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Capromys pilorides

Capromys pilorides, Photo: Michael Lahanas

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Cladus: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Cladus: Holozoa
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Superphylum: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Megaclassis: Osteichthyes
Cladus: Sarcopterygii
Cladus: Rhipidistia
Cladus: Tetrapodomorpha
Cladus: Eotetrapodiformes
Cladus: Elpistostegalia
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Cladus: Reptiliomorpha
Cladus: Amniota
Cladus: Synapsida
Cladus: Eupelycosauria
Cladus: Sphenacodontia
Cladus: Sphenacodontoidea
Cladus: Therapsida
Cladus: Theriodontia
Subordo: Cynodontia
Infraordo: Eucynodontia
Cladus: Probainognathia
Cladus: Prozostrodontia
Cladus: Mammaliaformes
Classis: Mammalia
Subclassis: Trechnotheria
Infraclassis: Zatheria
Supercohors: Theria
Cohors: Eutheria
Infraclassis: Placentalia
Cladus: Boreoeutheria
Superordo: Euarchontoglires
Ordo: Rodentia
Subordo: Hystricomorpha
Infraordo: Hystricognathi
Parvordo: Caviomorpha
Superfamilia: Octodontoidea

Familia: Capromyidae
Subfamilia: Capromyinae
Genus: Capromys
Species: Capromys pilorides

Capromys pilorides (Say, 1822)

Capromys pilorides in Mammal Species of the World.
Wilson, Don E. & Reeder, DeeAnn M. (Editors) 2005. Mammal Species of the World – A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. Third edition. ISBN 0-8018-8221-4.

Vernacular names
English: Desmarest's hutia

esmarest's hutia or the Cuban hutia (Capromys pilorides) is a stout, furry, rat-like mammal found only on Cuba and nearby islands. Growing to about 60 cm (2 ft), it normally lives in pairs and feeds on leaves, fruit, bark and sometimes small animals. It is the largest living hutia (subfamily Capromyinae), a group of rodents native to the Caribbean that are mostly endangered or extinct. Desmarest's hutia remains widespread throughout its range, though one subspecies (C. p. lewisi) native to the nearby Cayman Islands went extinct shortly after European colonization in the 1500s.[2][3]


The Desmarest's hutia has a head-and-body length of 31–60 cm (12–24 in), a tail that is 14–29 cm (5.5–11.4 in) long, and weigh 2.8–8.5 kg (6.2–18.7 lb).[4] It has thick, coarse fur which extends to the tip of the tail. The colour of the body fur varies from black to brown, with a light sand colour and red also seen. The body is stocky and the legs short. It moves with a slow, waddling gait, but can perform a quick hop when pursued. The feet have five toes with large claws which assist the animal in climbing. The stomach is divided into three compartments by constrictions in the gut and is among the most complex of any rodent.[4]

Its karyotype has 2n = 40 and FN = 64.[2]
Habitat and distribution

The Desmarest's hutia is found in a wide range of habitats. In northern Cuba, populations tend to be centred on areas where there are abundant mangroves, while southern populations tend to favour a more terrestrial habitat. They are abundant in Guantánamo Province, particularly around the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. In the mountainous areas of eastern Cuba, numbers of Desmarest's hutia are decreasing.
Desmarest's hutia shelters in thick mangroves

The Desmarest's hutia is found only in Cuba, but is widespread throughout its range. They are found on the main island, Isla de la Juventud, the Sabana archipelago, the Doce Laqunas archipelago and many of the other islands and cays of the Cuban archipelago. An extinct subspecies, C. p. lewisi, formerly lived in the Cayman Islands before it was wiped out shortly after European colonization.[3] This subspecies may have been the subject of a report by Francis Drake when he visited the islands, in which he spoke of "little beast-like cats" and "coneys" throughout the area.[5]
Behaviour and reproduction

Desmarest's hutias normally live in pairs, but can be found individually or in small groups. They are diurnal and do not burrow, so during the night they rest in hollows in rocks or trees. They are omnivorous but eat mostly bark, leaves and fruit. Occasionally they will take small vertebrates such as lizards. Both males and females scent mark their territory with urine. They breed throughout the year with a gestation period of between 110 and 140 days (normally around 120 to 126 days), although peak breeding season is in June/July. They normally produce between one and three young, weighing an average of 230 g (8 oz). The young are precocial, with fur, fully open eyes and the ability to walk. They are weaned at around five months and reach sexual maturity at around ten months. In captivity they live for eight to eleven years.
Interaction with humans
Desmarest's hutia in zoo

Hutias were traditionally hunted for food in Cuba as their flesh was agreeable and their size meant they provided a substantial meal.[6] The Wild Animals Protection Act of 1968 made it illegal to hunt or kill hutias without a permit from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. In some areas they are so abundant that they cause damage to crops and are viewed as a pest.

The genus name Capromys derives from the two ancient greek words κάπρος (kápros), meaning "pig, boar", and μῦς (mûs), meaning "mouse, rat".[7][8]

First described by Pallas in 1788 as Mys pilorides, it was later noted that Desmarest's hutia did not belong in that genus, and it was placed in the genus Capromys by Tate in 1935. Five extant subspecies are recorded: ciprianoi, doceleguas, gundlachianus, pilorides, and relictus. Studies have so far shown no genetic differences between the two subspecies ciprianoi and relictus found on Isla de la Juventud, but a 5% sequence deviation by gundlachianus found on Cayo Fragaso.[2] The common name, Desmarest's hutia, is for Anselme Gaëtan Desmarest who described the species in 1822 with the synonym fourniere.

