Capybara Facts and Information. Everything You Wanted To Know About Capybaras カピバラの事実と情報. カピバラについて知りたいすべてのもの

 

Adult Female Capybara, 6 years old.  成人女性カピバラ。 6歳

Adult Female Capybara, 6 years old. 成人女性カピバラ。 6歳

Capybara Facts and Information (Hydrochoerus Hydrochaeris) Short version. For more detailed information please see the longer version below this short version:

The capybara has attracted the attention of explorers and writers to South America from the 16th century onward. They were struck by both its size and its gregariousness and relative tameness. The capybara is the last survivor of a long line of gigantic grass eating rodents that evolved in South America over millions of years.   It is the world’s largest rodent.

Scientific name: Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris

The name, capybara, originates from a word in the language of the indigenous Tupi people (ka’pii which means grass + gwara which means eater). There are many, many different names for the capybara in South America, the most common of these include: carpincho, capivara, chiguire, ronsoco.

In the past capybaras were also known as Water Pig

There are 2 species of capybara.    The less common species is the Lesser Capybara (Hydrochoerus Isthmius) found in eastern Panama, north western Colombia and western Venezuela. The species is fairly common in Panama but increasingly rare in Venezuela. It is threatened by subsistence hunting, the destruction of forested areas and the drainage of swamps.

Geographical Location: Capybaras (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) are found in Central and South America from Panama to Northern Argentina primarily east of the Andes. They inhabit several types of wetland including gallery forest along rivers, mangroves and marshes. The highest altitude at which capybaras are found is 4, 500 feet (1500 m). The only South American country with no capybaras is Chile.

6 Week Old Baby Capybara Sleeping.   6週齢の赤ちゃんカピバラは眠る

6 Week Old Baby Capybara Sleeping. 6週齢の赤ちゃんカピバラは眠る

Size and Weight: An adult capybara is large! Adult capybaras weigh on average from 40 to 50 kg in the wild (range 35 – 65 kg). In captivity the average weight is between 50 – 60 kg for a healthy capybara. There is no difference in weight between the sexes. In length they average about 4 feet (1.2 m) and are up to 2 feet tall (.60 m).

Physical Description: Capybaras’ skin is thick and sparsely covered with coarse, oily water-resistant fur, varying in colour: red, grey, brown and straw coloured. Some black hairs can be found on the face, rump and limbs. Capybaras have a vestigial tail but this is not visible from a distance. The front legs are shorter than the hind legs. The feet are partially webbed with four toes on the front feet and three toes on the hind feet. The head is large with the nostrils, eyes and ears (which are small and hairless with a mobile fold that closes the ear canal when they submerge) located on the top of their head, so they can hear, smell and see while remaining almost completely submerged, an adaptation to their semi aquatic lifestyle which allows them to keep a lookout for any dangers while remaining almost invisible.

    The Vestigial Tail of a Capybara (by the little red arrow).   カピバラの痕跡尾。 (赤い矢印で)

The Vestigial Tail of a Capybara (by the little red arrow). カピバラの痕跡尾。 (赤い矢印で)

Semi aquatic lifestyle: Access to water is essential for capybaras. Capybaras’ territory always includes water which is used both as a refuge from predators and to control body temperature. They often seek refuge in water to escape predators. Capybaras are very agile in water and can swim very fast. They can remain under water for up to 5 minutes. They can also sleep under water leaving their nose above the waterline in order to breathe. Their nostrils, eyes and ears are all located on the top of their head so they can remain submerged and almost completely hidden with just their nose, eyes and ears protruding above the water.   Capybaras have partially webbed feet.

Male Capybara Surrounded by Adoring Female Capybaras Nibbling Him and Vying for His Attention.  オスカピバラは、女性のカピバラを絶賛に囲まれています。

Male Capybara Surrounded by Adoring Female Capybaras Nibbling Him and Vying for His Attention. オスカピバラは、女性のカピバラを絶賛に囲まれています。

Most activities are located close to water. Capybaras always rest close to water. Most mating takes place in water. Capybaras defecate in water for preference, but will also defecate on land often to mark territory and send out a chemical signal.

This is a photo of the underside of a Capybara's front foot. Capybaras have partially webbed feet. They have 4 toes on each front foot and 3 toes on each hind foot

This is a photo of the underside of a Capybara’s front foot. Capybaras have partially webbed feet. They have 4 toes on each front foot and 3 toes on each hind foot

Territory and Habitat: The average size of territory is between 5 – 16 hectares, though can be much larger if vegetation is sparse. The capybara’s territory must provide sufficient resources to ensure survival if widely differing seasonal conditions pertain. The size of territory and the availability of water and food resources determines the size of the herd. The home territory must include a water hole, bushy scrub, patches of higher ground on which to avoid flooding at the height of the wet season and low-lying areas of grass. Bushy scrub provide shelter and is also essential for reproductive success as the females go off into the bushy scrub to give birth in part so that they are not visible to predators.

Lifespan: In the wild their lifespan averages 8 to 10 years. The oldest capybara kept in captivity lived to be 15 years old at Adelaide Zoo, in Australia.

Top speed on land: Capybaras can run very fast with a top speed of about 22 mph (35 km an hour).  They can run as fast as a small horse. They are very agile on land, although they are most at home in water.

Capybaras running in the wild

Capybaras running in the wild

Capybaras live in Herds, which vary in size. The size of the herd is related to the availability of critical resources like water and forage. Average group size is between 5 – 15 adults, though groups as large as 60 adults have been reported. In the Amazon rainforests of Peru some capybaras live in groups of 2 – 3 (one male and 2 females). Herds are hierarchical with a dominant male. Females in the group are thought to be related. The benefits of living in a group include protection from predators, access to mates, alloparenting (females share nursing and caring for the pups), and kin selection.

Capybaras stand on their hind legs and use their razor sharp teeth to bite their opponent when they are fighting for the dominant place in the hierarchy. Usually the subordinate capybara will run away rather than risk injury.   カピバラは戦うために後ろ足で立つ。鋭い歯相手を噛ま。下位のカピバラは通常逃げる。けがのリスクを望んでいない

Capybaras stand on their hind legs and use their razor sharp teeth to bite their opponent when they are fighting for the dominant place in the hierarchy. Usually the subordinate capybara will run away rather than risk injury. カピバラは戦うために後ろ足で立つ。鋭い歯相手を噛ま。下位のカピバラは通常逃げる。けがのリスクを望んでいない

 

In this photo of two male capybaras fighting in the wild, the male capybara on the right is challenging the capybara on the left for dominance of the herd. On this occasion the existing dominant capybara succeeds in chasing the challenger off his territory

In this photo of two male capybaras fighting in the wild, the male capybara on the right is challenging the capybara on the left for dominance of the herd. On this occasion the existing dominant capybara succeeds in chasing the challenger off his territory

Hierarchy: the most obvious feature of capybara society is the dominance hierarchy among males. The dominant male achieves this status through ritualised aggressive posturing which seldom leads to a fight as subordinate capybaras prefer not to fight and will usually run away to avoid injury. The dominant male is very often the largest male. The main advantage in being number one in the male hierarchy is access to receptive females. Female capybaras are more receptive to the dominant male than to the subordinate males. In the wild a female dominance hierarchy has not been observed. Hierarchy amongst females in captivity is primarily associated with feeding rights, i.e. access to the most food and the tastiest food, and can lead to fights.

