Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The capybara is an efficient grazer, able to crop the short, dry grasses left at the end of the tropical dry season (3). Although the diet comprises mainly grass, it also includes aquatic vegetation, such a water hyacinths, as well as other plants, grain, and sometimes fruits (2) (3) (4). When alarmed, the capybara is capable of running swiftly over land, and often dives into water to escape (2) (4) (6). A strong swimmer, it is able to stay underwater for up to five minutes at a time (3) (6). The species is normally active morning and evening, resting during the heat of the day, but has apparently become nocturnal in areas where it is persecuted by humans (2) (4). A social species, the capybara is typically found in family groups of around 10 to 30 individuals, comprising a dominant male, one or more females (which are often related), young of various ages, and one or more subordinate males. Most solitary individuals are male. Group size may depend on habitat, and in the dry season several groups may gather around dwindling pools, forming temporary aggregations of up to 100 or more animals. However, when the wet season returns, these aggregations split into the original groups that formed them (3) (5) (8). All adults in a group help defend the territory against intruders, and regularly scent mark the area using secretions from anal scent glands. These secretions may also be used for individual recognition, as the proportions of chemicals they contain differ between individual capybaras (3) (8). Capybaras mate in the water (3) (6). The female usually gives birth to a single litter each year (4) (6), at the end of the rainy season, after a gestation period of around 150 days (3) (8). Usually, up to eight young are born, and are highly developed at birth, able to follow the female and even eat grass within the first week of life (3) (4) (5). Weaning takes place at around 16 weeks (4), although milk is a relatively minor part of the infant's diet compared to grass (5). All young within the group tend to stay together in a crèche, and may suckle from any nursing female (3) (8). The capybara reaches sexual maturity at around 12 to 18 months, and may live for up to 10 years in the wild, or to 12 years in captivity (3) (4).
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Description

At over a metre in length and weighing as much as an adult human, the capybara is the largest rodent in the world. A stocky, somewhat pig-like animal, it is characterised by a large, blunt head, heavy muzzle, short, robust legs and rudimentary tail (2) (3) (4). The hair is coarse and sparse, and varies in colour between dark brown, reddish and yellowish brown (2) (3) (5), occasionally with some black on the face, the outer surface of the limbs, and on the rump (4) (6). The capybara shows a number of adaptations to a partly aquatic lifestyle. It is able to swim with only the nostrils, eyes and short, rounded ears protruding out of the water, as they are placed high on the head (3) (4) (7), and the body contains a large amount of fatty tissue, giving it a neutral buoyancy in water (6). The feet are also partially webbed. Each of the forefeet has four toes, while the hindfeet have only three, and each toe bears a strong, hoof-like claw (2) (4) (5). The capybara often sits on its haunches like a dog, but, unlike many other rodents, is unable to hold food in its forefeet (2). The male capybara can be distinguished from the female by the obvious, highly developed scent gland on top of the snout. Known as a morillo, this dark, naked, raised area secrete a copious white, sticky fluid, thought to be involved in signalling dominance status (3) (4). In addition to using scent, the capybara also communicates through a variety of vocalisations, including growls, whinnies, alarm barks, whistles, and a constant guttural purr emitted by the infant (2) (3) (4). This species is distinguished from the lesser capybara, Hydrochoerus isthmius, by its larger size (5), although there is some confusion over the distributional boundaries of these species (1).
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Distribution

Range Description

This species is wide ranging from Colombia and Venezuela into northern Argentina (Eisenberg and Redford 1999).
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Geographic Range

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.

Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )

  • 2009. "Capybara" (On-line). Bristol Zoo Gardens. Accessed April 12, 2009 at http://www.bristolzoo.org.uk/learning/animals/mammals/capybara.
  • 2002. Capybara. Pp. 382-384 in M Burton, R Burton, eds. International Wildlife Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, 3 Edition. Tarrytown, New York: Marshall Cavendish.
  • 2001. Capybara. Pp. 678-681 in D Macdonald, S Norris, eds. The Encyclopedia of Mammals, Vol. 1, 3 Edition. London: The Brown Reference Group.
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Range

The capybara occurs over much of South America, to the east of the Andes, from Colombia and Venezuela south to northern Argentina (1) (3) (4).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Capybaras are the largest of rodents, weighing from 35 to 66 kg and standing up to 0.6 meters at the shoulder, with a length of about 1.2 meters. 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.

