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Monito del Monte


The Monito del Monte (Spanish for "little mountain monkey"), Dromiciops gliroides, is a diminutive marsupial native only to southwestern South America (Chile and Argentina). It is notable for having been thought to have become extinct 11 million years ago until being rediscovered in the modern age. The species is nocturnal and arboreal, and lives in thickets of Chilean bamboo in the Valdivian temperate rain forests of the southern Andes, aided by its partially prehensile tail. It eats primarily insects and other small invertebrates, supplemented with fruit.

History

According to studies, the Monito del Monte may be more closely related to Australian marsupials than to other South American marsupials. Tiny prehistoric bones have been found on a Queensland farm and are being directly linked to the Monito del Monte. One of Australias earliest known marsupials was the Djarthia, which is a primitive mouse-like animal that lived about 55 million years ago. The Djarthia is now being labeled by scientists as a primitive relative of the Monito del Monte. This research suggests that the Monito del Monte is the last of a lineage that can be traced back to Djarthia. The estimated time of divergence between the Monito del Monte and Australian marsupials is 46 million years ago.

Reproduction

The Monito del Monte normally reproduces in the spring and can have a litter size varying anywhere from 1 to 4 young. The females have a pseudovagina, and a fur-lined pouch containing 4 mammae. When the young are mature enough to leave the pouch they are nursed in a nest, and then carried on the mothers back. The young remain in association with the mother after weaning. Males and females both reach sexual maturity after 2 years.

Habitat

The Monito del Monte mainly live in trees, where they construct spherical nests of water resistant bamboo leaves. These leaves are then lined with moss or grass, and placed in well protected areas of the tree. The nests are sometimes covered with grey moss as a form of camouflage. These nests provide the Monito del Monte with some protection from the cold, both when it is active and when it hibernates. It stores fat in the base of its tail for winter hibernation. It lives in the dense, humid forests of highland Chile and Argentina.

Role as a seed disperser

A study performed in the temperate forests of southern Argentina showed a mutualistic seed dispersal relationship between D. gliroides and Tristerix corymbosus, also known as the Loranthacous mistletoe. The Monito del Monte is the single dispersal agent for this plant, and without it the plant would go extinct. The Monito del Monte eats the fruit of T. corymbosus, and thus disperses the seeds. Scientists speculate that the coevolution of these two species could have begun 60-70 million years ago.

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About the Monito del Monte

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Monito del Monte


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