The Largest Rodent in the World
By the word “rodent” the first thing that comes to mind will be rats, mice and shrews. However so, may I have this honor to correct that shrews are classified under a different order called Soricomorpha so despite the physical similarity, it is basically not a rodent. So what could be the largest rodent that should come to mind if we have to consider the size? Answering my own question, capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) is known as the largest rodent in the world. Also known by various names like chigüire in Venezuela, ronsoco in Peru, carpincho in Spanish and capivara in Portuguese, the capybara is closely related to the agouti, chinchillas and guinea pigs. The common name for this creature derived from Guarani language (native American macrolanguage spoken in Paraguay, Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil) means “master of the grasses” as its scientific name hydrochaeris is a Greek word for “water hog”.
Capybaras are characterized by barrel-shaped bodies and short heads with reddish brown hair on the upper body part that turns yellowish-brown below. They may grow as long as 130 cm (4.3 ft) when adult and weigh as heavy as 65 kg (140 lb) comparably the same weight as an average human being. A highest recorded weight was however established at 105.4 kg (232 lbs). Capybaras are known to have slightly webbed feet, tailless (like Guinea pigs) and to possess 20 teeth. They have hind legs slightly longer than their front legs and mostly females were known to weigh slightly heavier than males. Their heads were noted to show blunt muzzles having the eyes, nostrils and ears situated at the top.
Capybaras are herbivores and thrive mainly on grasses, fruit, tree barks and aquatic plants. An adult will consume 6 to 8 pounds of grasses a day. Their habitat consists of densely forested areas near bodies of water like swamps, lakes, rivers, ponds and marshes found along areas of South America like Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay Peru and Uruguay. They are excellent swimmers being semi-aquatic mammals and could stay underwater for up to 5 minutes an ability they often employ to avoid predators. They were observed to have such ability to sleep underwater just allowing their noses to be over the water level.
Capybaras were favorite food of jaguars, pumas, eagles and crocodiles. Anacondas were also fond of feeding on them on occasions. Depending on their avoidance of these listed predators, capybaras could live an average of 4-8 years in the wild. They have a social nature which make them promising pets for those patient enough to care for them.