Range mass: 35 to 66 kg.

Range length: 106 to 134 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger

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Type Information

Type for Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris
Catalog Number: USNM 154186
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Mammals
Sex/Stage: Male; Adult
Preparation: Skin; Skull; Anatomical
Collector(s): J. Ruffin
Year Collected: 1909
Locality: Paraguay, South America
  • Type: Hollister, N. 1914 Mar 20. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. 27: 58.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
The species occurs only in habitat close to water including marshes, estuaries, and along rivers and streams (Eisenberg and Redford 1999). Depending on habitat and hunting pressure, they are found singly or socially. They are diurnal or nocturnal depending on hunting pressure and the season (Eisenberg and Redford 1999). In Venezuela and the Brazilian Pantanal, the species breeds throughout the year, usually with a single breeding cycle. Gestation lasts up to 120 days after which an average of 3.5 young are born (range, one to seven), the peak birth period is during February in the Brazilian Pantanal (Eisenberg and Redford 1999).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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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.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest

Wetlands: marsh ; swamp

Other Habitat Features: riparian

  • Wolff, J., P. Sherman. 2007. Rodent Societies: An Ecological Monograph. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Dunston, N., M. Gorman. 1998. Behavior and Ecology of Riparian Mammals. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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The capybara inhabits a variety of lowland habitats close to water, ranging from rivers and lakes in rainforest, to marshes, brackish wetlands, swamps, and seasonally flooded grassland and savanna (2) (3) (4) (5). Suitable capybara habitat needs a mixture of water, dry ground and pasture (5), and habitat use may change seasonally to follow the availability of these resources (8). The capybara is most numerous on the seasonally flooded grasslands of the Llanos in Venezuela and Colombia, and the Pantanal of Brazil (2) (5), giving it its common name, which translates as “master of the grasses” (6) (7).
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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Capybaras are grazers, feeding mainly on grasses and aquatic plants. Bark and fruit are consumed occasionally. They are also cophrophagous and spend part of each morning re-ingesting the previous day’s food.

Plant Foods: leaves; wood, bark, or stems; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit

Other Foods: dung

Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore , Lignivore); coprophage

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

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.

Ecosystem Impact: creates habitat

Mutualist Species:

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

  • Tomazzoni, A., E. Pedo, S. Hartz. 2005. Feeding associations between capybaras and birds in the Lami Biological Reserve. Revista Brasileira de Zoologia, 22:3: 712-716.
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Predation

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.

Known Predators:

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

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. The scent of this liquid acts as an olfactory “fingerprint”, signaling the status of the individual. It is rubbed on trees or shrubs to mark territory, or smeared on the male’s body to advertise his status and willingness to mate. 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.

Communication Channels: acoustic ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: pheromones ; scent marks

Perception Channels: visual ; acoustic

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Capybaras live about 6 years on average (and as many as 10 years) in the wild and up to 12 years in captivity.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
10 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
6 years.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
12 (high) years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 15.1 years (captivity) Observations: The biggest rodent, the capybara is relatively short-lived for its body size. One study in the wild reported a high juvenile mortality, particularly in the first year of life, resulting in a life expectancy at birth of shortly over one year. The oldest females found in the same study were 6 years of age and the oldest males were 7 years of age (Jose Moreira 1995). Other estimates and anecdotal reports suggest these animals may live up to 10 years in the wild (Ronald Nowak 1999). One captive specimen lived for 15.1 years (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Reproduction

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.

Mating System: polygynous ; polygynandrous (promiscuous) ; cooperative breeder

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 150 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.

Breeding interval: Capybaras produce one litter of young per year.

Breeding season: Breeding occurs year-round with a peak in May and June, the beginning of the rainy season.

Range number of offspring: 2 to 8.

Average number of offspring: 4.

Average gestation period: 150 days.

Average birth mass: 1.5 kg.

Average weaning age: 3 months.

Average time to independence: 1 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 18 months.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 18 months.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); viviparous

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.

