Ecology and Activity
The Patagonian mara is found only in Argentina. It ranges from 28ºS to 50ºS. Maras prefer to live in habitats with lots of shrub cover. However they also inhabit overgrazed and barren soils in the Monte Desert biome. In northwestern Argentina the mara primarily inhabits lowland habitats like forest and creosote bush or larrea. Maras prefer sandy and low shrub habitat in Valdes Peninsula. It well adapted to a cursorial lifestyle on the open plains and steppe, with its long legs, reduced clavicle and well-developed sensory organs making it capable of running and communicating in these open habitats. When running, maras have been compared to deer and antelope. Maras are largely herbivorous. They feed primarily on green vegetation and fruit. In the Monte Desert, monocots make up 70% of its diet while dicots make up 30%. Preferred grass species eaten are those of the genus Chloris, Pappophorum and Trichloris while dicots that are eaten are Atriplex lampa, Lycium and Prosopis.
Maras are primarily diurnal and spend around 46% of its daily activities are made of feeding. The temporal activity rhythms of maras are related to environmental factors. Light, precipitation and temperate have a positive effect on annual activities while darkness and relative humidity have a negative effect. The daily activity of the mara is unimodal in winter and biomodal in other seasons. The preferred temperature of the mara is around 20 °C (68 °F)C. Females spend more time feeding than the males, due to the demands of gestation and lactation. Males spend most of the day sitting, being vigilant for predators. Predators of maras, particularly the young, are felids, grisons, foxes and birds of prey. Mara are also hosts for parasites like the nematode worm Wellcomia dolichotis.
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