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Chinchilla
Temporal range: 0 Ma
Recent
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Chinchillidae
Genus: Chinchilla
Bennett, 1829
Species

Chinchilla lanigera
Chinchilla chinchilla[1][2]

Range of Chinchilla lanigera and Chinchilla chinchilla.
  Chinchilla chinchilla
  Chinchilla lanigera

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Chinchilla lanigera
Chinchilla chinchilla[1][2]


Chinchillas are crepuscular rodents, slightly larger and more robust than ground squirrels, native to the Andes mountains in South America. They live in colonies at high altitudes (up to 15,000 ft/4,270 m). Historically, they lived in the Andes of Bolivia, Chile, and Peru, but today colonies in the wild remain only in Chile.[3] Along with their relatives, viscachas, they make up the family Chinchillidae.


The animal (whose name literally means "little chincha") is named after the Chincha people of the Andes, who once wore its dense, velvet-like fur.[4] By the end of the 19th century, chinchillas had become quite rare due to hunting for their ultra-soft fur. Most chinchillas currently used by the fur industry for clothing and other accessories are farm-raised.[5]


The two living species of chinchilla are Chinchilla chinchilla[1][2] (formerly known as Chinchilla brevicaudata) and Chinchilla lanigera. There is little noticeable difference between the species, except C. chinchilla has a shorter tail, a thicker neck and shoulders, and shorter ears than C. lanigera. The former species is currently facing extinction; the latter, though rare, can be found in the wild.[6] Domesticated chinchillas are thought to have come from the C. lanigera species.[7]


In their native habitats, chinchillas live in burrows or crevices in rocks. They are agile jumpers and can jump up to 6 ft (1.8 m). Predators in the wild include birds of prey, skunks, felines, snakes and canines. Chinchillas have a variety of defensive tactics, including spraying urine and releasing fur if bitten.[8] In the wild, chinchillas have been observed eating plant leaves, fruits, seeds, and small insects.[6]


In nature, chinchillas live in social groups that resemble colonies, but are properly called herds. They can breed any time of the year. Their gestation period is 111 days, longer than most rodents. Due to this long pregnancy, chinchillas are born fully furred and with eyes open. Litters are usually small in number, predominantly two.[9]


The international trade in chinchilla fur goes back to the 16th century. Their fur is popular in the fur trade due to its extremely soft feel, which is caused by the sprouting of 60 hairs from each hair follicle, on average. The color is usually very even, which makes it ideal for small garments or the lining of large garments, though som..

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