The extinct subspecies C. p. lewisi from the Cayman Islands is known from abundant subfossil material. It is close to the common Cuban Capromys pilorides, but smaller. The earliest radiocarbon records are latest Pleistocene and the latest are from around 1600 CE.[9][10]

Within Capromyidae, the closest relatives of Capromys are the genera Mesocapromys and Mysateles. The three genera are the sister group to Geocapromys, and these 4 taxa belong to the tribe Capromyini. In turn, this clade is the sister group to Plagiodontia.

Genus-level cladogram of the Capromyidae
with their relationship to Carterodon and Euryzygomatomyinae.

  Trinomys (Atlantic spiny rats)


  Euryzygomatomys (guiaras)


  Carterodon (Owl's spiny rat)








  Capromys (Desmarest's hutia)

The cladogram has been reconstructed from mitochondrial and nuclear DNA characters.[11][12][13][14][15][16]


Soy, J.; Silva, G. (2008). "Capromys pilorides". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2008: e.T3842A10116507. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T3842A10116507.en. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
Woods, C.A.; Kilpatrick, C.W. (2005). "Species Capromys pilorides". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 1594. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
Turvey, Sam; Woods, Roseina; MacPhee, R. D. E.; Morgan, Gary S. (2019-03-04). "Late Quaternary fossil mammals from the Cayman Islands, West Indies. (Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, no. 428)". hdl:2246/6928.
Nowak, R. M. (1999). Walker's Mammals of the World. Vol. 2. 6th edition. p. 1706. ISBN 0-8018-5789-9
"Three new mammal species discovered in Cayman Islands after bones found inside crocodiles". The Independent. 2019-03-05. Retrieved 2019-03-06.
"Capromys pilorides (Desmarest's hutia)".
Bailly, Anatole (1981-01-01). Abrégé du dictionnaire grec français. Paris: Hachette. ISBN 978-2010035289. OCLC 461974285.
Bailly, Anatole. "Greek-french dictionary online". Retrieved 2017-10-15.
Morgan, G. S. (1994). "Late Quaternary fossil vertebrates from the Cayman Islands". In Brunt, M. A.; Davies, J. E. (eds.). The Cayman Islands: natural history and biogeography. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 489–491.
Morgan, Gary S.; MacPhee, R. D. E.; Woods, Roseina; Turvey, Sam (2019-03-04). "Late Quaternary fossil mammals from the Cayman Islands, West Indies. (Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, no. 428)". hdl:2246/6928.
Galewski, Thomas; Mauffrey, Jean-François; Leite, Yuri L. R.; Patton, James L.; Douzery, Emmanuel J. P. (2005). "Ecomorphological diversification among South American spiny rats (Rodentia; Echimyidae): a phylogenetic and chronological approach". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 34 (3): 601–615. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2004.11.015. PMID 15683932.
Upham, Nathan S.; Patterson, Bruce D. (2012). "Diversification and biogeography of the Neotropical caviomorph lineage Octodontoidea (Rodentia: Hystricognathi)". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 63 (2): 417–429. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2012.01.020. PMID 22327013.
Fabre, Pierre-Henri; Galewski, Thomas; Tilak, Marie-ka; Douzery, Emmanuel J. P. (2013-03-01). "Diversification of South American spiny rats (Echimyidae): a multigene phylogenetic approach". Zoologica Scripta. 42 (2): 117–134. doi:10.1111/j.1463-6409.2012.00572.x. ISSN 1463-6409. S2CID 83639441.
Fabre, Pierre-Henri; Vilstrup, Julia T.; Raghavan, Maanasa; Der Sarkissian, Clio; Willerslev, Eske; Douzery, Emmanuel J. P.; Orlando, Ludovic (2014-07-01). "Rodents of the Caribbean: origin and diversification of hutias unravelled by next-generation museomics". Biology Letters. 10 (7): 20140266. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2014.0266. ISSN 1744-9561. PMC 4126619. PMID 25115033.
Upham, Nathan S.; Patterson, Bruce D. (2015). "Evolution of Caviomorph rodents: a complete phylogeny and timetree for living genera". In Vassallo, Aldo Ivan; Antenucci, Daniel (eds.). Biology of caviomorph rodents: diversity and evolution. Buenos Aires: SAREM Series A, Mammalogical Research — Sociedad Argentina para el Estudio de los Mamíferos. pp. 63–120.

Fabre, Pierre-Henri; Upham, Nathan S.; Emmons, Louise H.; Justy, Fabienne; Leite, Yuri L. R.; Loss, Ana Carolina; Orlando, Ludovic; Tilak, Marie-Ka; Patterson, Bruce D.; Douzery, Emmanuel J. P. (2017-03-01). "Mitogenomic Phylogeny, Diversification, and Biogeography of South American Spiny Rats". Molecular Biology and Evolution. 34 (3): 613–633. doi:10.1093/molbev/msw261. ISSN 0737-4038. PMID 28025278.

Further reading
Panel on Microlivestock, National Research Council (1991). Microlivestock: Little-Known Small Animals with a Promising Economic Future. National Academies Press. pp. 472. ISBN 978-0309042956.
Brianna Reis. "Capromys pilorides". University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. Retrieved 27 March 2007.

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