Parental Investment: precocial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Protecting: Male, Female)

  • Wolff, J., P. Sherman. 2007. Rodent Societies: An Ecological Monograph. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Dunston, N., M. Gorman. 1998. Behavior and Ecology of Riparian Mammals. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Herrera, E., D. Macdonald. 1993. Aggression, dominance, and mating success among capybara males. Behavior Ecology, 4: 2: 114-119.
  • Ojasti, J. 1968. Notes on the mating behavior of the capybara. Journal of Mammalogy, 49: 3: 534-535.
  • 2009. "Capybara" (On-line). Bristol Zoo Gardens. Accessed April 12, 2009 at http://www.bristolzoo.org.uk/learning/animals/mammals/capybara.
  • 2002. Capybara. Pp. 382-384 in M Burton, R Burton, eds. International Wildlife Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, 3 Edition. Tarrytown, New York: Marshall Cavendish.
  • 2001. Capybara. Pp. 678-681 in D Macdonald, S Norris, eds. The Encyclopedia of Mammals, Vol. 1, 3 Edition. London: The Brown Reference Group.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Queirolo, D., Vieira, E. & Reid, F.

Reviewer/s
McKnight, M. (Global Mammal Assessment Team) & Amori, G. (Small Nonvolant Mammal Red List Authority)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, presumed large population, occurrence in a number of protected areas, and because it is unlikely to be declining at nearly the rate required to qualify for listing in a threatened category.
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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.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Status

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).
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Population

Population
It is locally common and widespread, but uncommon or rare in populated areas of the Amazon (Emmons and Feer 1999). Populations in the rainforest are small and narrowly restricted to open watersides (Emmons and Feer 1999). In the Brazilian Pantanal, densities reached a maximum of 12.5 animals per hectare (Eisenberg and Redford 1999).

Population Trend
Unknown
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Threats

Major Threats
This species is severely threatened by hunting; some local populations have been extirpated (Eisenberg and Redford 1999). Capybara leather is valued in South America and from 1976 to 1979 almost 80,000 skins were exported from Argentina (Eisenberg and Redford 1999). There is a large internal market for the skins.
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The capybara is extensively hunted for its meat and hide, as well as for a grease from its thick, fatty skin, which is used in the pharmaceutical trade (4) (5) (9). The hide is used to make high-quality leather (5) (6), for which there is a large internal market within South America (1), and the fur may be used to make gloves (10). The capybara is also sometimes killed by farmers as a pest, either because it may attack cereal or fruit crops, or because it is mistakenly viewed as a competitor with domestic livestock (3) (4) (6) (9). Despite these threats, the species still has a wide distribution and large global population (1), and the increasing conversion of forest to grassland, together with management regimes employed on cattle ranches (such as predator control, provision of water, and burning), may even be helping to create more suitable capybara habitat (5) (9). However, some local capybara populations have decreased or even disappeared where hunting pressure is intense, such as near human settlement and along rivers, which are the main travel routes of hunters (1) (2) (10).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
The species occurs in many protected areas throughout its range.
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Conservation

The capybara occurs in a number of protected areas throughout its range (1), and efforts have been made to control hunting in many areas (9). Despite this, the capybara is still often killed illegally, and capybara meat is commonly found in rural markets throughout Amazonia (9). However, with its fast growth rate, large size, social lifestyle, cheap diet and high reproductive output, the capybara, if properly managed, is believed to be of great potential for sustainable harvest programmes (2) (9). The species is currently hunted commercially in licensed ranches in the Llanos of Venezuela, which has apparently resulted in stabilisation of the local capybara population (3) (5) (9). The capybara is in fact more efficient at digesting plant material than cattle and horses, and ranching this species in its natural habitat provides a viable and more profitable alternative or addition to cattle ranching (3) (9). Additionally, it helps to maintain natural wetlands which may otherwise be drained for cattle (4). It has been suggested that other seasonally flooded savanna areas, such as the Pantanal of Brazil, have the potential for similar schemes for the sustainable management of this remarkable rodent (9).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

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.

Negative Impacts: crop pest; causes or carries domestic animal disease

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

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 40-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.

