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Capybaras are native throughout South America. Being semi-aquatic, they live near water, namely savannahs and rainforests by rivers, ponds, or lakes.
They are the largest of all rodents, with a height of about 50cm, length of 140cm and weighing up to 75kg! They are perfectly adapted for their habitat with webbed feet to help them swim effortlessly and walk across muddy terrain with ease. They can submerge under water for up to 5 minutes and their facial features such as nose, eyes and ears are located towards the top of their head, so they can see and breathe whilst swimming. Their thick skin is sparsely covered with water resistant hair which is ideal as this allows them to dry off quickly.
Mainly grass and plants but will also eat tree bark and fruit, sometimes stealing crops from local farmers! They also eat their own faecal matter allowing them to ingest more proteins and nutrients to help their digestive system and to break down cellulose in the grasses they eat.
Up to 10 years in the wild, or 15 years in captivity.
They are very wary, as you would expect with predators including jaguars, caiman and anacondas! They’re social animals who live in hierarchical groups. This is advantageous as although there is a dominant male and the majority of the group are females, there are some subordinate males which act as sentinels and bark out warnings in the presence of danger. They spend a lot of time in water because this helps them to avoid the majority of their predators, allows them to forage on aquatic plants, but also because they have underdeveloped sweat glands, so staying in the water allows them to thermoregulate and cool down from the heat of the day.
After mating in water, they will give birth to 1-8 pups after a gestation period of 5 months.
They may be fast, agile swimmers, but they are the same on land as they can run up to speeds of 35 km/h!