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This is a different species than the South American rattleback. In this harsh desert the insulation properties of the scales and the behaviour of clamping down to the ground have helped it thrive in this hostile desert. Bristles around its face keep sand out of the face.


S - Meridionalivibrabitrursus vastus

G - Meridionalivibrabitrursus

F - Pacidae

O - Rodentia

C - Mammalia

P - Chordata

K - Animalia


The desert rattleback is adapted to living in the special conditions of the desert. Not all deserts are hot places; and this rattleback, larger than its cousins in the grasslands, has air pockets in its scales. Air is a poor conductor of heat, and the hollow scales act like an overcoat, keeping the rattleback warm – especially in the freezing nights.

Young rattlebacks are preyed on by the deathgleaner, bats with a four-foot wingspan that circle above the desert.

The desert rattleback has a longer face than the grassland type, covered with fur to keep sand from entering its eyes. Thick hairs on its face protect its eyes and nostrils from sandstorms. With fewer predators in the desert, the armoured scales reduced in size, making the desert rattleback look like a giant hedgehog instead of an armoured rodent. It even has a tail with fat reserves - the rattleback's ancestors had no tails.

When caught in ferocious sandstorms, it folds its flat scales down on its back to protect it against the storm.

It also clamps down onto the ground, digs in with its claws and flattens its scales if threatened by a predator.

Youngsters are vulnerable because their scales are soft.


The desert rattleback feeds mostly on tubers. The desert rattleback looks more primitive than the Amazonian species, making it unlikely that the latter was the forerunner of the former.

Desert rattlebacks dig for roots and tubers – especially the desert turnip that spinks also eat. It digs with its powerful claws and front legs – sometimes exposing underground spinks to circling deathgleaner bats.


Their Agouti ancestors breed as follows: The young are born in a nest of leaves, roots and hair, after a three-month gestation. Twins are usual. The young are precocious (born furred, with eyesight and able to run within an hour of birth). Adults may breed all year round.

Notable Rattlebacks[]


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