Otter-1 ike animal of South America.
Etymology: Tehuelche (Chon), "water tiger," also used for the Marine otter (Lontra felina). Probably not "little pebbles," as Florentino Ameghino claimed.
Scientific names: Neomylodon listai, given by Ameghino in 1898, based on the fossil Mylodon hide from the Cueva del Milodon and Ramon Lista's sighting; Iemisch listai, given by Santiago Roth in 1899 based on the femur of an extinct jaguar found in the cave.
Variant names: Chimchimen, Erefil u, Guari-fil u, Hymche, Jemechim, Jemisch, Nerrefil u, Nervel u, Nguruvil u, Niribil u, Nirribil u, Nuru-
filu (Mapudungun/Araucanian), Yem'chen, Yemische, Zorro-víbora (Spanish, "fox-viper," also used by Araucanian speakers).
Physical description: Size of a puma. Covered in short, coarse hair. Bay or dark brown color. Short, round head. Circle of light hair around the eyes extending to the ear-hole. No external ears. Big canine teeth. Short, plantigrade feet. Three webbed toes on the forefeet, four webbed toes on the hind feet. Long, flat, otterlike, supple tail.
Behavior: Nocturnal. Aquatic. Digs a burrow. Seizes horses and drowns them. Said to drag humans into the water. Tracks: Catlike.
Distribution: Lago Col hué Huapi, Río Sen-guer, and Estancia Valle Huemeles, in Chubut Province, Argentina; Santa Cruz Province, Argentina; Aisén del General Carlos Ibáñez del Campo Region, Chile. Formerly ranged north to the Río Negro Province, Argentina, and in the south to lakes on the eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains and the Straits of Magel l an.
Significant sighting: Ramón Lista came across a large animal that looked like a giant Pangolin (Manis spp.) with hair instead of scales in Argentina's Santa Cruz Province in the 1870s. Bul l ets fail ed to penetrate the animal's skin. Possible explanations: (1) An undetermined species of giant ground sloth, according to Florentino Ameghino, who was determined to show that the bones and tough, red-haired skin found in a cave now known as the Cueva del Mil odón (24 kil ometers north of Puerto Natales in Chile) were from an animal the Indians knew as Iemisch. However, the amphibious, carnivorous, web-footed Iemisch doesn't seem to match a terrestrial, vegetarian, huge-clawed sloth. The Mylodon remains have been reliably carbon-dated to 13,000—8,600 years ago, though some stratigraphie evidence indicates ground sloths survived as recently as 3000 B.C
(2) An aquatic reptil e with the head of a fox, suggested by Esteban Erize.
(3) An unknown species of large otter or a surviving population of the Giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis), which is now largely restricted to the Amazon watershed and grows to a length greater than 5 feet, incl uding the tail.
(4) A confusion between the Marine otter (Lontra felina) and the Jaguar (Panthera onca), which once existed in Patagonia and grows to a ful l l ength of 6 feet.
(5) Exaggerated accounts of the Southern river otter (Lontraprovocax), widely distributed in southern Chil e and Argentina until the early twentieth century but now endangered and officially found only in isolated pockets in the southwestern fjords area. However, this animal may persist as far north as the Río Colorado and La Pampa Province, Argentina. It has a l ong body, fl at head, small ears, and a broad, whiskered muzzl e. It grows to nearl y 4 feet l ong, incl uding the tail, and has strong cl aws on its webbed feet. Col or is dark to very dark brown above, with a l ighter cinnamon bel ow. Sources: Francisco P. Moreno, Viaje á la Patagonia austral (Buenos Aires: La Nacion, 1879); Florentino Ameghino, "An Existing Ground-Sloth in Patagonia," Natural Science 13 (1898): 324-326; Florentino Ameghino, "El mamífero misterioso de la Patagonia (Neomylodon listai)," La Pirámide (La Plata, Argentina) 1 (1899): 51-63, 83-84; "The Jemisch, or Great Ground Sloth," English Mechanic 72 (1900): 118-119; André Tournouër, "Sur l e Neomyl odon et l 'animal mystérieux de la Patagonie," Comptes Rendus Hebdomadaires des Séances de l'Académie des Sciences 132 (1901): 96-97; Robert Lehmann-Nitsche, "La pretendida existencia actual del Grypotherium Supersticiones araucanas referentes a la lutra y el tigre," Revista del Museo de La Plata 10 (1902): 269-279; H. Hesketh Prichard, Through the Heart of
Patagonia (New York: Appleton, 1902); Bernard Heuvelmans, On the Track of Unknown Animals (New York: Hill and Wang, 1958), pp. 265—277; Al berto Vúl etin, Zoonimia andina (Santiago del Estero, Argentina: Instituto de Lingüistica, Folklore y Arqueología, 1960); Bruce Cha twin, In Patagonia (New York: Summit Books, 1977), pp. 186-194; Roy P. Mackal, Searching for Hidden Animals (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1980), pp. 161-168; Edgar Morisoli, "La presencia del Animal de Agua en la zona de Casa de Piedra: Caldenia, Diario La Arena, 13 de Febrero ," in Obra callada, 1974-1986(Santa Rosa, Argentina: Editorial Pitanguá, 1994); Esteban Erize, Mapuche (Buenos Aires: Editorial Yepun, 1987); "Ground Sloth Survival Proposed Anew," ISC Newsletter 12, no. 1 (1993-1996): 1-5; Charl es Jacoby home page, http://users. tinyonline.co.uk/jacoby/giantsl oth.htm; Mariano Martín Fernández, "Nutrias en La Pampa," http://orbita .sta rmedia .com/~fa una pa mpea na/ ma/5nutriasl p.html.
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