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Capybara

Description: The capybara is the world’s largest rodent. Adults are heavy, barrel shaped rodents that are mostly brown with thick hair. Because the hair is sparse, capybaras may become sunburned and roll in mud, which serves as a “sunscreen.” Capybaras grow to a maximum weight of about 150 pounds and reach a maximum length of about 4 and a quarter feet. They have slightly webbed feet, short, powerful legs, and eyes, nostrils, and ears located at the top of their heads. They lack tails.

Capybaras are social rodents and are often found in groups of up to 30 individuals. Groups of capybaras are typically led by a single dominant male, although female capybaras are slightly larger than males. Capybaras are great swimmers and spend most of their time near water. They can stay submerged for up to five minutes and sometimes even sleep in the water. These rodents are a favorite meal for caimans, crocodiles, and jaguars. Consequently, although they can live up to eight years in the wild, most are eaten by predators before they reach that age.

Diet: The herbivorous capybara feeds on grasses, aquatic plants, and fruits. Up to eight pounds of grasses may be consumed per day. In addition, capybaras are known to eat their own excrement, apparently to ingest bacteria that enable them to better digest plant fibers.

Habitat/Range: The capybara is found throughout much of South America, except for the Andes Mountain west, and much of the southern half of the continent. They prefer dense tropical forests, lakes, rivers, ponds, swamps, and flooded savannas.

Breeding: Female capybaras give birth to between two and eight babies after a gestation period of 130-150 days. Young capybaras are social and will form sub-groups among the main group of capybaras.

Status: The capybara remains common through its entire range.

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