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Capybara

February 18, 2011 by staff 

Capybara, The capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris), also known as capybaras, Chigüire in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru ronsoco, chigüiro and Capybara Spanish, Portuguese and Capivara, is the largest living rodent in the world. Its closest relatives are agouti, chinchillas, coyphillas, and Guinea pigs. Its common name, derived from Kapi Going in the Guarani language, means “master of the grass,” while its scientific name, both hydrochaeris Hydrochoerus and comes from the Greek (Dor = water) + (Choiros = pork, pigs).

Capybaras have heavy, barrel-shaped bodies and short heads with reddish-brown fur on top of their body that turns yellowish-brown underneath. Adult capybaras can reach 130 centimeters (4.3 feet) long and weigh up to 65 kg (140 lb). The first recorded weight was 105.4 kg (232 lbs). Capybaras have slightly webbed feet, no tail, and 20 teeth. Their hind legs are slightly longer than the forelimbs and snout is blunt with eyes, nostrils and ears on top of their head. Females are slightly heavier than males. Females: 36 to 66 kg (80 to 145 pounds). Men: 34 to 61 kilograms (75 to 135 pounds).

Although now extinct, called for greater capybara pinckneyi Neochoerus already existed in North America, having invaded the continent during the Great American Interchange following the formation of the Isthmus of Panama. Caviomorphs other fossils were eight times the size of modern capybaras were called “capybara” by the popular press, but were indeed related to the dinomyids pacarana. There is also an existing “lesser capybara”, isthmius hydrochaeris, with a range disjoint Colombia, Venezuela and Panama.

Capybaras reach sexual maturity within 22 months and breed when conditions are perfect, which may be once a year (as in Brazil) or throughout the year (as in Venezuela and Colombia). The male pursues the female and climbs to stop female in the water. Capybara gestation is 130-150 days and usually produces a litter of four capybara babies, but may produce between two and eight in a single span. Birth on earth and the female will join the group in a few hours of delivery capybaras newborn, who will join the group when they are mobile. In one week, the young can eat grass, but continue to suckle – from any female in the group – until weaning at approximately 16 weeks. Youngsters will form a group within the main group. The rainy season in April and May is the peak-breeding season. Like other rodents, the front teeth of capybaras grow continually to compensate for the constant wearing down to eat grass, their teeth also plays a continuous growth. At maturity, a capybara has coarse hair, which is not spread on their skin, making capybara susceptible to sunburn. To avoid this, they can roll in the mud to protect their skin from the sun.
Capybara has a very efficient digestive system that supports the animal, while 75% of its diet includes only 3-6 plant species. Capybaras are generally mild and allow humans to pet and hand-feed them. Some ranchers hunt them for fear of competition for grazing.

The meat is said to look like pork. During Lent, capybara meat is especially popular in parts of South America, particularly Venezuela, as it is asserted that the Catholic Church in a special dispensation, allowed capybara meat to be consumed during days of consumption of meat was also not allowed. There are different accounts of how the exemption began. Capybaras are sometimes kept as pets in the United States and Canada.

[source: various online sources and wikipedia]
[Source: image via WWW.ITSNATURE.ORG]

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