Zygodontomys brevicauda (short-tailed cane mice) is native to eastern Central America and northern South America, as well as some nearby islands. More specifically, it is found in a variety of habitats from eastern Costa Rica, south to western Ecuador, east to French Guiana, and on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. Though Z. brevicauda is found as far inland as northern Brazil, they most commonly live in areas near water.
Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )
Zygodontomys brevicauda ranges in head-body length from 95 to 155 mm, and its tail ranges from 35 to 130 mm in length. Tail length is typically three-quarters the length of an individual's head-body length. Adults weigh 60 to 80 g, and captive-born pups weigh 3 to 4 g at birth. Zygodontomys brevicauda has grizzled brown pelage with hues of yellow and red. The venter ranges from grayish-white to darker shades of gray. Pelage color varies with population and habitat type. Island residents are more richly pigmented than those found in arid, mainland regions.
Members of Zygodontomys can be distinguished from most sigmodontinids by their shorter tails and short hind feet, and can be distinguished from Akodon (i.e., grass mice) by the short nails on their forefeet. Zygodontomys brevicauda can be distinguished from its closest extant relative, Zygodontomys brunneus, by its smaller size and deeper zygomatic notches. Sexual dimorphism has not been reported in this species.
Average mass: 80 g.
Range length: 95 to 155 mm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Zygodontomys brevicauda can be found in a wide variety of habitats including grasslands, marshes, roadsides, forests and agricultural lands, and is typically found at lower elevations (0 to 600 m). Because it can inhabit many different environments, it is better-suited than most sigmodontinids for inhabiting areas near human development, including areas dominated by invasive plant species. Zygodontomys brevicauda is most commonly found in open fields with dense grass or ground cover, where it creates runways connecting feeding and nesting areas.
Range elevation: 0 to 600 m.
Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; rainforest
Other Habitat Features: agricultural
Habitat and Ecology
This species is nocturnal and terrestrial. Its diet includes seeds, fruit, and green plant material. This species makes short burrows in banks or under tree roots, leadings to nests made of grasses and plant down (Reid 1997). In Venezuela, breeding occurs year-round and litter size averages 4.1 (O’Connell 1982).
Short-tailed cane mice are omnivorous, feeding mostly on seeds, grains, insects and fruit. They are also known to eat fungi, insect larvae and grass. Short-tailed cane mice are used in biological studies investigating dietary quality and gastrointestinal function, as they have exceptionally broad diets and are tolerant of a wide range of foods.
Animal Foods: insects
Plant Foods: seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit
Other Foods: fungus
Primary Diet: omnivore
As omnivores, short-tailed cane mice are opportunistic feeders that consume both plants and animals. They are locally abundant throughout their range and may have a significant influence on insect pest populations. As herbivores and granivores, they likely disperse the seeds of various plants throughout their geographic range. They are an important prey item for a wide variety of carnivorous animals. Short-tailed cane mice are host to numerous ectoparasites, including mites (Laelaps dearmasi), lice (Hoplopleura nesoryzomydis), fleas, ticks and chiggers (Atelepalme smarma). They are also host to various endoparasites including pinworms and trichomonad protozoa. Short-tailed cane mice are reservoirs for various diseases, such as Yersina pseudotuberculosis, Hantavarus and murine coronavirus, which may affect local wildlife and human populations.
- mites (Laelaps dearmasi)
- lice (Hoplopleura nesoryzomydis)
- chiggers (Atelepalme smarma)
- fleas (Siphonaptera)
- pinworms (Syphacia)
- trichomonad protozoa (Hexamita)
- murine coronavirus (Coronavirinae)
- Yersina pseudotuberculosis
Short-tailed cane mice live in a variety of habitats and therefore face a diverse group of predators. Major predators include various birds of prey, including barn owls, striped owl, white-tailed kites, and gray hawks; and small carnivorous mammals, including forest foxes and jaguarundi. Their coloration likely helps reduce risk of predation and the semi-fossorial tendencies help minimize interactions with potential predators.
- barn owl (Tyto alba)
- striped owl (Asio clamator)
- white-tailed kites (Elanus leucurus)
- gray hawks (Asturina nitida)
- forest fox (Cerdocyon thous)
- jaguarundi (Felis jagouaroundi)
Life History and Behavior
There is no information available regarding communication and perception in Zygodontomys brevicauda. However, similar to other sigmodontine rodents, they likely use sight, olfaction, hearing and touch to perceive their environment. It is common for mice to communicate vocally with squeaking sounds or visual signals. Zygodontomys brevicauda may also use scent or chemical cues used to demarcate territorial boundaries and communicate with conspecifics during mating season.
