The Monthly Species – September

For this month’s ever so slightly late species I’m going to indulge myself by presenting to my favourite rodent! It’s the largest rodent species in the world and just so happens to be the cutest! It is of course the Capybara!

Group of Capybara on a river bank in Pantanal Brazil

Scientific Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Caviidae
Genus: Hydrochoerus
Species: H. hydrochaeris

Size: Capybaras are big rodents! They can grow up to 134cm in length and stand up to 62cm. Their average weight is 48.9 kg.

Diet: They are an omnivorous species that will feed predominantly on grasses, fruits and tree bark. They are selective feeders which means that they will feed on the leaves of one species disregarding other species surrounding it. Their teeth never stop growing to account for all the eating that they do!

Life Expectancy: Individuals kept in captivity have a life expectancy of 8-10 years. However, most individuals that live in the wild will only live for four years as they are the favourite food source of many top predators including jaguars and pumas.


Reproduction: 
Capybaras can live alone but will often live in a group of 10-20 individuals. Their gestational period is between 130 and 150 days and they have a litter of around 4 babies!

Conservation: 

San Diego Zoo put it perfectly by saying “The capybara is not currently classified as an endangered species, although it is threatened by deforestation, habitat destruction, and illegal poaching. It was in trouble not too long ago, though, due to hunting. Local people have used this animal as a food source for centuries and have been seen wearing capybara teeth as ornaments.

Now, capybaras are being farmed for their meat as part of a mammal management plan in Venezuela and Colombia. This helps to protect the capybaras left in the wild and their wild habitat, which, in turn, helps all of the plants and animals that call that habitat home.”

The Coolest Thing Ever About This Species:

They are fantastic swimmers! They have webbed feet, making them great swimmers, and their eyes, ears and nostrils are located at the top of their heads, enabling them to keep most of their bodies below water like hippos. Capybaras can also press their ears against their heads to keep water out, and they can completely submerge themselves for up to five minutes, allowing them to hide from predators.

A bird perches on a capybara's head.

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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