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Capybara Social Behavior and Use of Space: Patterns and Processes

  • Emilio A. HerreraAffiliated withDepartamento de Estudios Ambientales, Universidad Simón Bolívar Email author 

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Among rodents, the group of caviomorphs (South American Hystricognaths; Vucetich et al. 2012) is usually considered atypical because of the peculiar adaptations of many species in this group, which contrast with features that come to mind when we think about “typical” rodents, such as rats, mice, or squirrels. Among the characteristics that make caviomorph rodents special is of course their large size: from pacas (Cuniculus paca, 7–12 kg) to coypus (Myocastor coypus5–9 kg) and capybaras (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris, 50 kg), caviomorphs include the largest of all rodents. Additionally, caviomorphs show a number of unique (among rodents) adaptations and ecological niches, in some cases exhibiting striking convergences with ungulates from other continents (Eisenberg and Mckay 1974; Kleiman 1974), including almost all forms of social behavior and mating systems. Thus, for instance, there are monogamous caviomorphs such as the Patagonian maras (Dolichotis patagonum; Taber and Macdonald 1992) while cavies are clearly promiscuous (Caviasp.; Rood 1972; Schwarz-Weig and Sachser 1996). There are also highly social species such as the subterranean social tuco-tucos (Ctenomys sociabilis; Zenuto et al. 1999) and the capybaras.