“Oh, what big teeth you have!”
Did you know that domestic Chinchillas that are often seen in pet shops actually originated from Chinchilla lanigera? As seen below, the first picture is that of the wild chinchilla also known as Chinchilla lanigera, while the one at the bottom is a picture of a domesticated chinchilla. The Chinchilla lanigera are endangered and are found in areas such as the mountains of northern Chile.
“Cuy dos Andes Peruanos (Chinchilas) by Marcello Bello, 20 January 2008
URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mbello/2222231350/ (accessed on 8 April 2013)
“Chinchillas” by Terri Oda, 13 July 2008
URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/terrio/2665993865/ (accessed on 8 April 2013)
Cute as they seem, these chinchillas actually have their very own unique defense mechanisms, as they are preys to many other animals. Given their small size, in order to scare off predators, they would often try to give the illusion that they are of big build by raising the fur on their tails and standing on their rear legs to assume an upright position. Also, they have strong powerful legs so that they can escape from their predators in the rocky terrain. If all else fails, these Chinchilla lanigera will use its sharp teeth to try to attack its predator in an attempt to survive.
What is interesting is that in the research paper, David A. Crossley 2001. Skull size and cheek-tooth Length in wild-caught and captive-bred chinchillas, Archives of Oral Biology Volume 46, Issue 10, Pages 919-928, it has been found that captive-bred chinchillas have longer teeth as compared to those found in the wild. One would have thought that the teeth of the captive-bred would be shorter than the wild-caught chinchillas so that they would be better at injuring their predators but due to their diet, the wild-caught chinchillas actually have lesser dental diseases and shorter teeth length compared to captive-bred ones. Goes to show that ones diet can really make a big difference!
1. David A. Crossley 2001. Skull size and cheek-tooth Length in wild-caught and captive-bred chinchillas by, Archives of Oral Biology Volume 46, Issue 10, Pages 919-928
2. The Behaviors of Wild Chinchillas by Hayley Ames
URL: http://www.ehow.com/info_8694698_behavior-wild-chinchillas.html (accessed on 6 April 2013)