Fauna

Did you know about the Patagonian Piche?

The Piche, also known as Pichi, Patagonian Piche, Quirquincho or Armadillo of Patagonia, is a small mammal that inhabits the Patagonian region of Argentina and Chile, up to the Strait of Magellan. It belongs to the Chlamyphoridae family and is one of the smallest species of armadillo, weighing around 900 grams.

Piches have an average total length, including head, shell, and tail, of up to 60 cm and a height of approximately 12 cm, with small ears. Their shell is dark brown, and their tail, belly, and legs are yellowish-gray. The head is covered with plates similar to those on the shell, has a long snout, and small eyes. The legs are equipped with strong hooves.

Distribution

Before the 1970s, this species did not inhabit southern Chilean Patagonia or Argentine Patagonia. Human-made structures such as roads, pipelines, and especially bridges over rivers, in addition to other anthropogenic alterations for over a century, modified the environmental conditions of the region, allowing it to invade areas where it could not have naturally conquered. Fossil remains of specimens of this genus have been exhumed.

Behavior

The Piche is a solitary, diurnal, and semi-fossorial animal that inhabits grasslands and dry regions with sandy soils in Patagonia and central Argentina. It seeks protection from predators, excessive cold in winter, and summer heat by digging shallow burrows. When threatened, it hides inside its shell and flattens against the ground to prevent attackers from reaching its soft belly. Possibly, it is the only Piche that can enter hibernation.

Diet

The Piche is an opportunistic omnivore. Its diet is composed of insects, worms, and small vertebrates such as lizards or rodents. Occasionally, it also consumes vegetables and mosses.

Reproduction and lifespan

The female Piche gives birth to two or three pups after a 60-day gestation period. The offspring feed themselves from the sixth week and sexually mature between nine and twelve months. The oldest known Piche in captivity lived for nine years.

Threats

Piche hunting is a relatively frequent activity in Patagonia, where many people appreciate its meat. Although human density in the region is low, its populations have undergone a significant decline. It has been classified as “Near Threatened” (NT) by the IUCN due to strong hunting pressures, modifications, and fragmentation of its habitat.

The 3 main causes of the endangerment of the huemul
An exciting excursion with sea lion pups