Dominant males tolerate subordinate males in their herds as subordinate males play an important role in defending the territory by looking out for danger/predators. Subordinate males make more alarm calls than the dominant male and the females, and they are found on the fringes of the herd.

Capybara Eyesight: capybara’s rely more on their excellent hearing and sense of smell. Their eyesight is good but not outstanding. Capybaras they do not have good night vision.

Communication:   Communication is very important for capybaras as they live in a closed social unit with a complex social structure. Communication is by vocalisation and by chemical signalling, via two glands in both sexes, one on the nose called a morillo and via the anal glands.

Capybaras have outstanding hearing. They also communicate in the infrasonic and ultrasonic sound frequencies. Infrasonic refers to sounds at frequencies below those audible to the human ear, usually below 20 Hz. Ultrasonic refers to sounds above those audible to the human ear, usually above 20,000 Hz.

Capybaras have an excellent sense of smell. They can sense water from at least a distance of 1 mile away from the water source.

Vocalisations:   Capybaras make at least seven different sounds that appear to be group specific (i.e. slightly different in each herd). Capybaras also appear to have a slightly different call for each member of the herd. Capybaras vocalise frequently, with baby capybaras emitting a characteristic higher pitched squeak or chuckle perhaps to maintain contact among themselves and with their mother and other females. Keeping in touch with the herd is a matter of life or death for most capybaras in order to avoid predators. If there is a threat the adults may make a circle facing outwards around the young. Capybara’s vocalisations range from contented chuckles, through barks (used as a warning, a threat or to express excitement), plaintive squeaks, clicks and ultrasonic and infrasonic emissions inaudible to the human ear that can be felt as a vibration if you are next to the capybara.

The sound a capybara mother makes as her babies suckle is truly magical. She goes into a trance like state, her eyes glaze over and she starts to “sing”. She relaxes and seems to be very happy. Based on my observations it seems to me the sensation of the babies suckling at her teats maybe a very pleasurable one for a mother capybara.

 

The sound of a herd of capybara singing in unison is quite magical:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AbB3aufAcU

Female capybaras rub and nibble the male capybara and vocalise:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhDr6ocRRMI

The sound a capybara mother makes as her babies suckle is truly magical. She goes into a trance like state, her eyes glaze over and she starts to “sing”. She relaxes and seems to be very happy. Based on my observations it seems to me the sensation of the babies suckling at her teats maybe a very pleasurable one for a mother capybara:

4 year old female capybara calls. After a short while the male capybara appears. The female rubs her morillo against the anal pocket/genital area of the male and marks by urinating. The male capybara rubs his morillo against the anal pocket/genital area of another female:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9z_1fXsq2k

For more information about the sounds capybaras make, and links to videos of capybaras calls, please see my blog:

https://capybaraworld.wordpress.com/2015/05/30/the-sounds-capybaras-make-capybaras-vocalisations-calls-and-barks-%e3%82%b5%e3%82%a6%e3%83%b3%e3%83%89%e3%81%af%e3%80%81%e3%82%ab%e3%83%94%e3%83%90%e3%83%a9%e3%83%a1%e3%82%a4%e3%82%af%e3%80%82/

 

Courtship Behaviour. Male capybara (with back to camera) nuzzles female capybara under the chin.   求愛行動。(カメラに背を)男性カピバラはあごの下、女性カピバラニブル。

Courtship Behaviour. Male capybara (with back to camera) nuzzles female capybara under the chin. 求愛行動。(カメラに背を)男性カピバラはあごの下、女性カピバラニブル。

 

This is the sound a capybara makes when he or she barks. Capybaras bark when they want to protest. This bark has a number of different meanings. It can be a warning, either of danger or that the capybara who is barking is not happy about something. In the wild a male capybara will bark to warn another male capybara to keep off its territory. In the wild capybaras will also bark when they perceive danger. This might be a predator such as a Jaguar or caiman. They will also bark at other capybaras in the herd if they are upset, frustrated or annoyed with that capybara. Momiji would bark in frustration at her baby Aoba’s frequent demands for milk, Aoba was an exceptionally greedy baby capybara and Momiji is an excellent mother so she always acceded to Aoba’s demands, unlike Maple who often refused milk to her babies, Cookie and Butter. The bark is also used as an alert call, for example at Nagasaki Bio Park Donguri, the number one capybara in the hierarchy, may bark when she hears that breakfast is about to be served. On one occasion when a serious fight broke out between the two babies, Aoba and Cookie, Donguri jumped up and barked before rushing over to intervene and break up the fight. When capybaras are fighting over the food troughs there may be barks of protest and warning. In the wild the main role for the subordinate male capybaras is to act as lookouts, and make warning calls. These subordinate male capybaras stay on the periphery of the herd.

Scent Marking: Scent marking can convey a wide spectrum of information, including the marking of territory to defend limited resources, like the water hole, and as a mechanism for social cohesion by indicating group membership and individual identity. One of the main purposes of scent marking, particularly using the morillo, is thought to be to maintain social status, i.e. to maintain the strict social hierarchy in males. A female will often defecate in close proximity to a male, thereby sending out a chemical signal, to show her interest in him. The role of scent marking in the maintenance of social status cannot be overestimated.

Scent marking behaviour in capybaras is more common in males than females, but during courtship males and females mark with equal frequency and use both glands. A typical marking sequence for males involves rubbing the morrillo against a shrub or twig then straddling the plant, pressing the anal pocket onto it and sometimes simultaneously urinating on the plant.

Scent marking behaviour in capybaras is more common in males than females, but during courtship males and females mark with equal frequency and use both glands. A typical marking sequence for males involves rubbing the morrillo against a shrub or twig then straddling the plant, pressing the anal pocket onto it and sometimes simultaneously urinating on the plant.

Individual capybaras vary in the chemical composition of their secretions and this enables individual recognition from the scent marks.

Capybara Mating.  カピバラの交尾

Capybara Mating. カピバラの交尾

Male and female capybaras both have anal glands which they use to mark territory. A typical marking sequence for males and females involves rubbing the morillo against a shrub or twig (or in the case of pet capybaras against a familiar object or a favoured human), then straddling the plant or familiar object (the familiar object might be a shoe or cushion) and pressing the anal pocket onto it, and sometimes simultaneously urinating on it. During this process hairs from the anal pocket are detached and left as a marker. Dominant males mark more frequently than subordinate males.

Number one in the female hierarchy squeezes her anal scent glands as she walks by crossing her hind legs.  ナンバー1女性カピバラ。肛門香り腺を絞り。後ろ足を交配することによって歩く

Number one in the female hierarchy squeezes her anal scent glands as she walks by crossing her hind legs. ナンバー1女性カピバラ。肛門香り腺を絞り。後ろ足を交配することによって歩く

Morillo: Capybaras have a glossy nose gland called a morillo which they use to send out a chemical signal. More dominant males have a larger morillo compared to subordinate males. Some female capybaras have a larger morillo than some males so this is not an infallible guide as to the sex of a capybara. The morillo may be a visual signal of dominance.

