Capromys piloridesDesmarest's hutia

Last updated:

Geographic Range

Capromys pilorides lives only in Cuba and on several, small nearby islands, however they occupy many different habitats throughout Cuba. (Phillips et al. 1991)

Habitat

Capromys pilorides are widespread throughout all of Cuba. They are found in all types of habitats such as montane cloud forests, arid coastal semi-deserts, semi-deciduous forests, low, marshy areas and even in the mountains of eastern Cuba. Cuban hutias can possibly be divided into two groups: those that live in northern Cuba and those that live in southern Cuba. Those that live in the north tend to live in marshy areas where an abundance of red mangroves grow. This group generally lives in the branches and roots of the mangroves that grow there. However, those in the south tend to be more terrestrial.

(Poiez et al. 1992, Phillips et al. 1991, Alvarez & Gonzalez 1991)

Physical Description

Cuban hutia can range anywhere from 20 to 60 cm in length (varying from individual to individual) and between 1 and 9 kg in weight. Capromys pilorides are the largest species of hutias. They are, on average, 60.96 cm long and 7 kg in weight. Capromys pilorides have short, stocky legs which cause them to move in a "waddling" motion. However, in times when they need to move quickly (like while being chased) they are capable of hopping. Capromys pilorides have thick, coarse fur with the dorsal area generally a darker shade than the ventral side. The shades of fur can vary greatly from black and brown to yellowish shades or even reddish shades. The tail is completely covered with hair and is a solid shade of color. Capromys pilorides have large claws on their feet, which aid in climbing. Cuban hutias and their close relatives (C. garridoi and C. arboricolus) have a complex stomach divided into three compartments, this is the most complex stomach morphology found in rodents. Females have two lateral thoracic pairs of mammae.

(Phillips et al. 1991, Nowak 1999, Alados et al. 1990)

  • Range mass
    1.000 to 9.000 kg
    2.20 to 19.82 lb
  • Average mass
    7.000 kg
    15.42 lb
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    3.375 W
    AnAge

Reproduction

The life expectancy of Cuban hutia in captivity ranges from 8 to 11 years. Their breeding season is year round and they have a gestation period of around 120-126 days. Most Cuban hutias have 1-3 young per birth that weigh on average 8 oz at birth. The young are born precocial, able to move around, well-furred, and with their eyes open. Despite the fact that they are born so well developed, they are not completely weaned for approximately 5 months. In addition, they do not reach sexual maturity until they are about 10 months old.

(Phillips et al. 1991)

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 3
  • Average number of offspring
    1.800
  • Average number of offspring
    2
    AnAge
  • Range gestation period
    119 to 130 days
  • Average gestation period
    123 days
  • Average weaning age
    153 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    304 days
    AnAge
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    304 days
    AnAge

Lifespan/Longevity

Behavior

Capromys pilorides are generally shy and live mainly in groups of about two.

Despite their secretive behavior, they are socia within their species. There are a few different types of social behavior that they engage in regularly. One of these types is scent marking. This is a common form of communication among hutias which provides a way of keeping track of their own kind. Scent marking is done by both males and females and is done through the use of urine. Another type of social behavior commonly found in Cuban hutias is a sort of grooming/wrestling. In a very non-aggressive sort of way, they often engage in a behavior that involves intermittent grooming sessions with tumbling around on each other.

(Phillips et al. 1991)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Capromys pilorides are omnivores that generally feed on things such as leaves, fruits, and bark from trees. However, they have been known to also feed on small vertebrates, including small lizards.

They have easy access to the vegetation high up in the trees due to their great climbing ability, but the majority of the time they feed on vegetation closer to ground level.

  • Animal Foods
  • reptiles
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • wood, bark, or stems
  • fruit

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Humans enjoy the meat from Capromys pilorides because it tastes great and since the animal is of substantial size each hutia provides a significant amount of meat. (Phillips et al. 1991)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Some areas actually have such an abundance of Capromys pilorides that they harm the vegetation of the area. (Alvarez & Gonzalez 1991)

Conservation Status

The Wild Animals Protection Act of 1968 protects hutias from being captured or killed unless a permit is obtained from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. Capromys pilorides are not as much of a conservation concern because there still are some areas that have a high density of this species. The only area where the species population has diminished tremendously is in the mountains of eastern Cuba. However, other species of hutias are endangered or have already gone extinct.

Although they are not of immediate concern, a transplantation has taken place in an effort to ensure the survival of Cuban hutias. This transplantation removed some C.pilorides from East Plan Cay and transplanted them to the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park.

There are also some protected areas where the density of C.pilorides has reached 50-100 individuals per hectare. However, there are still some places where their population has diminished greatly such as in the mountains of eastern Cuba. (Alvarez & Gonzalez 1991)

Contributors

Brianna Reis (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Neotropical

living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

coastal

the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

food

A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

mountains

This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

omnivore

an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born

References

Alados, D., D. Altevogt, D. Apfelbach, D. Arnold, D. Badrian. 1990. Grzimek's Encyclopedia Mammals. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company.

Alvarez, V., A. Gonzalez. 1991. The Critical Condition of Hutias in Cuba. ORYX, 25: 206.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Phillips, R., E. Ayensu, B. Beaver, K. Benirschke, R. Crawford. 1991. "Microlivestock: Little Known Small Animals with a Promising Economic Future" (On-line). Accessed March 5, 2001 at http://www.nap.edu/books/030904295X/html/.

Poiez, R., A. Perez, I. Garcia. 1992. Variation in Three Populations of Capromys pilorides (Rodentia: Capromyidae), and the description of a new subspecies from the south of the Isle of Youth (Cuba). Miscellanea Zoologica Hungarica, 7: 87-99.