Agoutis scurry quickly among the rocks and tree roots of rainforests looking for fruit to eat. As a jaguar approaches, they sound a barking alarm and run for cover.
Approximately two feet long, with a short tail, and weigh 4 to 5 pounds. Their long legs are adapted for fast running. Although their ears are small, they have excellent hearing. The coat is coarse and glossy, and the coloration is brown to black with a yellow to white under-belly. They live in excavated burrows under rocks, between tree roots, or in sloping banks. They can jump vertically and reach nearly six feet. They often sit with their bodies erect and their ankles flat on the ground so they can dart off at full speed if threatened.
Breeding is seasonal when fruit is in abundance. In captivity breeding is continuous. Newborns are fully furred with their eyes open, and are able to run in their first hour after birth. Agoutis are reported to live as mated pairs until death.
There are a number of high-pitched squeaking vocalizations, and an alarm bark similar to that of a small dog. Although they are not currently listed as endangered, there is concern, as they are hunted as a food source.
The Zoo is protecting wildlife and habitats in Latin America through the Scott Neotropical Fund.
The agouti has 5 toes on its front feet and 3 on its hind feet. Unlike most rodents, who walk flat-footed, the agouti walks on its toes.
Agoutis live close to water and construct burrows among limestone boulders, river banks and under tree roots. Each has several sleeping areas -- hollow logs, under dense vegetation, among tree roots -- and well defined paths radiate from the shelters. Basically diurnal, they have become nocturnal where hunted.
Both seasonal and continuous reproduction takes place in captivity. Most births occur between March and July when fruit is abundant. The male sprays the female with urine, causing her to go into a "frenzy dance" that allows the male to approach. Newborns are precocial and are on their feet and can run within an hour of birth. Nursing lasts for 20 weeks.