The chinchilla is a crepuscular animal part of the Rodentia order, better known as rodents.
Like any other rodent, chinchillas have two pairs of incisors that grow continuously.
Due to their small size and fluffy appearance, they’re often mistaken for squirrels.
Chinchillas, however, are larger and well-rounded, two of the aspects that contribute to their uniqueness.
There are two species in the Chinchilla genus: Chinchilla lanigera and Chinchilla chinchilla.
The species exhibit quite distinct characteristics, despite sharing fairly similar habitats; they are found close to the coastline in Chile, Bolivia, and Peru.
Keep reading to find out more about these interesting and cute rodents!
Did you know that chinchillas can feature a wide variety of fur colors, from dark blue-gray to yellow-gray, beige, white, ebony, sapphire, violet, and even velvet?
These coat colors can usually be found only in wild chinchillas, however.
Commonly known as the long-tailed chinchilla, C. lanigera is also referred to as the common, lesser, coastal, or Chilean chinchilla.
In 2016, this species was present only in a small, isolated area of Chile, from the border with Argentina all the way to the coastline.
Unfortunately, Chinchilla lanigera is an endangered rodent species, with only around 5,300 specimens alive today.
This was caused mainly by overexploitation and hunting, with chinchilla fur being turned into luxurious coats.
They are small animals with a total body length of about 10 inches and a weight of around 15 oz.
Despite their small stature and cute appearance, long-tailed chinchillas are found in rough environments.
Specifically, the species is present mainly in rocky, mountainous areas about 2,600-6,000 feet above sea level.
Chinchilla fur, including that of long-tailed chinchillas, is a suitable material for luxurious coats due to its density.
Besides being incredibly soft, a single hair follicle in a chinchilla’s coat can produce up to 50-75 individual hairs.
On the other hand, we humans have only 2-3 hairs stemming from each follicle.
Suppose you’re lucky enough to spot a long-tailed chinchilla while eating.
In that case, you will also notice how it sits up straight while holding its meal (vegetation, seeds, and grass) in its tiny forepaws.
Chinchilla lanigera will feast on insects and bird eggs on special occasions.
1. Short-Tailed Chinchilla
Commonly known as the short-tailed chinchilla, this species is also endangered for the same reasons as its relatives.
In the past, Chinchilla chinchilla could be found in Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile alongside the long-tailed chinchilla.
Overexploitation and hunting shifted the species’ habitat.
Nowadays, this cute rodent is found primarily in northern Chile, in the Andes.
The short-tailed chinchilla is larger than Chinchilla lanigera, exhibiting thicker necks, a larger total body size, wider shoulders, and smaller ears.
The main difference is the tail; long-tailed chinchillas have about 130 mm long tails.
In contrast, short-tailed chinchillas have shorter tails, about 100 mm long.
Chinchillas are extremely vocal, an aspect you might be familiar with if you have one as a pet.
According to studies, these cute furballs can emit up to ten different sounds, influenced by various activities or actions in their surrounding environment.
Also, scientists could identify both a vocal range and sound tones in chinchilla speech.
The two species of chinchillas are known as one of the longest-living species of rodents worldwide, surviving up to 20 years in captivity.
Naturally, their lifespan is much shorter in the wild due to predators – about ten years.
Still, compared to the average lifespan of rodents overall – eight years – chinchillas live quite a long life.