For the first time in 100 years, researchers have provided new information on the cute South American rodent the tuco-tuco. Named after the ‘tuc-tuc’ sound they make when digging the burrows, the Argentinean rodent tuco-tuco is an elusive animal that spends the majority of its life underground. Their subterranean behaviour makes research challenging and many unanswered questions remain about the biogeography and the evolution of the species. Recent research provides new information on the species.
By M. Mónica Díaz
The rodents of the genus Ctenomys are known to Argentineans by their common name “tuco-tucos”. The name of the genus (Ctenomys = comb mouse) was given in reference to the large fringes of hard hairs on the claws of the hind feet, forming a “comb” that it uses to sweep the dust outside, while they build their tunnels by digging.
Exclusively from South America, tuco-tucos are difficult to observe because of their burrowing habits and because they dwell underground. However, like the European mole, their whereabouts are obvious by the mounds of earth they leave after digging their burrows and also for their exclusive songs that gave rise to their common onomatopoeic name “tuco tuco”.
Their appearance is typical; they are charismatic animals, robust, with wide and highly visible upper incisors, reduced eyes and ears, and well-developed foreclaws. Although the genus has well-defined characteristics, its many species are generally little known and very difficult to identify from each other.
In a study recently published in Mammalia, Argentinean researchers conducted field trips to search for the rare species which were first described by the great British mammalogist, Oldfield Thomas, and collected by the renamed Argentine naturalist Emilio Budin.
The species was only known from a few specimens, those used for description in 1920, and no additional information has been obtained since then. Consequently, the researchers scheduled a trip to the original collecting site, with the intention of obtaining more specimens and information on the species and environment.
To find the exact location of the type locality, the Argentinean researchers travelled to the Argentine province of La Rioja, and had the support of original field notes from the collector Emilio Budin.
Potrerillo is a small town located at the base of the Sierras de Famatina. There they were able to collect two specimens, the first known after a hundred years since the discovery of the species.
This allowed the researchers to improve the tuco-tuco’s description, whilst adding new characters, morphological, metrical and molecular, as well as providing novel information about the type locality, its topographic characteristics, vegetation, altitude, geographic coordinates and conservation status of the area.
This research will go toward ensuring that the species is protected under local conservation laws.
Read the original article for free here
Tatiana Sánchez, H. Ivanna Tomasco, M. Mónica Díaz, and Rubén M. Barquez: Contribution to the knowledge of the rare “Famatina tuco-tuco”, Ctenomys famosus Thomas 1920 (Rodentia: Ctenomyidae). 12.04.2018