All rights reserved. You thought the beaver was a rodent of unusual size? The capybara is twice that big —the biggest rodent on Earth. These impressive semi-aquatic mammals are found throughout much of northern and central South America, though a small invasive population has been seen in Florida.

Author:Meztile Kagakus
Language:English (Spanish)
Published (Last):19 June 2010
PDF File Size:7.75 Mb
ePub File Size:2.73 Mb
Price:Free* [*Free Regsitration Required]

Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris is a strictly South American rodent species. Its range extends throughout most of Brazil, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Columbia, south into the Argentinian pampas, and west to the Andes. Capybaras are found only in areas where water is easily accessible: flooded grasslands are a favored habitat, as are marsh edges and lowland forests where grazing is good and there is water year-round.

However, they occupy a range of habitats, including dry forest, scrub, and grasslands throughout South America. Capybaras are the largest of rodents, weighing from 35 to 66 kg and standing up to 0.

Females of this species are slightly larger than males. Their fur is coarse and thin, and is reddish brown over most of the body, turning yellowish brown on the belly and sometimes black on the face. The body is barrel-shaped, sturdy, and tailless. The front legs are slightly shorter than the hind legs, and the feet are partially webbed. This, in addition to the location of the eyes, ears, and nostrils on top of the head, make capybaras well-suited to semi-aquatic life.

Capybaras are polygynous to promiscuous. Dominant males in social groups try to monopolize mating activity, but this can be nearly impossible, especially in larger groups. Little research has been done on female mate choice in capybaras, but females have been observed mating with both dominant and subordinate males. Capybaras breed throughout the year, with a peak in breeding activity at the beginning of the rainy season.

When a female comes into estrus, a male will begin to follow her closely, sometimes for long periods of time, before mating occurs. During this time, the male is often driven off by a more dominant male, who then takes his place. Copulation occurs in the water and typically lasts only a few seconds, but a female usually copulates several times per estrus period. Young are born after days, in litters ranging in size from 2 to 8. The young are precocial, beginning to stand and walk shortly after birth, and can graze within a week of being born.

They are weaned at about 3 months old, during which time they suckle both from their own mother and the other females in the group, who are usually closely related. Young capybaras stay with their parents' group until they are about a year old. They nurse for the first three months of this time. Both before and after weaning, the young move around together in a creche, and some of the work of parenting such as suckling and watching for danger is shared among all adults in the group.

During much of their first year of life, the young are small, slow, and easily tired, making them especially vulnerable to predators. The protection of their natal group is essential to staying alive. Little is known about individual parental care in capybaras, but it seems that, because of the precocial state of the young and the system of cooperative parenting, the time and resources spent by each parent after birth are minimal.

Capybaras live about 6 years on average and as many as 10 years in the wild and up to 12 years in captivity. Capybaras live in groups of around 10 adults of both sexes, although groups can range in size from 3 to 30 and larger aggregations often form around water resources during the dry season.

Each group maintains and defends a territory that encompasses feeding and wallowing sites. Among males, there is a strict dominance hierarchy enforced by chasing and, rarely, fights.

Group living appears to be extremely important to capybara survival—without a group, an individual is excluded from most grazing habitat and has no chance of finding a mate, so solitary capybaras are seldom found. Capybara society is relatively stable over the course of time: group membership changes rarely and a territory can be maintained by one group for over 3 years.

Because of their large body size, capybaras are susceptible to heat stress. Activity is primarily crepuscular and the hottest part of the day is spent in the water. Capybaras are strong swimmers, helped by the fact that their bodies are only slightly denser than water. They seem to be just as at home in the water as on land. Vocalization appears to be very important in capybara groups, but the purpose of many of the sounds made is unknown.

However, young vocalize almost constantly and vocal communication among adults is also common. Individuals bark to warn the group of danger, this often results in the whole group rushing into the relative safety of the water. Scent is also important, especially in mating and establishing dominance. Male capybaras have a bare lump on the top of the snout, known as the morillo gland, which secretes a white liquid.

