Science and conservation for the world’s 2800 small mammal species

Rodents: Family: Chinchillidae

holding_imgChinchillidae is a family of medium to large-sized chinchillas and viscachas in the order Rodentia, the suborder Hystricomorpha, and the Infraorder Hystricognathi. Little research has been conducted regarding the family’s phylogenetic history. However, recent studies have shown that the family is a monophyletic clade that is related to Dinomyidae, another small mammalian family from South America. The family Chinchillidae includes three extinct genera and three extant genera: Chinchilla, consisting of the species Chinchilla chinchilla and Chinchilla lanigera, Lagidium with the species Laguidium peruanum, Lagidium viscacia, Lagidium wolffsohni, and Lagidium ahuacaense, and Lagostomus with the species Lagostomus maximus. The family Chinchillidae first appeared in South America during the Oligocene. Members of the family commonly live in areas with rocky terrain, open areas, and shrub lands. Animals habituating in higher elevations protect themselves by burrowing, but are not known for their speed or adept digging capabilities. Animals habituating in the plains, however, live in subterranean colonies and are able to navigate efficiently enough to evade predators.

Members of Chinchillidae originated in Southern South America, specifically in the Andes mountains. Adaptations to fit this rough and rocky terrain include fleshy foot pads, called pallipes, strong hind legs, and long bushy tails. Chinchillids are herbivorous and have cheek teeth that continue to grow throughout the individual’s life. The chinchillid jaw is also hystricognathous based on the absence of an infraorbital plate and the partial passage of muscles through the infraorbital foramen. Additional adaptations include short front legs and long back legs. This reflects the occassional locomotion of bipedal jumping exhibited by chinchillids. The number of digits varies between chinchillas and viscachas, with the former have four and the latter having three. Chinchillas are a popular commodity in the pet trade and clothing industry due to their cute appearance and soft fur. Because of this, the wild population is decreasing dramatically, and is considered to be critically endangered.



Work Cited
Myers, P. 2000. “Chinchillidae chinchillas and viscachas” (Online). Animal Diversity Web. Accessed February 24, 2015 at
Spotorno, A. et al. (2004). “Molecular divergence and phylogenetic relationships of chinchillids.” Journal of Mammalogy 85.3 (2004). Web. 24 February 2015.
Vaughn, T. et al. (2013). Mammalogy. Pg. 227-228. Retrieved from:

Author: Anna Cole