A g o u t i

The agouti, a relatively large, rabbit-sized rodent with a short tail and long legs, is mainly active during the day, but at times is also active at dusk and at night. It lives on the forest floor and sleeps in burrows.

Many rodents destroy all the seeds that they gather and eat, but agoutis exhibit the behavior of “scatter-hoarding”; they carry some seeds long distances and bury them without damage, just as squirrels in North America bury acorns. Fruits too heavy or awkward to be carried by bats or monkeys are often dispersed by animals like agoutis.

For example, people have wondered how the seeds of the Brazil nut tree are freed from the very hard woody fruit enclosing them. It is now known that Brazil nut fruits, after falling to the ground, are chiseled open by agoutis, which eat some of the seeds but scatter-hoard the rest. Agoutis generally fail to find all of the Brazil nut seeds they bury, and these are then free to germinate and grow into seedlings.

Agoutis are eaten by predators of the forest floor like the jaguar, large snakes, and bush dogs. They can also be taken by birds of prey like the Harpy eagle.