Positive Impacts: food ; body parts are source of valuable material

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Wikipedia

Capybara

This article is about the animal. For the video game developer, see Capybara Games.

The capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) is the largest rodent in the world, followed by the beaver, porcupine[which?], and mara. Its closest relatives are guinea pigs and rock cavies, and it is more distantly related to the agouti, chinchillas, and the coypu. Native to South America, 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 100 individuals, but usually lives in groups of 10–20 individuals. The capybara is not a threatened species and is hunted for its meat, hide and also for a grease from its thick fatty skin which is used in the pharmaceutical trade.[2]

Etymology[edit]

Its common name is derived from Tupi ka'apiûara, a complex agglutination of kaá (leaf) + píi (slender) + ú (eat) + ara (a suffix for agent nouns), meaning "one who eats slender leaves", or "grass-eater".[3] The scientific name, both hydrochoerus and hydrochaeris, comes from Greek ὕδωρ (hydor = water) + χοίρος (choiros = pig, hog).[4][5]

(video) A Capybara at a zoo.

Classification and phylogeny[edit]

The capybara and the lesser capybara belong to the subfamily Hydrochoerinae along with the rock cavies. The living capybaras and their extinct relatives were previously classified in their own family Hydrochoeridae.[6] Since 2002, molecular phylogenetic studies have recognized a close relationship between Hydrochoerus and Kerodon[7] supporting placement of both genera in a subfamily of Caviidae.[4] Paleontological classifications have yet to incorporate this new taxonomy and continue to use Hydrochoeridae for all capybaras, while using Hydrochoerinae for the living genus and its closest fossil relatives, such as Neochoerus.[8][9] The taxonomy of fossil hydrochoerines is also in a state of flux. In recent years, the diversity of fossil hydrochoerines has been substantially reduced.[8][9] This is largely due to the recognition that capybara molar teeth show strong variation in shape over the life of an individual.[8] In one instance, material once referred to four genera and seven species on the basis of differences in molar shape is now thought to represent differently aged individuals of a single species, Cardiatherium paranense.[8]

Description[edit]

The capybara has a heavy, barrel-shaped body and short head, with reddish-brown fur on the upper part of its body that turns yellowish-brown underneath. Its sweat glands can be found in the surface of the hairy portions of its skin, an unusual trait among rodents.[6] The animal lacks under hair, and guard hair differs little from over hair. Adult capybaras grow to 107 to 134 cm (3.51 to 4.40 ft) in length, stand 50 to 64 cm (20 to 25 in) tall at the withers, and typically weigh 35 to 66 kg (77 to 146 lb), with an average in the Venezuelan llanos of 48.9 kg (108 lb).[10][11] The top recorded weights are 91 kg (201 lb) for a wild female from Brazil and 73.5 kg (162 lb) for a wild male from Uruguay.[6][12] The dental formula is 1.1.0.01.1.3.3.[6] Capybaras have slightly webbed feet and vestigial tails.[6] Their hind legs are slightly longer than their forelegs; they have three toes on their rear feet and four toes on their front feet.[13] Their muzzles are blunt, with nostrils, and the eyes and ears are near the top of their heads. Females are slightly heavier than males.

Grazing in Shepreth Wildlife Park

Its karyotype has 2n = 66 and FN = 102.[4]

Ecology[edit]

Capybaras are semi-aquatic mammals[11] found throughout almost all countries of South America (except Chile[14]). They live in densely forested areas near bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers, swamps, ponds, and marshes,[10] as well as flooded savannah and along rivers in tropical forest. Capybara have flourished in cattle ranches.[6] They roam in home ranges averaging 10 hectares (25 acres) in high-density populations.[6]

Many escapees from captivity can also be found in similar watery habitats around the world. Sightings are fairly common in Florida, although a breeding population has not yet been confirmed.[15] In 2011, one was spotted in the central coast of California.[16]

Diet and predation[edit]