Male Capybara Morillo.  オスのカピバラのmorillo

Male Capybara Morillo. オスのカピバラのmorillo

During courtship male and female capybaras mark with equal frequency using both glands. During courtship the male may rub his morillo on a female capybara, often on her neck or back, during the mating ritual, while the female may rub her morillo on the neck or back of the male and nibble him on his neck under the chin, something which appears to give the male great pleasure. Video: Capybara Courtship Rituals, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SxKHZrcRDc

It is tempting to anthropomorphise what is going on in this video between Hinase, a 3-year-old female capybara who has never been pregnant and may never have even mated before, and Toku, the new breeding male (Boss Capy) at Nagasaki Bio Park. They both looked very interested in each other, sniffing each other’s bottoms, marking the bamboo, doing that walk where they cross their legs to squeeze their anal scent glands. At about 5.40 mins Hinase squats in front of Toku as if she would like him to mount her. You can hear her excited vocalisations. Somehow they don’t quite seem to understand what the other wants.  Hinase’s behaviour contrasts with Momiji, a very experienced capybara and mother of at least 3 litters, in my video ” Capybara Mating Rituals at Nagasaki Bio Park長崎バイオパークのカピバラ交尾”.   Momiji is very experienced and immediately squats down in front of Toku in the lordosis position and lets him mate, many times over.

I watched Hinase and Toku many times over the course of a month, and she reminded me very much of a teenage girl in love, but shy and inexperienced, wanting Toku to prove his love for her before letting him mate!

The number one in the female hierarchy rubs her morillo against the anal pocket/genital area, and sniffs it, of a female capybara who has been in a separate enclosure for about 10 weeks while she gave birth. This is her first day back with the herd.  女性のカピバラ(メス階層内ナンバーワン)は、バックカピバラをお待ちしております。 morilloをこすり、ボトムをにおいがする。彼女は出産10週間別々の筐体になっています。バック群れで初日

The number one in the female hierarchy rubs her morillo against the anal pocket/genital area, and sniffs it, of a female capybara who has been in a separate enclosure for about 10 weeks while she gave birth. This is her first day back with the herd. 女性のカピバラ(メス階層内ナンバーワン)は、バックカピバラをお待ちしております。 morilloをこすり、ボトムをにおいがする。彼女は出産10週間別々の筐体になっています。バック群れで初日

Reproduction: Capybaras give birth year round but frequency of mating tends to be more intense at the beginning of the wet season. In the wild females tend to breed when they reach a body weight of 35 to 40 kg, which usually occurs at one and a half to two years of age. Females isolate themselves from the herd to give birth and for a few days thereafter.

Alloparenting.   Mother capybara is nursing two of her own pups. The third pup was born to a capybara who is related to her. Her mother is the grandmother of the mother of the other baby capybara. The pups share the same father.   群れの女性カピバラは関連しています。の赤ちゃんはどんな母親を授乳することができます。ただ、母を所有してい。

Alloparenting. Mother capybara is nursing two of her own pups. The third pup was born to a capybara who is related to her. Her mother is the grandmother of the mother of the other baby capybara. The pups share the same father. 群れの女性カピバラは関連しています。の赤ちゃんはどんな母親を授乳することができます。ただ、母を所有してい。

Age of sexual maturity averages 15 months. Litter size depends in part on the age of the mother (it peaks when the mother is 4 – 5 years old) and averages 4 – 7 pups, however smaller numbers of pups are not uncommon. Litter size can be as large as 8 pups. Gestation varies between 147 – 156 days. Female capybaras give birth synchronously (often within a two-week period) and communally nurse the young (called alloparenting) meaning that a baby capybara may suckle from any lactating female. The number of teats a female capybara has varies from 10 – 12 (5 – 6 pairs).

Estrus: The average duration of the estrus cycle is 7.5 days. The receptive period lasts just 8 hours. This very short period of sexual receptivity appears to help dominant males have exclusive access to females as it is very unlikely that two females will be receptive at the same time, thus allowing the dominant male a greater chance of mating with the receptive female. Capybaras produce no external physical signs of being in estrus. During estrus, the female becomes receptive to the male and copulation usually takes place in water. The female moves in and out of the water, followed by the male, until she demonstrates receptivity by adopting the lordosis position. The male initiates courtship by scent marking and sniffing the female’s sexual organ. The dominant male will mate more frequently than the subordinate males, but the total number of matings by subordinate males is greater than for each dominant male. The short estrus cycle favours the dominant male by reducing sperm competition.

Male capybara sniffs female capybaras anal glands. The male capybara in this photo was much more interested in the female than the tasty watermelon which was on offer.   オスカピバラ、女性のカピバラ肛門香り腺におい。

Male capybara sniffs female capybaras anal glands. The male capybara in this photo was much more interested in the female than the tasty watermelon which was on offer. オスカピバラ、女性のカピバラ肛門香り腺におい。

Video: Capybara Mating Rituals: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUDXrnv9B-w

Capybara Pups at Birth: Capybaras are born precocial, with their eyes open and covered with fur. They are capable of moving shortly after birth and eating solid food within a few days of birth although they continue to drink their mother’s or any lactating female’s milk. The pups are weaned at approximately 16 weeks of age. The average weight of a pup born in the wild is 1.5 kg (about 3lbs), although pups born in captivity may weigh 2 kg (about 4 lbs).

Lifestyle: Capybaras are diurnal by nature, but many have become nocturnal in the wild to avoid being hunted by humans and predators. Capybaras are most active during the afternoon and night.

Predators: include Jaguar, Puma, Caiman (in water) and the Anaconda. The young are also attacked by snakes such as the Boa Constrictor, crab eating foxes, small cats and birds such as black vultures and the caracara. However humans pose the greatest threat to capybaras through hunting, both legal and illegal, and through habitat loss. Close to urban areas they also fall prey to packs of feral dogs.

Disease: Capybaras are resilient animals and in the wild the main cause of death is not disease, but rather predation, old age or malnutrition. Although they may carry a wide range of parasites, including ticks, and other diseases, they appear to be largely resistant to the effect of these.

Sun: In the wild capybaras are of course outside all day. Some pet capybaras have had severe bone problems as a result of not getting enough exposure to the sun because they were kept inside the house. It is essential that capybaras spend time outside every day, at least 6-8 hours, additionally in most parts of the USA it is recommended that broad spectrum lighting be placed in the indoor resting area in an overlapping pattern, as close to the pet as deemed safe;  and that a fresh bulb replace the used bulb every 6 months.

Stress: capybaras are susceptible to stress and chronic stress will undermine their health. They experience a number of behavioural and physiological responses to stress. Capybaras can be highly stressed by changes in their environment.

Capybaras Are Very Affectionate. Mother is Nuzzled By 5 Month Old Son. カピバラ非常に愛情。赤ちゃんニブル母

Diet: Capybaras are herbivores and their diet in their natural habitat consists of grasses, aquatic plants, sedges and bark. 70% of the capybaras diet in the wild consists of grasses and sedges. Capybaras spend 31% of the day grazing during the wet season and 42% during the dry season. It is essential that captive capybaras follow a diet that replicates as closely as possible their natural diet in the wild, and for which their digestive system (hindgut fermentation) has evolved over millions of years. They are particularly susceptible to sugars and carbohydrates.

Fruit is not part of the natural diet of a capybara. Eating fruit is potentially harmful and has been linked to liver and heart problems. Eating fruit can also cause diarrhoea leading to death. There is a lot of misinformation on the subject of capybara diet on the Internet. Put simply – Fruit Should Not Be Fed to Capybaras.