Both males and females have two glands on either side of the anus. The combination of chemicals in the liquid they secrete is also highly individualized and seems to be used to recognize group members and mark territory.

Capybaras are grazers, feeding mainly on grasses and aquatic plants. Bark and fruit are consumed occasionally. Especially while young, capybaras are an important food source for many large predators, including anacondas , caimans , jaguars , and humans. While grazing, they are constantly on the lookout for predators and give an alarm bark when one is spotted. They often hide in the water, with just their nostrils and eyes exposed, and can stay completely submerged for up to five minutes.

In many parts of South America capybaras are the only large grazing species and can have a dramatic effect on the vegetation in an area. They are also mutualists or commensals with several types of birds which pick parasitic insects out of capybara fur or follow grazing capybaras and eat the insects they stir up from the grass.

In addition, they are an important prey species for many different animals, as mentioned above. Capybaras are hunted for their meat and leather, both of which are said to be very high-quality. Capybara meat is especially popular during Lent, the day period prior to Easter, because it is approved by the Catholic church as an alternative to beef or pork. Presumably, the semiaquatic habit of the capybara convinced early priests that it was similar to fish.

Large-scale ranching of capybaras has been proposed to curtail illegal hunting and the animals have proved easy to domesticate, at least in small numbers. In fact, capybaras are more efficient grazers than cattle or other introduced livestock and are already an important source of food for many local people.

Capybaras sometimes raid gardens or farms in search of food, such as melons, squashes, or grains. It has also been hypothesized that they are carriers of certain livestock diseases. The IUCN lists capybaras as a species of least concern, citing its large population, large distribution, and frequent occurrence within protected areas. However, some local populations are in decline due to over-hunting. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends.

Synapomorphy of the Bilateria. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a now extinct synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds. Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons or periodic condition changes. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody usually, but not always, a river or stream. A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy.

Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia. A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome. Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available.

Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands. Bristol Zoo Gardens. International Wildlife Encyclopedia , Vol. Tarrytown, New York: Marshall Cavendish. The Encyclopedia of Mammals , Vol. London: The Brown Reference Group. Dunston, N. Behavior and Ecology of Riparian Mammals.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Grant, W. BBC News. Herrera, E. Aggression, dominance, and mating success among capybara males. Behavior Ecology , 4: 2: Journal of Animal Ecology , Maldonado-Chaparro, A. Management implications of capybara social behavior.

Biological Conservation , 8: Ojasti, J. Notes on the mating behavior of the capybara. Journal of Mammalogy , 3: Tomazzoni, A. Pedo, S. Feeding associations between capybaras and birds in the Lami Biological Reserve. Revista Brasileira de Zoologia ,


Capybaras (Hydrochoerus spp.) Fact Sheet: Taxonomy & History

Metrics details. Brazilian spotted fever BSF , caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii, is the deadliest spotted fever of the world. In most of the BSF-endemic areas, capybaras Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris are the principal host for the tick Amblyomma cajennense, which is the main vector of BSF. In , a BSF case was confirmed in a child that was bitten by ticks in a residential park area inhabited by A.


Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris - Capybara

Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris, the Capybara, is the largest member of the Family Rodentia. It has short limbs ending in perissodactyle feet and moderately webbed digits. The forefeet are characterized by having four digits while the hind feet have three. Mones and Ojasti Unlike some rodents the capybara does not have a tail. Kato The Capybara has a broad head with short rounded ears, a large snout, and small widely separated nostrils. This large rodent is covered in course hair that measures from mm.


The capybara Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris is a giant cavy rodent native to South America. It is the largest living rodent in the world. Its close relatives include guinea pigs and rock cavies , and it is more distantly related to the agouti , the chinchilla , and the coypu. The capybara inhabits savannas and dense forests and lives near bodies of water. It is a highly social species and can be found in groups as large as individuals, but usually lives in groups of 10—20 individuals. The capybara is not a threatened species, but it is hunted for its meat and hide and also for grease from its thick fatty skin. The capybara and the lesser capybara belong to the subfamily Hydrochoerinae along with the rock cavies.

Related Articles