Foraging
Group of capybaras

Capybaras are herbivores, grazing mainly on grasses and aquatic plants,[10][17] as well as fruit and tree bark.[11] They are very selective feeders[18] and will feed on the leaves of one species and disregard other species surrounding it. They eat a greater variety of plants during the dry season, as fewer plants are available. While they eat grass during the wet season, they have to switch to more abundant reeds during the dry season.[19] Plants that capybaras eat during the summer lose their nutritional value in the winter and therefore are not consumed at that time.[18] The capybara's jaw hinge is not perpendicular and they thus chew food by grinding back-and-forth rather than side-to-side.[20] Capybaras are coprophagous, meaning they eat their own feces as a source of bacterial gut flora, to help digest the cellulose in the grass that forms their normal diet, and to extract the maximum protein and vitamins from their food. They may also regurgitate food to masticate again, similar to cud-chewing by a cow.[21] As is the case with other rodents, the front teeth of capybaras grow continually to compensate for the constant wear from eating grasses;[14] their cheek teeth also grow continuously.[20]

Like its cousin the guinea pig, the capybara does not have the capacity to synthesize vitamin C, and capybaras not supplemented with vitamin C in captivity have been reported to develop gum disease as a sign of scurvy.[22]

They can have a life span of 8–10 years on average,[23] but live less than four years in the wild, as they are "a favourite food of jaguar, puma, ocelot, eagle and caiman".[14] The capybara is also the preferred prey of the anaconda.[24]

Natural history[edit]

The capybara male has a gland on its nose

Capybaras are very gregarious. While they do sometimes live solitarily, they are more commonly found in groups that average 10–20 individuals, with two to four adult males, four to seven adult females and the rest juveniles.[25] Capybara groups can consist of as many as 50 or 100 individuals during the dry season,[21][26] when the animals gather around available water sources. Males are organized in stable, linear hierarchies. The dominant male in each group is significantly heavier than any of the subordinates, but among subordinates, status is not correlated with weight.[27] The dominant male is positioned in the center of the group while subordinates are on the periphery. These hierarchies are established early in life among the young with play fights and mock copulations.[25] The most dominant males have access to the best resources.[27]

Capybaras are very vocal and, when in groups, chatter with each other to establish social bonds, dominance or general group census.[26] They can make dog-like barks[21] when threatened or when females are herding young.[28] Capybaras have two different scent glands; a morillo, located on the snout, and an anal gland.[29] Both sexes have these glands, but males have much larger morillos and their anal pockets can open more easily. The anal glands of males are also lined with detachable hairs. A crystalline form of scent secretion is coated on these hairs and are released when in contact with objects like plants. These hairs have a longer-lasting scent mark and are tasted by other capybaras. A capybara marks by rubbing its morillo on an object or by walking over a scrub and marking with its anal gland. A capybara can spread its scent further by urinating. However, females usually mark without urinating and mark less frequently than males overall. Females mark more often during the wet season when they are in estrus. In addition to objects, males will also mark females.[29]

Reproduction[edit]

Family swimming
Mother with typical litter of four pups
Skeleton

When in estrus, the female's scent changes subtly and nearby males begin pursuit.[27] In addition, a female will alert males she is in estrus by whistling though her nose.[21] During mating, the female has the advantage and mating choice. Capybaras mate only in water, and if a female does not want to mate with a certain male, she will either submerge or leave the water.[21][26] Dominant males are highly protective of the females, but they usually cannot prevent all the subordinates from copulating.[27] The larger the group, the harder it is for the male to watch all the females. Dominant males secure significantly more matings than each subordinate, but subordinate males, as a class, are responsible for more matings than each dominant male.[27] The lifespan of the capybara's sperm is longer than that of other rodents.[30]

Capybara gestation is 130–150 days, and usually produces a litter of four capybara babies, but may produce between one and eight in a single litter.[6] Birth is on land and the female will rejoin the group within a few hours of delivering the newborn capybaras, which will join the group as soon as they are mobile. Within a week, the young can eat grass, but will continue to suckle—from any female in the group—until weaned at about 16 weeks. The young will form a group within the main group.[14] Alloparenting has been observed in this species.[26] Breeding peaks between April and May in Venezuela and between October and November in Mato Grosso, Brazil.[6]

Activities[edit]

Though quite agile on land (capable of running as fast as a horse),[31] Capybaras are equally at home in the water. They are excellent swimmers, and can remain completely submerged for up to five minutes,[10] an ability they use to evade predators. Capybaras can sleep in water if need be, only keeping their noses out of the water. During midday, as temperatures increase, they wallow in water and then graze in late afternoons and early evenings.[6] They also spend a lot of time wallowing in mud.[13] They rest around midnight and then continue to graze before dawn.