“What Should I Feed My Pet Capybara?”: https://capybaraworld.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/what-should-i-feed-my-pet-capybara/

Capybara Teeth. Capybara Yawns.  カピバラ歯。カピバラのあくび。

Capybara Teeth. Capybara Yawns. カピバラ歯。カピバラのあくび。

Capybara Teeth: Capybara’s, like horses and rabbits, teeth keep on growing throughout their life. These are known as hypsodont teeth.  This adaptation extends the life of the teeth and therefore the life of the animal. They are able to reduce the plants they eat to very small particles which aids the absorption of nutrients.  Capybara teeth are razor sharp.

Capybaras often chew on stones, bark or twigs to keep their teeth healthy:    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXYTs5VewHs

Seawater: Capybaras have a low tolerance for brackish water (salt water).

14 month old female Capybara Eating Her Cecotropes. を食べる

14 month old female Capybara Eating Her Cecotropes. cecotropesを食べる

Cecotrophy: The capybara diet is highly fibrous and nutritionally low in value. Cecotrophy allows the capybara to digest more nutrients from an otherwise low nutrient diet and maximise the absorption of protein. The ‘cecotrophy’ excreta is different in composition to the usual oval shaped faeces, and contains up to 37% more protein and 30% less fibrous material, depending on the diet. Capybaras most often practice cecotrophy in the early morning hours when protein content is highest. This type of reingestion to obtain more nutrients is similar to the chewing of cud in cattle.

Evolution: Caviomorph rodents are one of the most noteworthy groups of mammals in South America. Isolated for more than 30 million years, they have given rise to two giant rodents: Phoberomys from about 6 million years ago, which probably weighed more than 400 kg, and Josephoartigasia Monesi from about 2.5 million years ago which weighed about 1000 kg.

The ancestors of today’s caviomorphs probably came to South America from Africa by raft about 41 million years ago. During the Pleistocene – Holocene period (2.5 Ma to recent) capybaras (Neochoerus and Hydrochoerus) ranged from southern North America to central Argentina. About 3.5 million years ago, capybara dispersed to North America across the Panamanian land bridge. Neochoerus Pinckneyi is an extinct Capybara species that lived in the southern half of North America. Fossil remains have been found in Florida, South Carolina, Texas, Arizona and Central America. It is thought to have weighed about 200 lbs, making it approximately twice as large as Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris (modern capybara). Fossil remains in North America suggest it lived about 500,000 years ago and became extinct about 11,000 years ago.

Capybaras That Are Used to Humans Love to Be Petted.  カピバラ撫でするのが大好き。それらは人間に使用されている場合

Capybaras That Are Used to Humans Love to Be Petted. カピバラ撫でするのが大好き。それらは人間に使用されている場合

Conservation Status: although Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris as a whole is not threatened with extinction in some places populations have disappeared. Capybaras in north-eastern Brazil and the Chaco Seco region of Argentina are under threat due to hunting by man. In the Llanos of Venezuela and Colombia populations are also at risk and local extinctions are possible.

Common name:       Capybara
Scientific name:       Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris
Kingdom:                  Animalia
Phylum:                    Chordata
Class:                         Mammalia
Order:                        Rodentia
Family:                      Caviidae
Genus:                       Hydrochoerus

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Capybara Facts and Information (Hydrochoerus Hydrochaeris). More detailed version:

Adult Female Capybara, 6 years old.  成人女性カピバラ。 6歳

Adult Female Capybara, 6 years old. 成人女性カピバラ。 6歳

The capybara has attracted the attention of explorers and writers to South America from the 16th century onward. They were struck by both its size and its gregariousness and relative tameness. The capybara is the last survivor of a long line of gigantic grass eating rodents that evolved in South America over millions of years. The salient feature of capybara behaviour is undoubtedly their gregariousness.   It is the world’s largest rodent.

Scientific name: Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris.

In the past capybaras were also known as Water Pig.

The name, capybara, originates from a word in the language of the indigenous Tupi people (ka’pii which means grass + gwara which means eater). The language of the Tupi was the most widely spoken language in South America in the 16th century and means grass eater although the translation “Master of the Grasses” is more poetic and reflects their diet and to some extent their habitat. There are many, many different names for the capybara in South America, the most common of these include: carpincho, capivara, chiguire, ronsoco.

There are 2 species of capybara:    The less common species is the Lesser Capybara (Hydrochoerus Isthmius) found in eastern Panama, northwestern Colombia and western Venezuela. This is a scientifically distinct species with anatomical differences, a smaller size and genetic differences. The species is fairly common in Panama but increasingly rare in Venezuela. It is threatened by subsistence hunting, the destruction of forested areas and the drainage of swamps. The Lesser Capybara breeds year round, with an average litter size of 3.5 pups. Individuals may be diurnal or nocturnal and solitary or social depending on season, habitat and hunting pressure.

Geographical Location:   Capybaras, Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris, are found in Central and South America from Panama to Northern Argentina primarily east of the Andes. They inhabit several types of wetland including gallery forest along rivers, mangroves and marshes. Capybaras reach their highest densities in the seasonally flooded savannas of the Llanos of Venezuela and Colombia, and the Pantanal of the Mato Grosso and on Marajo island in Brazil. They are always found in close proximity to water. The highest altitude at which capybaras are found is 4, 500 feet (1500 m). The only South American country with no capybaras is Chile.

6 Week Old Baby Capybara Sleeping.   6週齢の赤ちゃんカピバラは眠る

6 Week Old Baby Capybara Sleeping. 6週齢の赤ちゃんカピバラは眠る

Size and Weight: An adult capybara is large! Adult capybaras weigh on average from 40 to 50 kg in the wild (range 35 – 65 kg). In captivity the average weight is between 50 – 60 kg for a healthy capybara. There is no difference in weight between the sexes, but there are differences in size across the capybaras’ geographical distribution, with capybaras in Venezuela smaller than those of central and south eastern Brazil and Argentina, and those found in north-eastern Brazil being smaller still. In length they average about 4 feet (1.2 m) and are up to 2 feet tall (.60 m).

Physical Description:   Capybaras’ skin is thick and sparsely covered with coarse, oily water-resistant fur, varying in colour: red, grey, brown and straw coloured. Some black hairs can be found on the face, rump and limbs. Capybaras have a vestigial tail but this is not visible from a distance. The front legs are shorter than the hind legs. The feet are partially webbed with four toes on the front feet and three toes on the hind feet. The head is large with the nostrils, eyes and ears (which are small and hairless with a mobile fold that closes the ear canal when they submerge) located on the top of their head, so they can hear, smell and see while remaining almost completely submerged, an adaptation to their semi aquatic lifestyle which allows them to keep a lookout for any dangers while remaining almost invisible.

    The Vestigial Tail of a Capybara (by the little red arrow).   カピバラの痕跡尾。 (赤い矢印で)

The Vestigial Tail of a Capybara (by the little red arrow). カピバラの痕跡尾。 (赤い矢印で)

Semi aquatic lifestyle: Access to water is essential for capybaras. Capybaras’ territory always includes water which is used both as a refuge from predators and to control body temperature. They often seek refuge in water to escape predators (except the Cayman, which will rarely attack a capybara on land, but will often attack a capybara in water). Capybaras are very agile in water and can swim very fast. They can spend long hours in water, in part to thermoregulate (maintain a lower body temperature) as their sweat glands are not well developed. They can remain under water for up to 5 minutes.

