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Species of the Week: Santa Catarina’s guinea pig

By on September 26, 2011 in Uncategorized, Species of the Week

This is one of the rarest species on the planet because of its very small population size (between 24 to 60 individuals). Santa Catarina’s guinea pig (Cavia intermedia) also has one of the world’s smallest geographical distributions for a mammal. It is found in an area of only 4 ha in Serra do Tabuleiro State Park, on Moleques do Sul Island, in the state of Santa Catarina (hence its name), Brazil.

The ancestors of this species diverged from the mainland guinea pigs following the isolation of Moleques do Sul Island as a result of rising sea levels some 8,000 years ago.  Over this time period the species has evolved a number of characteristics that distinguish it from other guinea pigs; including a different number of chromosomes from any other species. This species has adapted to life in an island: it has high population density and a small home range. The species also has low reproductive rates: most females only have one offspring which is born quiet large and it takes relatively long for Santa Catarina’s guinea pigs to reach sexual maturity, and be able to reproduce.  This species is Critically Endangered and its characteristics make it particularly vulnerable to threats such as hunting and natural disasters.

This week’s star was selected by our twitter followers. If you would like to see a particular EDGE species featured in this series get in touch!