Conservation and human interaction[edit]

Capybaras are not considered a threatened species;[1] their population is stable throughout most of their South American range, though in some areas hunting has reduced their numbers.[10][14]

Capybaras are hunted for their meat and pelts in some areas,[32] and otherwise killed by humans who see their grazing as competition for livestock. In some areas, they are farmed, which has the effect of ensuring the wetland habitats are protected. Their survival is aided by their ability to breed rapidly.[14]

Capybaras can be found in many areas in zoos and parks,[20] and may live for 12 years in captivity.[14] Capybaras are gentle and will usually allow humans to pet and hand-feed them.

The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) tasked Drusillas Park in Alfriston, Sussex to keep the studbook for Capybaras, to monitor captive populations in Europe. The studbook includes information about all births, deaths and movements of capybaras, as well as how they are related.[33]

Capybaras are farmed for meat and skins in South America.[34] The meat is considered unsuitable to eat in some areas, while in other areas it is considered an important source of protein.[6] In parts of South America, especially in Venezuela, capybara meat is popular during Lent and Holy Week as the Catholic Church previously gave a special dispensation that allows for its consumption while other meats are generally forbidden.[35]

Although it is illegal in some states,[citation needed] capybaras are occasionally kept as pets in the United States.[36]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Queirolo, D., Vieira, E. & Reid, F. (2008). "Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 17 June 2011. 
  2. ^ Capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris). ARKive.org
  3. ^ Ferreira, A. B. H. (1986) Novo Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa, 2nd ed., Rio de Janeiro: Nova Fronteira, p.344
  4. ^ a b c Woods, C. A.; Kilpatrick, C. W. (2005). "Infraorder Hystricognathi". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 1556. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  5. ^ Darwin, Charles R. (1839). Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty's Ships Adventure and Beagle between the years 1826 and 1836, describing their examination of the southern shores of South America, and the Beagle's circumnavigation of the globe. Journal and remarks. 1832–1836. London: Henry Colburn. p. 619. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Mones, Alvaro; Ojasti, Juhani (16 June 1986). "Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris. Brisson, 1762". Mammalian Species 264: 1–7. doi:10.2307/3503784. 
  7. ^ Rowe, D. L.; Honeycutt, R. L. (2002). "Phylogenetic relationships, ecological correlates, and molecular evolution within the Cavioidea (Mammalia, Rodentia)". Molecular Biology and Evolution 19 (3): 263–277. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.molbev.a004080. PMID 11861886. 
  8. ^ a b c d Vucetich, M. G.; Deschamps, C. M.; Olivares, A. I.; Dozo, M. T. (2005). "Capybaras, size, shape, and time: A model kit". Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 50 (2): 259–272. Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  9. ^ a b Deschamps, C. M.; Olivares, A. I.; Vieytes, E. C.; Vucetich, M. G. (2007). "Ontogeny and diversity of the oldest capybaras (Rodentia: Hydrochoeridae; late Miocene of Argentina". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 27 (3): 683–692. doi:10.1671/0272-4634(2007)27[683:oadoto]2.0.co;2. JSTOR 30126368. 
  10. ^ a b c d e Capybara Facts. Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Retrieved on December 16, 2007.
  11. ^ a b c Capybara. Palm Beach Zoo. Retrieved on December 17, 2007.
  12. ^ World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. WAZA. Retrieved on 2011-12-07.
  13. ^ a b "Capybara Printout". Enchantedlearning.com. Retrieved 2013-05-27. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f g Bristol Zoo Gardens (UK) ''Capybara''. Bristolzoo.org.uk. Retrieved on 2011-12-07.
