The Robinson Library >> Science >> Zoology >> Mammals >> Order Rodentia

Dinomys branickii [dI' nO mEz bran' ick E I]


Looking somewhat like a greatly oversized guinea pig, one of the largest living rodents in the world grows to a length of 2-3 feet, not including a tail of up to 8 inches, and weighs 22-33 pounds. The pacarana has a large head compared to its body, small eyes, and short, curved ears. The coarse fur is typically dark brown or blackish with two prominent discontinuous white stripes along the back and a few rows of white spots down each side. There are four digits on each foot, each with a long and powerful claw.

two pacaranas

Distribution and Habitat

Pacaranas inhabit the slopes and valleys of rainforests in western South America from Colombia to Bolivia, at altitudes of 800 to 6,600 feet. In the wild it shelters in natural crevices, which it enlarges by digging with its strong claws; in captivity, however, they tend to shelter in trees.

Habits and Behaviors

Because pacaranas are very difficult to study in the wild, almost everything we know about them comes from observations of captive individuals. They appear to be non-aggressive and mainly nocturnal. Although they are most commonly seen on the ground in the wild, captive pacaranas often spend as much time in trees as they do on the ground. Slow-moving on the ground, they are very agile climbers. Wild pacaranas tend to be seen either singly or in the pairs, but those kept at zoos and wildlife parks often associate in family groups consisting of a breeding pair and successive generations of offspring. There seems to be an elaborate communication system consisting of a combination of foot stamping with fore paws, tooth chattering, whines, songs, and hisses.


Both wild and captive pacaranas feed primainly on fruits, leaves, and stems. When feeding, they commonly sit on their hind legs and hold the food between the fore paws.


In the wild, newborn pacaranas are most commonly seen in January and February. In captivity, gestation takes 222-283 days, and the average litter consists of only one or two young. The young are very active and curious within a few days.

The maximum captive lifespan is about 9.5 years.

Conservation Status

First described by a Polish count named Branicki in 1873, it has never been determined how common the pacarana is in the wild. It is currently classified as threatened, on the verge of being endangered, primarily because its habitat is itself threatened. It is likely that pacaranas are far more numerous in areas that have been relatively undisturbed by human activity, but their numbers have definitely declined in areas where humans are very active.

Scientific Classification

Phylum Chordata
Subphylum Vertebrata
Class Mammalia
Order Rodentia
Family Dinomyidae
Genus and Species Dinomys branickii

Animal Diversity Web
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The Robinson Library >> Science >> Zoology >> Mammals >> Order Rodentia

This page was last updated on June 15, 2017.