Monito del Monte, Dromiciops gliroides

The monito del monte (Dromiciops gliroides), Spanish for little bush monkey, is a species of marsupial that can only be found in southwestern areas of South America, specifically in Argentina and Chile. This species prefers to reside in Valdivian temperate rain forests and mountain bamboo forests. It was once thought that this species is descended from marsupials living in Australia, but studies have shown that Australidelphia marsupials most likely originated in South America and later moved to Australia in one large dispersal.

The monito del monte reaches an average body length between 4.3 and 4.9 inches, with a tail length of up to 3.9 inches. The reproduction season for this species occurs in the spring months, during which time females give birth to one to four young. Young will remain in their mother’s pouch until they are developed enough to reside in a nest, at which point the mother will carry them on her back. After weaning occurs, young will remain in contact with their mothers. Both males and females reach sexual maturity at two years of age.

Like many other marsupial species, the monito del monte resides in trees, building spherical nests out of colihue leaves, which are water proof. The nest is lined with various grasses or mosses and later lined with grey moss, which acts as a camouflage. These nests provide the marsupials with added warmth during warmer months when they are active and during winter months when they hibernate. This species consumes small invertebrates like insects as well as fruit when needed. The fruit of Tristerix corymbosus is an important part of this species’ diet, and it is known as an important seed disperser for the tree. It is thought that without this relationship, the tree would become extinct. The monito del monte appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Near Threatened.”

Image Caption: The monito del monte (Dromiciops gliroides) is an enigmatic marsupial native to Argentina and Chile that may be more closely related to Australian marsupials than other South American marsupials. Credit: José Luis Bartheld/Wikipedia (CC BY 2.0)