Thylamys elegans primarily inhabits the Chilean Matorral, an ecoregion characterized by a Mediterranean climate and sclerophyllous vegetation. The Atacama desert lies to the north of the Matorral, and Thylamys elegans might inhabit parts of this habitat as well. (Giarla, et al., 2010; Palma, 1997)
Like other members of its genus, Thylamys elegans is notable for its incrassate (fattened) tail. The size of the tail varies by season in accordance with food availability. This species is tricolored, with darker dorsal fur, paler lateral fur, and a cream-colored ventral region. Giarla et al. (2010) report body lengths of 90 to 127 mm, with tails 105 to 134 mm long. Although this species is a marsupial, females do not have a pouch (Palma, 1997). Bozinovic et al. (2005) report a basal metabolic rate of 1.07 mL oxygen per gram-hour-ºC (Bozinovic, et al., 2005; Giarla, et al., 2010; Palma, 1997)
Little is known about the mating system in Thylamys elegans. Palma (1997) reports that two adults have never been found in the same nest, suggesting that this species does not form monogamous breeding pairs. (Palma, 1997)
Breeding season for Thylamys elegans occurs from September through March, with females having one or two litters per season. Up to 17 embryos have been reported, but survival is limited by the number of functional nipples on the female, which is typically 11 to 13 (Palma, 1997). (Palma, 1997)
No published records of lifespan exist for this species.
Little is known about the behavior of Thylamys elegans. This species is likely solitary, as most small, insectivorous mammals are. As is the case for other members of this genus, Thylamys elegans is nocturnal and experiences daily torpor. Individuals build nests out of hair and leaves in rocks, trees, and abandoned rodent burrows (Palma 1997). (Palma, 1997)
In winter, the home range of Thylamys elegans was estimated to be approximately 1,400 square meters. In summer, this species' home range is smaller and estimated to be approximately 800 square meters. (Palma, 1997)
Because this species is small and nocturnal, communication between individuals is likely primarily olfactory in nature. Palma (1997) reports that the olfactory and visual regions of this species' brain are especially well developed. (Palma, 1997)
Thylamys elegans acts as an important predator of many arthropod species and some small vertebrates. It is prey to several bird and medium-sized mammals, such as owls and foxes. It is likely host to many ecto- and endoparasites. More specific information about the ecosystem role of Thylamys elegans is not presently available. (Palma, 1997)
This species likely has little direct impact on humans.
This species likely has little direct impact on humans.
Thylamys elegans is considered "least concern" by the IUCN.
Tom Giarla (author), University of Minnesota, Sharon Jansa (editor), American Museum of Natural History, Robert Voss (editor), American Museum of Natural History, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.
uses sound to communicate
young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.
Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
an animal that mainly eats meat
flesh of dead animals.
Found in coastal areas between 30 and 40 degrees latitude, in areas with a Mediterranean climate. Vegetation is dominated by stands of dense, spiny shrubs with tough (hard or waxy) evergreen leaves. May be maintained by periodic fire. In South America it includes the scrub ecotone between forest and paramo.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.
in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
parental care is carried out by females
An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
active during the night
scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.
breeding is confined to a particular season
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
uses touch to communicate
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
Living on the ground.
uses sight to communicate
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
Bozinovic, F., G. Ruiz, A. Cortes, M. Rosenmann. 2005. Energetics, thermoregulation and torpor in the Chilean mouse-opossum Thylamys elegans (Didelphidae). Revista Chilena de Historia Natural, 78: 199-206.
Giarla, T., R. Voss, S. Jansa. 2010. Species Limits and Phylogenetic Relationships in the Didelphid Marsupial Genus Thylamys Based on Mitochondrial DNA Sequences and Morphology. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 346: 1-67.
Palma, R. 1997. Thylamys elegans. Mammalian Species, 572: 1-4.