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Capybara

Appearance

The Capybara has a round barrel like body covered in fur the colour of which can range from a reddish brown to grey and some small amounts of black on the face. These hairs are long and coarse which allows them to stay dry when not in the water.

The average weight of a capybara is 48.9kg (108 lb). Their head and body length is around 106cm to 134cm (42 to 53 in). From the ground to their shoulder the capybara measures on average 60.9cm (2ft).

The capybara enjoys spending much of its day in the water and has developed many adaptations their eyes and ears are small and set high on their head. This allows them to stay alert with only a small amount of their head showing. They have slightly webbed toes and can breathe under water for several minutes.

Diet

Capybaras are classed as herbivores. Their main diet consists of grasses and aquatic plants. They also eat tree barks and fruits such as melons, squashes and sweet potatoes which they have been known to steal from farms.

The capybara has very selective feeding habits. They use just 5 grasses for 80% of their diet. They will reduce or increase the range of plants they will accept depending on the availability. The capybara prefers to forage in the late afternoon and in the evening.


Capybaras will eat their own faeces to extract the maximum proteins and vitamins from these foods. This also produces gut flora which assists in digesting the cellulose found in their diet.

Capybara

Scientific Name

Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris

Conservation Status

Least Concern

Height

60.9cm (2ft)

Weight

48.9kg (108lbs)

Length

106-134cm (42-53in)

Lifespan

Wild 10 years

Captive 15 years

Diet

Herbivorous

Range

South America is the native home of the capybara. Here they range across the majority of the continent with the exception of Chile.

Habitat

The capybara can be found from tropical forests to open plains. They always live near a large body of water and in a forested area near to a plain for when aquatic grasses are not as abundant due to water levels.

Reproduction

The capybara comes onto heat once every 7-8 days. When they do though they are only open to mating for 8 hours.

Normally one litter, of on average 4 babies, is produced each year.

The female emits a whistle when on heat and the dominant male will sniff her frequently when this occurs. The pair mate in the water and the female has been known to dive under if she chooses not to mate. The breeding couples are regularly interrupted by a second male.

The rest of the group is essential to raising the young with groups of less than four know to not raise young.

The babies are born after a 150 day gestation. Females become sexually mature at about 7 to 12 months of age. Males will generally reach maturity around 15 to 24 months of age.

Capybara

Behavior


The capybara rests, during the heat of the day, in mud or in water. They then graze throughout the evening and afternoon. Due to humans coming into their habitat capybaras are becoming a more nocturnal species.


They will congregate in groups of 40 to 100 which fluctuate in size with the wet and dry seasons. The average group will use between 2 and 20 hectares of land but some have been known to use areas up to 200 hectares in size.


Capybaras defend their territories and both genders scent mark. Young will play in groups and imitate the group’s males.


The capybara has a range of vocalisations which it uses to communicate with others in the group.


The capybara is preyed upon by pumas and jaguars. Juveniles may also be preyed upon by foxes, ocelots, anacondas, raptors and the caiman.


Some bird species have symbiotic relationships with the capybara. They may sit on them or fly near them to eat insects which jump out of the way when the capybara moves along and they also have been seen eating ticks off the capybara.


Quick facts


The capybara is the world’s largest rodent.


Capybaras are occasionally kept as pets in the United States.

capybara

Photo Credits

Copyright. The Animal Facts

References

Reid, F. 2016. Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T10300A22190005. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-2.RLTS.T10300A22190005.en. Downloaded on 11 May 2020.

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