  15. ^ Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: Capybara – ''Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris''
  16. ^ Mather, Kate (18 August 2011). "A gnawing question answered: It's a capybara roaming Paso Robles". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 10 January 2012. 
  17. ^ Forero-Montana J, Betancur J and Cavelier J (2003). "Dieta del capibara Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris (cavia: Hydrochaeridae) en Caño Limón, Arauca, Colombia". Rev. Biol. Trop 51 (2): 571–578. PMID 15162749.  PDF
  18. ^ a b Quintana, R.D., S. Monge, A.I. Malvárez (1998). "Feeding patterns of capybara Hydrochaeris hypdrochaeris (Rodentia, Hydrochaeridae) and cattle in the non-insular area of the Lower Delta of the Parana River, Argentina". Mammalia 62 (1): 37–52. doi:10.1515/mamm.1998.62.1.37. 
  19. ^ Barreto, Guillermo R.; Herrera, Emilio A. (1998). "Foraging patterns of capybaras in a seasonally flooded savanna of Venezuela". Journal of Tropical Ecology 14: 87. doi:10.1017/S0266467498000078. JSTOR 2559868. 
  20. ^ a b c Capybara. Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris. San Francisco Zoo
  21. ^ a b c d e Lord-Rexford, D. (1994). "A descriptive account of capybara behaviour". Studies on neotropical fauna and environment 29 (1): 11–22. doi:10.1080/01650529409360912. 
  22. ^ Cueto, GR; Allekotte, R; Kravetz, FO (2000). "Scurvy in capybaras bred in captivity in Argentine". Journal of wildlife diseases 36 (1): 97–101. doi:10.7589/0090-3558-36.1.97. PMID 10682750. 
  23. ^ Burton M and Burton R. The International Wildlife Encyclopedia. Marshall Cavendish, 2002, ISBN 0-7614-7269-X, p. 384
  24. ^ Capybara, the master of the grasses: pest or prey Sounds and Colours. Retrieved on January 23, 2011.
  25. ^ a b Alho C. J. R., Rondon N. L. (1987). "Habitats, population densities, and social structure of capybaras (hydrochaeris hypdrochaeris rodentia) in the pantanal Brazil". Revista Brasileira de Zoologia 4 (2): 139–149. doi:10.1590/s0101-81751987000200006. 
  26. ^ a b c d Macdonald, D. W. (1981). "Dwindling resources and the social behavior of Capybaras, (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) (Mammalia)". Journal of Zoology 194 (3): 371–391. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.1981.tb04588.x. 
  27. ^ a b c d e Herrera, Emilio A.; MacDonald, David W. (1993). "Aggression, dominance, and mating success among capybara males (Hydrochaeris hypdrochaeris)". Behavioral Ecology 4 (2): 114. doi:10.1093/beheco/4.2.114. 
  28. ^ Murphey, R; Mariano, J; Mouraduarte, F (1985). "Behavioral observations in a capybara colony (Hydrochaeris hypdrochaeris)". Applied Animal Behaviour Science 14: 89. doi:10.1016/0168-1591(85)90040-1. 
  29. ^ a b Macdonald, D. W.; Krantz, K. and Aplin, R. T. "Behavioral anatomical and chemical aspects of scent marking among Capybaras (Hydrochaeris hypdrochaeris) (Rodentia: Caviomorpha)". Journal of Zoology 202 (3): 341–360. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.1984.tb05087.x. 
  30. ^ Paula, T.A.R.; Chiarini-Garcia, H.; França, L.R. (1999). "Seminiferous epithelium cycle and its duration in capybaras (Hydrochaeris hypdrochaeris)". Tissue and Cell 31 (3): 327–34. doi:10.1054/tice.1999.0039. PMID 10481304. 
  31. ^ The Life of Mammals – "Chisellers"
  32. ^ Andy Thompson Trip to South America gives new meaning to outdoors life. Richmond Times. January 18, 2008
  33. ^ "Conservation at Drusillas Park". Drusillas.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-05-27. 
  34. ^ San Diego Zoo. "Capybara, Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris: October 2008". Retrieved 22 June 2011. 
  35. ^ Ellsworth, Brian. "In Days Before Easter, Venezuelans Tuck Into Rodent-Related Delicacy". New York Sun. March 24, 2005
  36. ^ Perez, Larry (2012). Snake in the Grass: an Everglades Invasion (1st ed.). Sarasota, Fla.: Pineapple Press. p. 89. ISBN 9781561645138. 
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