Male Capybara Surrounded by Adoring Female Capybaras Nibbling Him and Vying for His Attention.  オスカピバラは、女性のカピバラを絶賛に囲まれています。

Male Capybara Surrounded by Adoring Female Capybaras Nibbling Him and Vying for His Attention. オスカピバラは、女性のカピバラを絶賛に囲まれています。

Most activities are located close to the water hole. Capybaras always rest close to water. The distance from the main grazing areas to the nearest pond is never more than 300 m. Most mating takes place in water. Capybaras defecate in water for preference, but will also defecate on land often to mark territory and send out a chemical signal.

Territory and Habitat: The average size of territory is between 5 – 16 hectares, though can be much larger if vegetation is sparse. The capybara’s territory must provide sufficient resources to ensure survival under widely differing seasonal conditions. The size of territory and the availability of water and food resources determines the size of the herd. The home territory must include a water hole, bushy scrub, patches of higher ground on which to avoid flooding at the height of the wet season and low-lying areas of grass. Bushy scrub is crucial in the wet season as it provides essential food and shelter. Bushy scrub is also essential for reproductive success as the females go off into the bushy scrub to give birth in part so that they are not visible to predators. Low-lying areas of grass, being closer to the water table, are essential to sustain the herd in the dry season.

When threatened a capybara will usually take to the water as it seeks refuge. Capybaras can remain under water for up to 5 minutes. They can also sleep under water leaving their nose above the waterline in order to breathe. Their nostrils, eyes and ears are all located on the top of their head so they can remain submerged and almost completely hidden with just their nose, eyes and ears protruding above the water.

Lifespan: In the wild their lifespan averages 8 to 10 years. The oldest capybara kept in captivity lived to be 15 years old at Adelaide Zoo, in Australia.

Top speed on land:   Capybaras can run very fast with a top speed of about 22 mph (35 km an hour).  They can run as fast as a small horse. They are very agile on land, although they are most at home in water.

Capybaras running in the wild

Capybaras running in the wild

Capybaras live in Herds, which vary in size. The size of the herd is related to the availability of critical resources like water and forage. Average group size is between 5 – 15 adults, though groups as large as 60 adults have been reported. There is no advantage in having a larger group size with regard to shared vigilance for predators and reproductive success. In the Amazon rainforests of Peru some capybaras live in groups of 2 – 3 (one male and 2 females). Herds are hierarchical with a dominant male. Females in the group are thought to be related. The benefits of living in a group include protection from predators, access to mates, alloparenting (females share nursing and caring for the pups), and kin selection.

Capybaras stand on their hind legs and use their razor sharp teeth to bite their opponent when they are fighting for the dominant place in the hierarchy. Usually the subordinate capybara will run away rather than risk injury.   カピバラは戦うために後ろ足で立つ。鋭い歯相手を噛ま。下位のカピバラは通常逃げる。けがのリスクを望んでいない

Capybaras stand on their hind legs and use their razor sharp teeth to bite their opponent when they are fighting for the dominant place in the hierarchy. Usually the subordinate capybara will run away rather than risk injury. カピバラは戦うために後ろ足で立つ。鋭い歯相手を噛ま。下位のカピバラは通常逃げる。けがのリスクを望んでいない

 

 

In this photo of two male capybaras fighting in the wild, the male capybara on the right is challenging the capybara on the left for dominance of the herd. On this occasion the existing dominant capybara succeeds in chasing the challenger off his territory

In this photo of two male capybaras fighting in the wild, the male capybara on the right is challenging the capybara on the left for dominance of the herd. On this occasion the existing dominant capybara succeeds in chasing the challenger off his territory

Hierarchy:   The most obvious feature of capybara society is the dominance hierarchy among males. The dominant male achieves this status through ritualised aggressive posturing which seldom leads to a fight as subordinate capybaras prefer not to fight and will usually run away to avoid injury. The dominant male is very often the largest male. The main advantage in being number one in the male hierarchy is access to receptive females. Female capybaras are more receptive to the dominant male than to the subordinate males. In the wild a female dominance hierarchy has not been observed. Hierarchy amongst females in captivity is primarily associated with feeding rights, i.e. access to the most food and the tastiest food, and can lead to fights.

Dominant males tolerate subordinate males in their herds as subordinate males play an important role in defending the territory by being vigilant, looking out for danger/predators. Subordinate males make more alarm calls than the dominant male and the females, and they are found on the fringes of the herd.

Capybara Eyesight: capybara’s rely more on their excellent hearing and sense of smell. Their eyesight is good but not outstanding. Capybaras they do not have good night vision.

Communication:   Communication is very important for capybaras as they live in a closed social unit with a complex social structure. Communication is by vocalisation and by chemical signalling, via two glands in both sexes, one on the nose called a morillo and via the anal glands.

Capybaras have outstanding hearing. They also communicate in the infrasonic and ultrasonic sound frequencies. Infrasonic refers to sounds at frequencies below those audible to the human ear, usually below 20 Hz. Ultrasonic refers to sounds above those audible to the human ear, usually above 20,000 Hz.

Capybaras have an excellent sense of smell. They can sense water from at least a distance of 1 mile away from the water source.

Vocalisations:   Capybaras make at least seven different sounds that appear to be group specific (i.e. slightly different in each herd). Capybaras also appear to have a slightly different call for each member of the herd. Capybaras vocalise frequently, with baby capybaras emitting a characteristic higher pitched squeak or chuckle perhaps to maintain contact among themselves and with their mother and other females. Keeping in touch with the herd is a matter of life or death for most capybaras in order to avoid predators. If there is a threat the adults may make a circle facing outwards around the young. Capybara’s vocalisations range from contented chuckles, through barks (used as a warning, a threat or to express excitement), plaintive squeaks, clicks and ultrasonic emissions inaudible to the human ear that can be felt as a vibration if you are next to the capybara.

The sound a capybara mother makes as her babies suckle is truly magical. She goes into a trance like state, her eyes glaze over and she starts to “sing”. She relaxes and seems to be very happy. Based on my observations it seems to me the sensation of the babies suckling at her teats maybe a very pleasurable one for a mother capybara:

The sound of a herd of capybara singing in unison is quite magical:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AbB3aufAcU

Female capybaras rub and nibble the male capybara and vocalise:    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhDr6ocRRMI

4 year old female capybara calls. After a short while the male capybara appears. The female rubs her morillo against the anal pocket/genital area of the male and marks by urinating. The male capybara rubs his morillo against the anal pocket/genital area of another female:    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9z_1fXsq2k

Number one in the female hierarchy squeezes her anal scent glands as she walks by crossing her hind legs.  ナンバー1女性カピバラ。肛門香り腺を絞り。後ろ足を交配することによって歩く

Number one in the female hierarchy squeezes her anal scent glands as she walks by crossing her hind legs. ナンバー1女性カピバラ。肛門香り腺を絞り。後ろ足を交配することによって歩く

 

This is the sound a capybara makes when he or she barks. Capybaras bark when they want to protest. This bark has a number of different meanings. It can be a warning, either of danger or that the capybara who is barking is not happy about something. In the wild a male capybara will bark to warn another male capybara to keep off its territory. In the wild capybaras will also bark when they perceive danger. This might be a predator such as a Jaguar or caiman. They will also bark at other capybaras in the herd if they are upset, frustrated or annoyed with that capybara. Momiji would bark in frustration at her baby Aoba’s frequent demands for milk, Aoba was an exceptionally greedy baby capybara and Momiji is an excellent mother so she always acceded to Aoba’s demands, unlike Maple who often refused milk to her babies, Cookie and Butter. The bark is also used as an alert call, for example at Nagasaki Bio Park Donguri, the number one capybara in the hierarchy, may bark when she hears that breakfast is about to be served. On one occasion when a serious fight broke out between the two babies, Aoba and Cookie, Donguri jumped up and barked before rushing over to intervene and break up the fight. When capybaras are fighting over the food troughs there may be barks of protest and warning. In the wild the main role for the subordinate male capybaras is to act as lookouts, and make warning calls. These subordinate male capybaras stay on the periphery of the herd.

