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Tuesday Tetrapod: Chinchilla lanigera

Posted by tigerhawkvok on June 15, 2010 20:28 in tuesday tetrapod

Today's Tuesday Tetrapod returns to the land of the fuzzy with Chinchilla lanigera, or the Chilean chinchilla.

C. lanigera

C. lanigera. Photo released into the public domain in the Wikimedia commons

Chinchillas belong to their own family, Chinchillidae, which include chinchillas and viscachas, rabbit-like rodents that also live in South America.

Chichilla coats are notable in a couple of ways. Their fur is so dense that you cannot wash them; when their fur gets wet it does not dry, encouraging fungal growth or fur rot. Instead, they naturally take dust baths, which dislodge particulates and absorb oils in their coat. In fact, their incredibly soft and dense coat makes them very sought after in the fur industry, meaning that both variants of the chinchilla are in fact critically endangered, estimated to be losing about 90% of its population every three generations (15 years) due largely to hunting. Chinchillas themselves can release some hair to facilitate in escape from a predator. Due to the density of their coats, chinchillas do not sweat.

Chinchillas are available as pets in the US, partially mitigating their rare status in the wild.

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