The capybara is the only species of Hydrochaeris, the single genus of family Hydrochaeridae. It is the largest living rodent, and is found in northern South America, including the Amazon rainforest, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, and northern Argentina. It eats water plants, grains, fruits, and grasses. Like other rodents, capybaras need to gnaw and chew in order to wear their two front teeth down, which grow throughout their lives. They are excellent swimmers, and when in the water, only the nostrils, eyes and ears are visible. Their digits are partially webbed and have strong claws. Their front feet have 4 toes each and the back feet have 3 toes. Capybaras are social, living in groups of about 20 animals, with a dominant male and several adult females. Among their predators are the jaguar, the anaconda, and humans. In areas populated by humans capybaras have become nocturnal.
The above picture was taken in the zoo of St. Louis, Missouri, in May 2002.
Life on Earth