For more information about the sounds capybaras make, and links to videos of capybaras calls, please see my blog:

https://capybaraworld.wordpress.com/2015/05/30/the-sounds-capybaras-make-capybaras-vocalisations-calls-and-barks-%e3%82%b5%e3%82%a6%e3%83%b3%e3%83%89%e3%81%af%e3%80%81%e3%82%ab%e3%83%94%e3%83%90%e3%83%a9%e3%83%a1%e3%82%a4%e3%82%af%e3%80%82/

Scent Marking:   Scent marking is the most common type of social interaction amongst capybaras in the wild. Scent marking can convey a wide spectrum of information, including the marking of territory to defend limited resources, like the water hole, and as a mechanism for social cohesion by indicating group membership and individual identity. One of the main purposes of scent marking, particularly using the morillo, is thought to be to maintain social status, i.e. to maintain the strict social hierarchy in males. A female will often defecate in close proximity to a male, thereby sending out a chemical signal, to show her interest in him. Female capybaras often mark just after the dominant male, possibly to show their association with him as well as to show their membership of the group. The role of scent marking in the maintenance of social status cannot be overestimated. In rodents in general the most common function of scent marking appears to be status signalling i.e. the scent marking behaviour and the chemistry of the secretion are related to social dominance.

Scent marking behaviour in capybaras is more common in males than females, but during courtship males and females mark with equal frequency and use both glands. A typical marking sequence for males involves rubbing the morrillo against a shrub or twig then straddling the plant, pressing the anal pocket onto it and sometimes simultaneously urinating on the plant.

Scent marking behaviour in capybaras is more common in males than females, but during courtship males and females mark with equal frequency and use both glands. A typical marking sequence for males involves rubbing the morrillo against a shrub or twig then straddling the plant, pressing the anal pocket onto it and sometimes simultaneously urinating on the plant.

As capybaras in the wild are often active during the night, to avoid predators including man, chemical communication is especially safe and effective.

Courtship Behaviour. Male capybara (with back to camera) nuzzles female capybara under the chin.   求愛行動。(カメラに背を)男性カピバラはあごの下、女性カピバラニブル。

Courtship Behaviour. Male capybara (with back to camera) nuzzles female capybara under the chin. 求愛行動。(カメラに背を)男性カピバラはあごの下、女性カピバラニブル。

Male and female capybaras both have anal glands which they use to mark territory. Capybaras do a characteristic walk crossing their hind legs as they walk to release scent from their anal gland. A typical marking sequence for males and females involves rubbing the morillo against a shrub or twig (or in the case of pet capybaras against a familiar object or a favoured human), then straddling the plant or familiar object (the familiar object might be a shoe or cushion) and pressing the anal pocket onto it, and sometimes simultaneously urinating on it. During this process hairs from the anal pocket are detached and left as a marker. Dominant males mark more frequently than subordinate males.

The anal glands in both male and female capybaras are located beside and below the anus, in a chamber which contains the urogenital and anal pocket openings. The male anal pocket is like an open pouch and contains very short hairs which are clearly visible. The female anal pocket is a relatively deep chamber which opens through a constricted neck. Larger more dominant females produce a greater quantity of secretions. The chemical components of both male and female secretions vary from individual to individual, allowing other capybaras to recognise which capybara deposited the secretion.

It is tempting to anthropomorphise what is going on in this video between Hinase, a 3-year-old female capybara who has never been pregnant and may never have even mated before, and Toku, the new breeding male (Boss Capy) at Nagasaki Bio Park. They both looked very interested in each other, sniffing each other’s bottoms, marking the bamboo, doing that walk where they cross their legs to squeeze their anal scent glands. At about 5.40 mins Hinase squats in front of Toku as if she would like him to mount her. You can hear her excited vocalisations. Somehow they don’t quite seem to understand what the other wants.  Hinase’s behaviour contrasts with Momiji, a very experienced capybara and mother of at least 3 litters, in my video ” Capybara Mating Rituals at Nagasaki Bio Park長崎バイオパークのカピバラ交尾”.   Momiji is very experienced and immediately squats down in front of Toku in the lordosis position and lets him mate, many times over.

I watched Hinase and Toku many times over the course of a month, and she reminded me very much of a teenage girl in love, but shy and inexperienced, wanting Toku to prove his love for her before letting him mate!

The number one in the female hierarchy rubs her morillo against the anal pocket/genital area, and sniffs it, of a female capybara who has been in a separate enclosure for about 10 weeks while she gave birth. This is her first day back with the herd.  女性のカピバラ(メス階層内ナンバーワン)は、バックカピバラをお待ちしております。 morilloをこすり、ボトムをにおいがする。彼女は出産10週間別々の筐体になっています。バック群れで初日

The number one in the female hierarchy rubs her morillo against the anal pocket/genital area, and sniffs it, of a female capybara who has been in a separate enclosure for about 10 weeks while she gave birth. This is her first day back with the herd. 女性のカピバラ(メス階層内ナンバーワン)は、バックカピバラをお待ちしております。 morilloをこすり、ボトムをにおいがする。彼女は出産10週間別々の筐体になっています。バック群れで初日

Morillo:   Capybaras have a glossy nose gland called a morillo which they use to to send out a chemical signal by marking territory etc. The size of the morillo increases with age up to 25 months after which any increase in size is not related to age. More dominant males have a larger morillo compared to subordinate males. Males with larger testes and higher levels of testosterone have larger morillos. Some female capybaras have a larger morillo than some males so this is not an infallible guide as to the sex of a capybara. The morillo may be a visual signal of dominance.

Male Capybara Morillo.  オスのカピバラのmorillo

Male Capybara Morillo. オスのカピバラのmorillo

During courtship male and female capybaras mark with equal frequency using both glands. During courtship the male may rub his morillo on a female capybara, often on her neck or back, during the mating ritual, while the female may rub her morillo on the neck or back of the male and nibble him on his neck under the chin, something which appears to give the male great pleasure. Video: Capybara Courtship Rituals, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SxKHZrcRDc

Reproduction:   Capybaras give birth year round but frequency of mating tends to be more intense at the beginning of the wet season. In the wild females tend to breed when they reach a body weight of 35 to 40 kg, which usually occurs at one and a half to two years of age. Females isolate themselves from the herd to give birth and for a few days thereafter.

