Interesting and surprising facts about the capybara

Capybaras are giant cavy rodents native to South America.

They are found in Central and South America, inhabiting areas with water bodies. Capybaras live in family groups of 4 to 20 individuals. An animal feeds only on grass. We have collected some interesting facts about the capybara.

Description of the capybara

The body length of adults is 1-1.35 m, height from 50 to 60 cm. The weight of males is 34-63 kg, females – 36-66 kg. The capybara looks like a giant bighead guinea pig. It has a large head with a wide, blunt face, thick upper lip. Its ears are short, rounded shape. Its nostrils are wide. Eyes are small, located high on the head, and a few behind. The tail is almost absent. Paws are short, four fingers on the front, three with short strong claws on the back. Capybara fingers are connected by swimming eardrums. The body surface is covered with long and hard hairs, length from 30 to 120 mm, no undercoat. I paint the upper body of the capybara from a reddish-brown to grayish tone, the tummy is usually yellowish-brown. Young individuals are lighter in color than adults. Adult males have a skin area with large sebaceous glands on top of their faces. Females have six pairs of abdominal nipples on their bellies.

Features of capybara nutrition

Capybara, as a herbivorous animal, eats various fruits and tubers, hay and grass, as well as aquatic plants.

Spreading of the capybara

Capybara is distributed along the shores of various water bodies, mainly in tropical and temperate zones of Central and South America. It is found in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela, and French Guiana. Also inhibits the Orinoco, Amazon, and La Plata rivers. In the mountains, capybaras are distributed at altitudes up to 1300 m above sea level.

A small spillway inhabits the territory from the north of Panama to Colombia and north-west Venezuela.

Common species of capybara

Nowadays, the genus of capybara includes 4 species, 2 of which are extinct:

Capybara common (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) – typical, the main representative of the genus; Capybara common (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) photo

Capybara or Dodge Small (Hydrochoerus isthmius) – differs from an ordinary capybara in its smaller body size, as well as the main region of distribution, which for it is eastern Panama, northwestern Colombia, and western Venezuela.

Male and female capybara: basic differences

The main manifestation of sexual dimorphism in capybara is that females are usually larger than males. Otherwise, their appearance is the same.

The behavior of the capybara

Capybaras lead a semi-aqueous lifestyle, these animals do not leave the water more than 500-1000 m. The species distribution is due to changes in water level depending on the season. Thus, during the rainy season, capybaras widely diverge along the territory inhabited by them, in the dry season they, on the contrary, concentrate along the banks of large rivers and other water bodies. In search of water and food capybaras can travel very long distances.

The period of highest activity for the capybara is the day when they are worried about humans and predators, rodents move to the nightlife.

The capybara knows how to swim and dive well. The eyes on the head of the animal are high, as well as the ears and nostrils, which allows the capybara to leave them above the water while swimming.

Capybaras are public animals; they usually live in groups of 10-20 animals. Each group consists of a dominant male, adult females, toddlers, and subordinate males that are located on the periphery of the group. About 10% of capybara males lead a solitary life. The dominant male can expel other male competitors from his group. In dry areas, large groups of capybaras gather, up to several hundred animals sometimes gather around water bodies during drought. On average, the capybara herd lives on an area of about 10 hectares, but they mainly concentrate on the area of less than 1 hectare. Such a main area of the capybara is marked with excreta from nasal and anal glands. Conflicts between permanent residents of the territory and strangers are noted.

The capybaras communicate with each other by whistling, as well as clicking and barking sounds, and smells of secrets of olfactory glands, which are located on the muzzles of males.

Capybara Reproduction

Capybaras breed throughout the year, but mating mainly occurs at the beginning of the rainy season (for example, in April-May in Venezuela, in October-November in Mato Grosso, Brazil). During the breeding period, males mark plants with a special secret, which attracts females.

Mating at the capybara takes place in water. Pregnancy lasts about 150 days, ends in September-November. Deliveries take place far from shelters, right on the ground. In one brood there are 2-8 babies, they are born with wool, open eyes, and teething. The weight of the calves reaches 1.5 kg. The newborn babies are cared for by all the females of the group. And almost immediately after the birth they follow their mother and begin to eat grass. Dairy feeding lasts until the age of 3-4 months. In favorable conditions, females capybara bring 2-3 litters.

Young capybaras reach puberty at the age of 15-18 months, at this point their weight is 30-40 kg.

Natural enemies

Natural enemies of the capybara are wild dogs, crocodile caymans, alligators, Original crocodiles, jaguars, ocelots, anacondas. From terrestrial predators, animals hide underwater, while they breathe through the nostrils that remain above the surface.

Capybara hunts cubs with a vulture urubu (Coragyps atratus), other birds of prey, as well as wild dogs.

Interesting facts about the capybara

  1. The name of the capybara from the dead language of Tupi (which is related to the language of Guaraní Indians) is translated as “eater of thin grass”. In the closest to the original form of “capivara” the word has entered Portuguese and is widely used in Brazil. In the form of “capybara” the name has taken root in English, Russian, Japanese, and several other languages. In Latin America, where Spanish is used, other names of this species are used, such as “carpincho” (in Argentina and Peru), “chigüiro” (in Venezuela and Colombia), “jochi” (in Bolivia), “ñeque” (in Colombia).
  2. The scientific name of the species “Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris” in translation means “water pig”, where the word vodka appeared in Russian.
  3. A few centuries ago, the Catholic Church classified capybara as a fish, so their meat was considered lean and allowed to be eaten during fasting.
  4. Capybara is a natural reservoir of spotted Rocky Mountain Fever.
  5. Capybara is not a protected species. The Capybara benefits from human agricultural cultivation and the creation of fields and pastures, as it provides them with food and water during a drought. The number of capybaras in the pasture area is usually greater than in undeveloped land. The highest population density is 2-3.5 individuals per hectare.
  6. In Venezuela, the capybara is bred in a half-wild state on farms to produce meat and leather goods; they are also used as a source of fat for the pharmaceutical industry. Capybara meat tastes and looks like pork.
  7. Capybaras is a natural reservoir of spotted Rocky Mountains fever (states of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, Brazil), which is caused by the causative agent Rickettsia rickettsii. This disease is transmitted to humans through the Ixodes tick (Amblyomma cajennense), which parasites on capybaras.

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