about 45 cm (18 in) in height.

Two species of maras are recognised, the Patagonian mara (Dolichotis patagonum), and the Chacoan mara (Dolichotis salinicola).

Physical Description

Maras have stocky bodies, three sharp-clawed digits on the hind feet, and four digits of the fore feet. Maras have been described as resembling long-legged rabbits. Patagonian maras can run at speeds up to 29 km (18 mi) per hour. They can weigh over 11 kg (24 lb) in adulthood.

Most maras have brown heads and bodies, dark (almost black) rumps with a white fringe around the base, and white bellies.

Maras may amble, hop in a rabbit-like fashion, gallop, or bounce on all fours. They have been known to leap up to 6 ft (1.8 m).

Maras mate for life, and may have from one to three offspring each year. Mara babies are very well-developed, and can start grazing within 24 hours. They use a creche system, where one pair of adults keeps watch for all the young in the creche. If they spot danger, the young rush below ground into a burrow, and the adults are left to run for it.