Where Will I Find The Creatures of Patagonia?

Instructional Objectives
Background Material

Topic: Patagonian Wildlife Populations

Instructional Objectives: Students will:

1. Identify species that live in Patagonia.

2. Identify which areas these species can be found in Patagonia.

3. Identify the specific characteristics of the animals of Patagonia.

Background Material:

Scientific names are given for the sole purpose of researching the animals on the World Wide Web. Scientific names will narrow search patterns a great deal and make the research much easier.

All information gathered for this section is from:
Redford, Kent H. and Eisenberg, John F., Mammals of the Neotropics, The Southern Cone, Volume 2, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1992.

Location of species can be found on Patagonian map with key.

Information on some of Patagonia's Wildlife:

Patagonian Opossum
(Lestodelphys halli - scientific name) The Patagonian opossum has very long canine teeth, short ears, feet with claws, a tail which is shorter than the head and body, and is gray brown. The fur of the opossum is thick and very soft. The male opossum has orange fur on the front of the throat. The Patagonian opossum occurs farther south than any other marsuipial. Very little is known about this rare animal; however, its long canine teeth and claws indicate that it is a carnivore.

Larger Hairy Armadillo
(Chaetophractus villosus - scientific name) The larger hairy armadillo is found throughout western Patagonia. This is the largest species of armadillo. It has a large head shield and short ears. It is dark-colored with long black hair.

Killer Whale
(Orcinus orca - scientific name) The killer whale is common on the coasts of Patagonia. The killer whale is the largest of the dolphins, with black on the back, white on the bottom while. Some have a white saddle on the back. Additionally, the killer whales eat fish , seals, sea lions, birds, turtles and sting rays.

Killer whales grow to 30 feet long with a six foot dorsal fin for males, and 25 feet long with a three foot curved dorsal fin for females. They are found all over the world.

South American Fox
(Dusicyon clupaeus - scientific name) The South American Fox is variable in color from orange to brown. They are found throughout Patagonia. It is the largest of the South American Foxes. This fox lives in many different habitats from arid or semiarid to dense subantarctic forests of the Patagonian Andes. This fox is nocturnal and feeds on hares, sheep, small mammals, lizards, and small birds. They have also been known to eat plant material such as fruit.

Geoffroy's Cat
(Felis geoffroyi - scientific name) This is a small spotted cat found throughout Patagonia. It is gray to reddish-brown with black spots. It is similar in size to a large domestic cat. Geoffroy's cat is found all the way to the most southern areas of Patagonia. It is a nocturnal hunter that eats birds and small rodents. This cat prefers open savannas, brushy areas, marshes and even open woodland. Unfortunately, this cat is a prime target of the skin trade in Argentina.

(Puma concolor - scientific name) This is a very large cat with a single-colored coat. There are many color phases, reddish, dark brown, gray and tawny. It also has a long tail. The Puma is found throughout Patagonia all the way to Tierra del Fuego. In Patagonia, Pumas eat hares and guanacos. They hunt from elevated, concealed positions and kill prey with a bite to the throat. Hares are the most frequent prey, guanacos are their second most favorite food.

Southern Sea Lion
(Otaria byronia - scientific name) The southern sea lion is a very large marine mammal and is found throughout the Patagonian coastal areas. Males can grow to almost eleven feet long and weight 750 pounds. The female grows to eight feet and weighs up to 300 pounds. The males also have a mane which is light colored while the body is dark brown to orange. Females are dark to light brown and sea lion pups are black in color. These creatures feed on small bottom fish, squid and seabirds.

The southern sea lion was a victim of the fur trade and its numbers declined due to overkill by hunters. The range of the sea lion has declined due to pressures of commercial harvesting and killing by fisherman.

Southern Elephant Seal
(Mirounga leonina - scientific name) The southern elephant seal is an extremely large marine mammal and is found in southern Argentina and along the Argentine Patagonian coast. They grow to almost 9000 pounds and are up to 20 feet long. Females grow to 11 feet long and weigh up to 4,300 pounds. Adults are dark gray with shades of brown. The numbers of this animal have decreased due to hunting. The northernmost breeding population is in Chubut province, Argentina. It is believed that the southern elephant seal is migratory. During the 19th century, the southern elephant seal was nearly extinct due to hunting for its oil; however, the numbers have been increasing.

(Lama guanicoe - scientific name) The guanaco is found throughout Patagonia. It has a slender neck and long legs. The guanaco has pointed ears, a head like a camel, and long canines. The color of a guanaco is reddish brown with a gray head and white undersides. The guanaco is larger than a vicuna. The range of the guanaco today is much less than in earlier times. Hunting, habitat destruction are the major reasons for the declining numbers. A band of guanacos can be up to 25 individuals in southern Argentina.

(Dolichotis patagonum - scientific name) This is a larger member of the rodent family. The Mara is a harelike animal that has a gray color with a black area on the rear quarters. The sides of the animal are lighter with a orange-colored belly. They have a short tails. It is found throughout Patagonia. In northern Argentina, the Mara is found in forests and flats. They raise their young in burrows. In southern Argentina, the Mara prefers open brushy areas with sandy soil. The Mara is a fast runner with speeds up to 50 miles per hour.

Activity: Where Will I Find the Creatures of Patagonia?

Target Grade Level: Middle Level Grades 5-9

Materials Needed:

-Printed map and animals of Patagonia

-Science Journals

-Pencils, markers, crayons or pens of different colors (10)


1. Click the links labelled "a" and "b" below to view and print the map and critter icons of the animals of Patagonia.

a. Area map
b. Animals

2. Study animal icons and background material of animals of Patagonia provided.

3. Use numbers to establish a color key to identify species locations and concentrations of species on Patagonia map and fill in by color. Analyze species locations following activity (Note the sea lions and killer whales hang out in the same locations).

4. Have students work in groups of 3-4 to research animals of Patagonia for the PBS International Wildlife Conference (See lesson on PBS International Patagonian Wildlife Conference).