Agouti The Celebrity Gene

Agouti The Celebrity Gene turns Cat into Tabby

The lowly Caribbean Agouti, which always gets to my growing broccoli before I do, turns out to be a big cheese in the science of genetics!  In future I will have more respect whilst planning ways to prevent them using my vegetable garden like their own!

Agouti the celebrity gene

Agouti the celebrity gene: An agouti munching on a guava

The Agouti gene which governs banding and spotting on mammals is so-called after the dark unusual fur colouring, (brown streaked with grey)  found on the genus Dasyproctidae.  The genus covers a large group of about 12 different types of South American rodents, known to us more commonly as the Agouti.

Back to the gene; some cats are tabby because of the Agouti Gene, some horses are bays, and some dogs have sable and tan points, all to do with recessive and dominant genes!  Tigers, leopards and zebras are all effected by it and the list goes on.

Our own tabby is unmoved by all of this fancy schmanzy celebrity gene stuff.    As the agoutis who share our property with us, pass by her, she crouches low and swishes her tail watching their every move.  Foraging busily for cashew fruit or guava on the ground within 6 inches of her nose, they are not in the least perturbed by her vicinity!  Whilst she becomes very indignant at their stolid ignorance of her dangerous, predatory presence.  She is twice their size and yet she never quite has the courage to try to jump an agouti.  Wise cat! .. I doubt she would win, they have vicious teeth and can move very fast.

Agouti the Celebrity Gene

Agouti the Celebrity Gene – pair of agoutis foraging

Full grown, they can reach up to 26 inches long and about 10 pounds in weight. Like guinea pigs, agoutis have small round ears and very short tails, however unlike the guinea pig, their legs are elongated, more like a kangaroo. They eat fruit, nuts, and plants. When food is plentiful, they carefully bury seeds to dig up later. They can live for up to 20 years. 

Agoutis are active during the day, sleeping at night and are hunted throughout the islands as they make good eating.  Hunting is done with either packs of dogs or shotguns.   When in danger they have the ability to raise their tail fur extending the seeming length and size of their hind quarters to double their size.  This might work with a few dogs but unfortunately not against bullets.

Agoutis are found on the larger islands of the Antilles where they were introduced many years ago.  Bones have been found in archeological sites, so its known that they have survived as a sub species of a Brazilian strain for probably centuries.

Its natural for them to treat forest and farm as borderless, and so good fencing around plantings in the garden is essential.  If your whole property is fenced then you have the security from the agoutis,  but not the pleasure of sharing the pickings of your orchard and garden with them.

For my own part,  I love to watch them during the day hopping around the property, but I do wish they would leave my brassicas alone!

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