Mysateles prehensilisprehensile-tailed hutia

Geographic Range

Prehensile-tailed hutias (Mysateles prehensilis) are endemic to Cuba, and are primarily found on the western half of the island. ("Mysateles prehensilis", 2005; Poeppig, 1824)


Prehensile-tailed hutias occur in the woods, forested coasts, and mangrove areas of tropical Cuba. ("Hutias (Capromyidae)", 2003; "Mysateles prehensilis", 2005)

Physical Description

Varying in mass from 1.4 to 1.9 kg, and in length from 55 to 75 cm, prehensile-tailed hutias are the largest Mysateles species. The dorsal fur ranges in color from black to grey, while the ventral pelage often begins as white and then changes posteriorly to brown. The tail of M. prehensilis is partially prehensile and can be equal to 80% of the body's length. ("Hutias (Capromyidae)", 2003; "Mysateles prehensilis", 2005; Nowak, 1999)

  • Range mass
    1.4 to 1.9 kg
    3.08 to 4.19 lb
  • Range length
    55 to 75 cm
    21.65 to 29.53 in


Little is known about the mating system of prehensile-tailed hutias, but two species in the same family, Geocapromys ingrahami and G. brownii, breed year round. Bahamanian hutias, G. ingrahami, have been observed mating and may use vocalizations to attract partners. (Anderson, et al., 1983; Clough, 1972)

While reproduction in M. prehensilis is poorly understood, other members of the Capromyidae are known for having lengthy gestation periods and small, precocial litters. Geocapromys brownii produces 1 to 3 young after a 123 day gestation period; the young can eat solid foods roughly 30 hours after birth. Capromys pilorides, another capromyid found in Cuba, gives birth to fully furred offspring after 110 to 140 days. ("Hutias (Capromyidae)", 2003; Anderson, et al., 1983)

Parental investment in M. prehensilis has not been investigated. Observations of G. ingrahami in captivity show that females will defend their young. Like other mammals, females nourish and care for their young until they are weaned. (Clough, 1972)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female


There is no available information on the lifespan of M. prehensilis, but G. ingrahami can reach the age of 6 years in the wild. (Clough, 1974)


The majority of hutias are active only at night, while prehensile-tailed hutias are partially diurnal. Their claws and semi-prehensile tail make them exceptional climbers and they exhibit an arboreal lifestyle. Hutias in general are characterized as social and both G. ingrahami and G. brownii participate in bonding activities such as allogrooming. Species in the family Capromyidae do not appear to be territorial. ("Hutias (Capromyidae)", 2003; Anderson, et al., 1983; Clough, 1972)

Communication and Perception

Little information is available on the communication and perception of M. prehensilis in particular, but certain vocalizations are common among hutia species. Both G. brownii and G. ingrahami make nearly constant noises when conspecifics are close. Observations of G. ingrahami show that they make a different sound when threatened. This particular noise seems to draw other hutias into the area. Like other mammals, it's also likely that prehensile-tailed hutias use olfaction extensively in communicating with conspecifics. (Anderson, et al., 1983; Clough, 1972)

Food Habits

The diet of prehensile-tailed hutias primarily consists of fruit, leaves, and bark. ("Hutias (Capromyidae)", 2003)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • wood, bark, or stems
  • fruit


Beyond humans, the predators of M. prehensilis remain unidentified. Remains of C. pilorides, another Cuban hutia, have been found in the stomachs of Cuban crocodiles, Crocodylus rhombifer. (De Sola, 1930)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Little information has been generated about the role of M. prehensilis in its ecosystem. They may help to disperse seeds through their frugivory. Prehensile-tailed hutias are carriers of two forms of chewing lice: Gliricola ewingi and Gliricola capromydis armatus. Both are ectoparasites found only on the fur of prehensile-tailed hutias. (Cardozo-de-Almeida, et al., 2003)

Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • Gliricola ewingi
  • Gliricola capromydis armatus

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Prehensile-tailed hutias are used as a food source by the people of Cuba. ("Hutias (Capromyidae)", 2003)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of M. prehensilis on humans.

Conservation Status

Only Desmarests' hutias (C. pilorides) are as common as prehensile-tailed hutias. All other hutias are at a much higher risk of extinction. (Ballie, 1996)


Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Gwendolyn Webster (author), Michigan State University, Barbara Lundrigan (editor, instructor), Michigan State University.



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

World Map


uses sound to communicate


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

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.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

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.


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


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


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


an animal that mainly eats fruit


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

island endemic

animals that live only on an island or set of islands.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

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


active during the night


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).


remains in the same area


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


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year


2003. Hutias (Capromyidae). Pp. 461-467 in M Hutchins, D Kleiman, V Geist, M McDade, eds. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, Vol. 16, Second Edition. Farmington Hills, MI: Thompson Gale.

2005. Mysateles prehensilis. Pp. 1596 in D Wilson, D Reeder, eds. Mammal Species of the World, Vol. 2, Second Edition. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Anderson, S., C. Woods, G. Morgan, W. Oliver. 1983. Geocapromys brownii. Mammalian Species, 201: 1-5.

Ballie, J. 1996. "Mysateles prehensilis" (On-line). 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed February 25, 2007 at

Cardozo-de-Almeida, M., P. Linard, J. Costa. 2003. The Type Specimens of Chewing Lice (Insecta, Mallophaga) Deposited in the Entomological Collection of Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil. Mem. Inst. Oswaldo Cruz, 98: 233-240.

Clough, G. 1974. Additional Notes on the Biology of the Bahamian Hutia, Geocapromys ingrahami. Journal of Mammalogy, 55: 670-672.

Clough, G. 1972. Biology of the Bahaman Hutia, Geocapromys ingrahami. Journal of Mammalogy, 53: 807-823.

De Sola, C. 1930. The Cuban Crocodile: An Account of the Species Crocodilus rhombifer Cuvier, with Notes on Its Life History. Copeia, 1930: 81-83.

Nowak, R. 1999. Capromyidae: Hutias. Pp. 1703-1705 in Walker's Mammals of the World, Vol. 2, Sixth Edition. Baltimore, MD: The John Hopkins University Press.

Poeppig, E. 1824. Nova generis Capromys, Desm. species. Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, 4: 11-15.