Alloparenting.   Mother capybara is nursing two of her own pups. The third pup was born to a capybara who is related to her. Her mother is the grandmother of the mother of the other baby capybara. The pups share the same father.   群れの女性カピバラは関連しています。の赤ちゃんはどんな母親を授乳することができます。ただ、母を所有してい。

Alloparenting. Mother capybara is nursing two of her own pups. The third pup was born to a capybara who is related to her. Her mother is the grandmother of the mother of the other baby capybara. The pups share the same father. 群れの女性カピバラは関連しています。の赤ちゃんはどんな母親を授乳することができます。ただ、母を所有してい。

Age of sexual maturity averages 15 months (influenced by local climate and resource availability), but may be younger in the wild. Female capybaras reach puberty between 10 and 12 months of age. Litter size depends in part on the age of the mother (it peaks when the mother is 4 – 5 years old) and averages 4 – 7 pups, however smaller numbers of pups are not uncommon. Litter size can be as large as 8 pups. Gestation varies between 147 – 156 days. Female capybaras give birth synchronously (often within a two-week period) and communally nurse the young (called alloparenting) meaning that a baby capybara may suckle from any lactating female. The number of teats a female capybara has varies from 10 – 12 (5 – 6 pairs).

Reproductive suppression has been observed in various social rodents, and appears to be related to alloparenting (the co-operative rearing of young). In the case of capybaras not all females in a herd are reproductively active; reproductive suppression of subordinate females in the presence of the dominant female has been observed in captive capybaras.

Capybara Mating.  カピバラの交尾

Capybara Mating. カピバラの交尾

Capybaras are unusual in that, despite being the largest rodent, the size of their testicles is one of the smallest among rodents as a percentage of their body weight. This suggests that there is low sperm competition among capybara males. Capybaras appear to invest more in the production of testosterone than in the production of sperm, which might be an adaptation designed to maintain a strict dominance hierarchy year round. The very short period of sexual receptivity (8 hours) also appears to help dominant males have exclusive access to females as it is very unlikely that two females will be receptive at the same time, thus allowing the dominant male a greater chance of mating with the receptive female.

Estrus:   The average duration of the estrus cycle is 7.5 days. The receptive period lasts just 8 hours. Capybaras produce no external physical signs of being in estrus. During estrus, the female becomes receptive to the male and copulation usually takes place in water. The female moves in and out of the water, followed by the male, until she demonstrates receptivity by adopting the lordosis position. The male initiates courtship by scent marking and sniffing the female’s sexual organ. The male will mount the female many times over the course of an hour or more, and ultimately ejaculate for about 3 seconds. The dominant male will mate more frequently than the subordinate males, but the total number of matings by subordinate males is greater than for each dominant male. The short estrus cycle favours the dominant male by reducing sperm competition.

Male capybara sniffs female capybaras anal glands. The male capybara in this photo was much more interested in the female than the tasty watermelon which was on offer.   オスカピバラ、女性のカピバラ肛門香り腺におい。

Male capybara sniffs female capybaras anal glands. The male capybara in this photo was much more interested in the female than the tasty watermelon which was on offer. オスカピバラ、女性のカピバラ肛門香り腺におい。

Video: Capybara Mating Rituals: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUDXrnv9B-w

Capybara Pups at Birth:   Capybaras are born precocial, with their eyes open and covered with fur. They are capable of moving shortly after birth and eating solid food within a few days of birth although they continue to drink their mother’s or any lactating female’s milk. The pups are weaned at approximately 16 weeks of age. The average weight of a pup born in the wild is 1.5 kg (about 3lbs), although pups born in captivity may weigh 2 kg (about 4 lbs).

Lifestyle:   Capybaras are diurnal by nature, but many have become nocturnal in the wild to avoid being hunted by humans and predators. Capybaras are most active during the afternoon and night.

Predators:   include Jaguar, Puma, Caiman (in water) and the Anaconda. The young are also attacked by snakes such as the Boa Constrictor, crab eating foxes, small wildcats and birds such as black vultures and the caracara. However humans pose the greatest threat to capybaras through hunting, both legal and illegal, and through habitat loss. Close to urban areas they also fall prey to packs of feral dogs.

Disease: Capybaras are resilient animals and in the wild the main cause of death is not disease, but rather predation, old age or malnutrition. Although they may carry a wide range of parasites, including ticks, and other diseases, they appear to be largely resistant to the effect of these.

Scabies: Scabies (a contagious skin condition caused by tiny mites which burrow into the skin, caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei) is highly contagious and must be treated.Ivermectin is recommended to control ticks and for the treatment of scabies. Symptoms of scabies include constant scratching and localised loss of hair.

Scurvy: Capybaras lack the enzyme that converts glucose to ascorbic acid (vitamin C), therefore vitamin C is an essential component of their diet. It is found in many guinea pig feed products. In the wild capybaras are able to find sufficient vitamin C in their natural diet. The symptoms of scurvy include listlessness, bleeding gums and nose, loss of teeth, brittle bones and eventually death.

Sun: In the wild capybaras are of course outside all day. Some pet capybaras have had severe bone problems as a result of not getting enough exposure to the sun because they were kept inside the house. It is essential that capybaras spend time outside every day, at least 6-8 hours, additionally in most parts of the USA it is recommended that broad spectrum lighting be placed in the indoor resting area in an overlapping pattern, as close to the pet as deemed safe;  and that a fresh bulb replace the used bulb every 6 months.

Stress:   Capybaras are susceptible to stress and chronic stress will undermine their health. They experience a number of behavioural and physiological responses to stress. Symptoms of stress include changes in behaviour such as permanent vigilance or increased signs of alertness, a decrease in exploratory behaviour, an increase in aggressive behaviour and a reduction in the behavioural repertoire. Heart and breathing rates increase, glucose metabolism increases, the effects of which if long-lasting can damage the brain. Capybaras can be highly stressed by changes in their environment.

Capybaras Are Very Affectionate. Mother is Nuzzled By 5 Month Old Son. カピバラ非常に愛情。赤ちゃんニブル母

Capybaras Are Very Affectionate. Mother is Nuzzled By 5 Month Old Son. カピバラ非常に愛情。赤ちゃんニブル母

Diet:   Capybaras are herbivores and their diet in their natural habitat consists of grasses, aquatic plants, sedges and bark. 70% of the capybaras’ diet in the wild consists of grasses and sedges. Capybaras spend 31% of the day grazing during the wet season and 42% during the dry season. It is essential that captive capybaras follow a diet that replicates as closely as possible their natural diet in the wild, and for which their digestive system (hindgut fermentation) has evolved over millions of years. They are particularly susceptible to sugars and carbohydrates.

Fruit is not part of the natural diet of a capybara. Eating fruit is potentially harmful and has been linked to liver and heart problems. Eating fruit can also cause diarrhoea leading to death. There is a lot of misinformation on the subject of capybara diet on the Internet. Put simply – Fruit Should Not Be Fed to Capybaras.

