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Hutias: Capromyidae - Cuban Hutia (capromys Pilorides): Species Account

web accessed molecular july

Physical characteristics: Cuban hutias, also known as Desmarest's hutias, are the largest species of hutia. They have a head and body length of 18 to 35 inches (46 to 90 centimeters), a tail length of 6 to 12 inches (15.2 to 30 centimeters) and a weight of 6.6 to 18.7 pounds (3 to 8.5 kilograms). They have short, stocky legs and "waddle" when they move. Their feet are broad and each foot has five toes with prominent claws.

They have thick, coarse fur and on the upper body, which can be various shades of black, gray, brown, red, yellow, and cream. Their underside fur is usually softer and a lighter shade.


Geographic range: These hutias live on mainland Cuba and its surrounding islands.


Habitat: Their habitat includes tropical rainforest, mangrove forests, marshy areas, scrubland, and the mountains of eastern Cuba.

The Cuban hutia uses its strong claws to climb trees. (Frank W. Lane/FLPA—Images of Nature. Reproduced by permission.)

Diet: Cuban hutias are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and flesh, but eat mostly plants. Their diet includes leaves, fruit, bark, lizards, and small animals.


Behavior and reproduction: Cuban hutias are shy and usually live in pairs, although pairs have often been observed living in larger, loosely-associated groups. They are extremely social among others of their species. They are primarily arboreal, meaning they live mostly in treetops, and diurnal, meaning they are most active during the day. One of the Cuban hutias' main types of social behavior is a combination of grooming and play wrestling between a pair.

Cuban hutias breed all year but births peak in June. Females have a gestation period, the length of time they carry their young in the womb, of 110 to 140 days. Females have one to six babies per litter with the average litter size of two or three offspring. The mothers nurse their young until they are about five months old and reach sexual maturity at ten months. The average lifespan is eight to eleven years.


Cuban hutias and people: Cuban hutias are hunted by humans for their meat. In some areas of Cuba they are in such abundance that they are considered an agricultural pest by farmers.


Conservation status: The Cuban hutia is not currently threatened. While the Cuban hutia is abundant in many areas of the island-nation, their population has decreased drastically in the mountains of eastern Cuba. ∎

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Books:

Macdonald, David. The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2001.

National Research Council. "Hutia." In Microlivestock: Little-Known Small Animals with a Promising Economic Future. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 1991. Online at http://books.nap.edu/books/030904295X/html/251.html (accessed on July 12, 2004).

Nowak, Ronald M. Walker's Mammals of the World, 6th ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.

Periodicals:

Huchon, Dorothée, and Emmanuel J. P. Douzery. "From the Old World to the New World: A Molecular Chronicle of the Phylogeny and Biogeography of Hystricognath Rodents." Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution (August 2001): 238–251.

Nedbal, Michael A., et al. "Molecular Systematics of Hystricognath Rodents: Evidence from the Mitochondrial 125 rRNA Gene." Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution(September 1994): 206–220.

Web sites:

Myers, Phil. "Family Capromyidae." Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Capromyidae.html (accessed on July 12, 2004).

Reis, Brianna. "Capromys pilorides." Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Capromys_pilorides.html (accessed on July 12, 2004).

Raffo, Erica. "Geocapromys_brownii." Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Geocapromys_brownii.html (accessed on July 12, 2004).

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