Mary’s Monday Metazoan: Does everyone love capybaras?

What’s with all these photos of animals snuggling up next to capybaras? It’s like they’re the St Francis of the animal world.

There’s got to be some angry creature in the background seething with jealousy, or it’s just not complete. Some Iago. Now I want to meet them.


  1. John Harshman says

    Sorry, but all I see are a couple of white-faced whistling ducks and a ringed teal sitting on top of some rodent.

  2. says

    They’re herbivores, so they’re not as threatening. Doesn’t take a lot of mean attitude to sneak up on a plant. So they can chill and let chill; seems like a good strategy.

  3. Dauphni says

    Herbivores can be much more threatening than carnivores though. Carnivores are really only dangerous when they’re hungry or you piss them off. On the other hand herbivores are often constantly on edge to avoid being eaten. In fact, hippos and cape buffalo are some of the most deadly animals in Africa.

  4. Matrim says

    Capybara are the best, that’s why all the other animals want to hang with them, they’re the cool kids at school.

  5. blf says

    The mildly deranged penguin says the only reason those animals are near oversized amphibious mice is because there isn’t a conveniently available nearby penguin.

    And here’s a cute little rodent, Giant Solomon Islands rat believed to eat coconuts discovered:

    Study of skull, as well as DNA analysis, confirms new species in genus of mosaic tailed rats or Uromys

    A mysterious and elusive species of giant rat that lives in the dense rainforest canopy of the Solomon Islands, and is reputed to open coconuts with its teeth, has been discovered by scientists and is likely to be quickly listed as critically endangered.

    For decades, the rat’s existence had been suspected, with traditional knowledge of the rat’s ecology noted in a publications. For example, in 1995, one account recorded traditional knowledge of “a very big rat that eats coconuts” and lived in the trees.


    [… I]n 2016, as a tree was cut down by commercial loggers, villagers who [Tyrone Lavery, a mammalogist from the Field Museum in Chicago,] had been working with saw one fall to the ground, sustaining serious injuries. The rat died shortly afterwards but Lavery said the elders in the village of Zaira confidently identified the specimen as vika.

    Careful study of the skull, as well as DNA analysis, confirmed it was a new species in the genus of “mosaic tailed rats” or Uromys, which Lavery named Uromys vika, after the traditional name for the rat.

    The specimen they found, although missing some of its tail, was estimated to be over 45cm long and weighing more than half a kilogram.


    Lavery said he had not found evidence of the rat-eating coconuts but he had found evidence that they had eaten ngali nuts, a local nut that he said would be as hard to crack open as coconuts.

    “If they could get through a ngail nut shell, they could get through a coconut,” he told the Guardian.

    Lavery said he was driven to discover [sic] the rat through both a sense of adventure and a concern for conservation.

    “I was excited because I had just started my PhD and I’d read a lot of books about people who go on adventures and discover new species,” Lavery said. “It’s a really interesting case. There’s traditional knowledge that it exists. And there’s old history notes from anthropologists and other people that have visited the island that these things exist.”


    All sightings of the rat have been reported in kapuchu tree, including the captured specimen, which is highly sought after by commercial loggers. The total area of habitat that Lavery estimated the rat could potentially live in comprises just 81 square kilometres.


    Lavery said that right next to where the rat was found was a community conservation area run by a village called Zaira.


    Lavery said he planned to launch a crowd-funding campaign to help the community build a station for the rangers that work in the conservation area.

  6. jimhabegger says

    Thank you for introducing me to the capybaras!

    Maybe the reason other animals like them so much is because of the name. Who could not love an animal with a name like that?

  7. hemidactylus says

    A rather disturbing subthread on the Dumpster fire vs NK thread had me thinking of what sorts of things are eaten in other cultures and why they are taboo in others and capybaras came to mind. This link is mostly about rodent consumption in general, but capybara are eaten in Venezuela and elsewhere:

    “For chef Pocho Garcés, owner of the restaurant “Aguacero” in the Venezuelan island of Margarita, consumption of rodent meat is deeply embedded in Venezuelan culture and society, dating back to the times of the Spanish conquest. “The Chigüire was eaten during holy seasons, as Catholics did not eat beef in those dates. It was probably consumed instead of fish during Easter, due to its aquatic habit, spending most of the day submerged in the many of the ponds in the Venezuelan Llanos”, he said. Capybaras (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) or Chigüire were likely domesticated in Brazil even before the arrival of Europeans. In Venezuela, the capybara, a massive rodent that can weigh up to 80 kg, is raised on ranches, which produce about 85,000 animals each year.”

    They appear as oversized guinea pigs, which I have kept as pets, so that kinda works at me as to whether I would partake. But out of curiosity once or twice I have Youtubed Peruvian methods for preparing guinea pig and if I were to visit I would be very tempted.

    Sorry to rain on the cuteness parade.

  8. blf says

    Giliell@8, oh that’s a classic Grauniad typo! Unfortunately, they’ve fixed it now…

    However, rat-eating coconuts seem a plausible progression. We don’t know how coconuts defended themselves from Ken Ham’s coconut-eating T. rex, and biting-back (well, first, probably, just one chance and all that…) seems like it might deter the hungry dinosaur. Sadly, T. rex is a now-infrequent problem, so the coconut’s dinochewers have probably atrophied, but there still could be a tendency to bite first…

  9. microraptor says

    That’s an often repeated story, Marcus, but I believe the actual evidence for it is considered dubious (it’s always a record of someone saying that someone else said it).

  10. says

    Capybaras and beavers, and it’s actually true.
    Though to use this as a claim that they were stupid is a whole new kind of stupid in itself. Catholics have always been very good at finding loopholes around fasting. Southern Germany has a speciality nicknamed “cheat the lordies” because apparently if you wrapped pasta dough around the meat the lord couldn’t see it.

  11. Rich Woods says

    @Giliell #17:

    If the Bible convinces them that bats are birds I don’t suppose it’s too difficult to then go on to believe that beavers are fish.

  12. whywhywhy says

    There’s got to be some angry creature in the background seething with jealousy, or it’s just not complete.

    There also has to be a creature that is delighted to be free of those ducks so that they can get something done.

  13. hemidactylus says

    As for “fish”, PZ might know the actual case, but hasn’t this always been a vaguely applied term? My M-W app has a subdefinition: “ an aquatic animal — usually used in combination ” . And the sea turtle conservation guru Archie Carr wrote a book _The Sea Turtle: So Excellent a Fishe_.

    In a sense we are all fish or have fishy derivative innards as in Shubin’s book.

  14. hemidactylus says

    If I was given the choice of frog legs, chicken gizzards and guinea pig I would surely lean toward the last one, though the first two are common delicacies where I live in the American South. No pigs feet for me either. Sorry.

    If I ever make it to Peru I will give guinea pig a try, but will need several pisco sours to get into a proper frame of mind. The only pisco experience I have had is at a Chilean house party in Miami and I know that is a matter of nasty contention:

    I have overcome culinary thresholds in the past. Octopus sushi…kitchen dish sponge consistency. Guinea pig has to be much better than *that*.

    If you want over the top, when he’s not painting others, our pal Henry Rollins has done this:

  15. Ichthyic says

    They’re herbivores, so they’re not as threatening. Doesn’t take a lot of mean attitude to sneak up on a plant. So they can chill and let chill; seems like a good strategy.

    go have that conversation with a hippo.

    really. might be educational for you.