Communication Channels: tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: pheromones ; scent marks
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
There is no information available regarding the lifespan of short-tailed cane mice. The average lifespan of wild members of the subfamily Sigmodontinae is less than one year. Those living in captivity can live much longer, sometimes up to 5 years, probably due to adequate food supply and lack of predators.
There is little information on the mating systems of Zygodontomys brevicauda. However, members of the subfamily Sigmodontinae generally have promiscuous mating systems. However, Akodon azarae is polygynous females mates with a single male and males attempt to mate with as many females as possible.
Zygodontomys brevicauda is unique in that it breeds throughout the year non-seasonally. Short-tailed cane mice do not respond to changes in photoperiod; instead, mating habits are related to resource availability or social cues. Ovulation is spontaneous, and gestation typically lasts for 25 days. Litter size ranges from 1 to 11 pups, but generally consists of about 5 pups. Females exhibit post-partum estrus and experience no delay in implantation due to lactation.
Neonates are born altricial, without hair and teeth, but digits are separated. Young develop juvenile pelage around the 5th day after birth and open their eyes on the 6th or 7th day following birth. Females become mature by 25.6 days after birth, and males become mature by 42.3 days. The presence of adult males increases the rate of uterine growth in young females.
Breeding season: Short-tailed cane mice breed non-seasonally throughout the year.
Range number of offspring: 1 to 11.
Average number of offspring: 4.6.
Average gestation period: 25 days.
Range weaning age: 9 to 11 days.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 25.6 days.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 42.3 days.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous ; post-partum estrous
Zygodontomys brevicauda constructs nests from grasses and fallen plant material under tree roots, in holes, or on the bare ground. Females increase food intake during pregnancy to support the development of young and lactation. Young born are altricial and depend on their mother for food and protection in the days following birth. After birth, females nurse young for up to 11 days. Little is know of paternal care in Z. brevicauda; however, in the closely related genus Akodon, females become aggressive towards males shortly before birth and raise the litter on their own.
Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Zygodontomys brevicauda
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 27
Species With Barcodes: 1
Zygodontomys brevicauda is a species of "least concern" on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species. It is widely distributed and abundant throughout its geographic range. There do not appear to be any major threats to this species.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Zygodontomys brevicauda is attracted to areas near human disturbance and agricultural fields. In particular, it can be found on the borders of sugar cane fields and fields containing sorghum and corn, where they become pests by destroying the fields. Further, Z. brevicauda is a reservoir for many Neotropical viruses, including yellow fever, the Guanarito arenavirus that causes Venezuelan hemorrhagic fever, and various hantaviruses that can be spread to humans through rodent-human contact.
Negative Impacts: injures humans (carries human disease); crop pest
Zygodontomys brevicauda is easy to capture in the wild and is a prolific breeder in captivity, making it an excellent model organism for biomedical research. In addition, it copes well with methoxyflurane anesthesia, has a short generation time, recover well from surgery, and urinates and defecates sparingly. It is known to carry a variety of Neotropical viruses and is valuable in epidemiology studies.
Positive Impacts: research and education
Zygodontomys brevicauda, also known as the short-tailed zygodont, short-tailed cane mouse, or common cane mouse, is a species of rodent in the genus Zygodontomys of tribe Oryzomyini. It occurs from Costa Rica via Panama, Colombia and Venezuela into Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana and northern Brazil, including Trinidad and Tobago. It includes three subspecies: Zygodontomys brevicauda brevicauda, Zygodontomys brevicauda cherriei, and Zygodontomys brevicauda microtinus. Many Zygodontomys brevicauda serve as viral reservoirs, causing illnesses such as Venezuelan hemorrhagic fever. 
- Musser and Carleton, 2005
- Delgado et al., 2008
- Duff and Lawson, 2004
- Salas, R., and De Manzione, N.. "Venezuelan haemorrhagic fever." Lancet. 8774.338 (1991): 1033-1037. Print.
- Delgado, C., Rivas, B., Anderson, R. P., Gómez-Laverde, M. & Emmons, L. (2008). Zygodontomys brevicauda. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 27 February 2009.
- Duff, A. and Lawson, A. 2004. Mammals of the World: A checklist. Yale University Press, 312 pp. ISBN 978-0-300-10398-4
- Musser, G.G. and Carleton, M.D. 2005. Superfamily Muroidea. Pp. 894–1531 in Wilson, D.E. and Reeder, D.M. (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: a taxonomic and geographic reference. 3rd ed. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2 vols., 2142 pp. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0
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