“What Should I Feed My Pet Capybara?”: https://capybaraworld.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/what-should-i-feed-my-pet-capybara/

Capybara Teeth. Capybara Yawns.  カピバラ歯。カピバラのあくび。

Capybara Teeth. Capybara Yawns. カピバラ歯。カピバラのあくび。

Capybara Teeth:    Another striking feature of capybara is their unpaired, ever-growing cheek teeth whose very complicated occlusal surface design changes throughout the capybara’s life. Capybaras like horses and rabbits have high crowned teeth, known as hypsodont teeth, an adaptation to extend the life of teeth and therefore the life of the animal. In these teeth the roots delay their development and the crown keeps on growing throughout the life of the animal. In capybaras the occlusal morphology of their cheek teeth is so peculiar that a special nomenclature (system of names) had to be developed to describe them! This very intricate occlusal surface design grows more complex throughout the capybara’s life. They are able to reduce the plants they eat to very small particles which aids the absorption of nutrients.   Capybara teeth are razor sharp.

Capybaras often chew on stones, bark or twigs to keep their teeth healthy:    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXYTs5VewHs

Seawater:   Capybaras have a low tolerance for brackish water (salt water).

14 month old female Capybara Eating Her Cecotropes. cecotropesを食べる

14 month old female Capybara Eating Her Cecotropes. cecotropesを食べる

Capybaras Are Unusual in Several Ways:   To quote from the book “Capybara, Biology, Use and Conservation of an Exceptional Neotropical Species”: “Capybaras are not merely unusual, they are extraordinary … Their biology is exceptional”. Other ways in which capybaras are unusual include: they are the only rodents with subcutaneous sweat glands; they appear to have a very strong immune system allowing them to resist many parasitic infections; they are unique among rodents in having a nasal gland, the morillo; with further study other unusual aspects of this extraordinary animal may come to light.

Cecotrophy:   The capybara diet is highly fibrous and nutritionally low in value. Cecotrophy allows the capybara to digest more nutrients from an otherwise low nutrient diet and maximise the absorption of protein. The ‘cecotrophy’ excreta is different in composition to the usual oval shaped faeces, and contains up to 37% more protein and 30% less fibrous material, depending on the diet.

Cecotrophy in capybaras varies in frequency and it can even stop altogether when food is rich in protein. It is most frequent when the nutritional quality of the diet is low. In wild populations there is a higher occurrence of cecotrophy during the dry season when food is scarce and lacking nutrients. Capybaras, with their highly efficient mastication and long retention time of undigested compounds in the cecum, can efficiently digest fibrous feedstuffs. (In rabbits large particles are barely fermented and the effect of cecotrophy on fibre digestibility is low.)

The average retention time of roughage in the digestive tract of capybaras is 12 (+/- 1.9) hours.

The process by which cecotropes are produced is called “hindgut fermentation”. Food passes through the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, where nutrients are initially absorbed ineffectively, and then into the colon. Through reverse peristalsis, the food is forced back into the cecum where it is broken down into simple sugars (i.e. monosaccharides) by bacterial fermentation. The cecotrope then passes through the colon, the anus, and is eliminated by the animal and then reingested. The process occurs 4 to 8 hours after eating. This type of reingestion to obtain more nutrients is similar to the chewing of cud in cattle.

Capybaras most often practice cecotrophy in the early morning hours when protein content is highest.

Evolution:   Caviomorph rodents are one of the most noteworthy groups of mammals in South America. Isolated for more than 30 million years, they have given rise to several extraordinary rodents including the pacas, cavies, vizcachas, agoutis, as well as 2 giants: Phoberomys, from the late Miocene (6 Ma; mega annum = million years) which probably weighed more than 400 kg, and Josephoartigasia Monesi probably from the Pleistocene (2.5 Ma) at about 1000 kg. Capybaras are undoubtedly related to the living cavies and their extinct relatives.

The ancestors of today’s caviomorphs probably came to South America from Africa by raft during the early Eocene (about 41 Ma). During the Pleistocene – Holocene period (2.5 Ma to recent) capybaras (Neochoerus and Hydrochoerus) ranged from southern North America to central Argentina. About 3.5 million years ago, capybara dispersed to North America across the Panamanian land bridge. Neochoerus Pinckneyi is an extinct Capybara species that lived in the southern half of North America. Fossil remains have been found in Florida, South Carolina, Texas, Arizona and Central America. It is thought to have weighed about 200 lbs, making it approximately twice as large as Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris (modern capybara). Fossil remains in North America suggest it lived about 500,000 years ago and became extinct about 11,000 years ago.

Gigantism in Caviomorphs is more common than in other rodents and had reached its peak by the end of the Miocene, 6 Ma. Capybaras in particular were already large when they were first recognised, but continued to increase in size, peaking during the Plio-Pleistocene (5.3 Ma to 10 Ky). Examples of this are Chapalmatherium (200 kg) and Neochoerus (110 kg). It appears from the fossil record that the basic biological characteristics of capybaras were attained before the late Miocene.

Capybaras That Are Used to Humans Love to Be Petted.  カピバラ撫でするのが大好き。それらは人間に使用されている場合

Capybaras That Are Used to Humans Love to Be Petted. カピバラ撫でするのが大好き。それらは人間に使用されている場合

Conservation status: Although Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris as a whole is not threatened with extinction in some places populations have disappeared. Capybaras in north-eastern Brazil and the Chaco Seco region of Argentina are under threat due to hunting by man. In the Llanos of Venezuela and Colombia populations are also at risk and local extinctions are possible.

The importance of capybaras: The authors of “Capybara, biology, use and conservation of an Exceptional Neotropical Species” state: “It is arguably the most important native mammalian herbivore in the ecology of the wetlands and savannas of the subcontinent”.

Common name:       Capybara
Scientific name:       Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris
Kingdom:                  Animalia
Phylum:                    Chordata
Class:                         Mammalia
Order:                        Rodentia
Family:                      Caviidae
Genus:                       Hydrochoerus

I would like to recommend the book: “Capybara, Biology, Use and Conservation of an Exceptional Neotropical Species” edited by Moreira, Ferraz, Herrera and MacDonald. Published by Springer, as the best source of accurate information about the capybara.

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6 thoughts on “Capybara Facts and Information. Everything You Wanted To Know About Capybaras カピバラの事実と情報. カピバラについて知りたいすべてのもの

  1. Pingback: A Pet Capybara: Should I Have One? | capybaraworld

  2. Pingback: Pet Capybara FAQs. The Questions People Always Ask. | capybaraworld

  3. Hello,
    I work as a interpretation, signage and graphic designer for Zoos SA, a not-for-profit conservation charity, and I am trying to find some images for signage for our new species signs. The images on your site are amazing and I was wondering if it is permitted for an organization such as ours to use any of the images, and if there would be a fee associated with this. I’m particularly interested in the image of the capybara yawning and showing its teeth, which would be very helpful in explaining about rodent teeth. The signage is all about connecting people with wildlife and inspiring them to care for animals and their habitats. Please let me know as soon as you can – thank you very much.
    Regards, Janette

    Like

    • Hello Janette,

      Yes of course you can use any of my photos that you want. The only thing I would ask is that you keep the watermark “Capybara World” on the image. This is because the blogs I write are intended, on the one hand, to counter some of the misinformation about capybaras on the Internet. And also to make life better for capybaras by explaining why they might not be suitable as a pet, what they should be fed to ensure their health and drawing attention to their other needs. For these reasons I like to promote Capybara World.

      Best wishes,

      Liz

      Like

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