Capybara pp 3-37 | Cite as

Taxonomy, Natural History and Distribution of the Capybara

  • José Roberto Moreira
  • Martin R. Alvarez
  • Teresa Tarifa
  • Víctor Pacheco
  • Andrew Taber
  • Diego G. Tirira
  • Emilio A. Herrera
  • Katia Maria P. M. B. Ferraz
  • Juanita Aldana-Domínguez
  • David W. Macdonald
Chapter

Abstract

When the Iberian colonists arrived in South America in the late fifteenth century, they encountered a diverse and previously unimagined fauna. The unusual anatomy and behavior of these species intrigued the early explorers. In their reports they named the new-found endemic animals after the most analogous European species. In 1576, for example, Pero de Gândavo (2004) described the capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) as “a type of pig.” However, capybaras were sufficiently unlike any known European species for most explorers to simply adopt a phonetic representation of the local name. Therefore, in 1557, the capybara was called catiuare by the German Hans Staden (1557), capiyûára in 1560 by the Spaniard José de Anchieta (1997), and capijuara in 1625 by the Portuguese Fernão Cardim (1980). The name capybara actually originates from a word in the indigenous Tupi, which in the sixteenth century was the most widely spread language in South America: kapii’gwara meaning grass eater (ka’pii = “grass” + gwara = “eater”; Houaiss et al. 2004).

Keywords

Fermentation Corn Brittle Microbe Hunt 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank Hugh Casement for translation of the old German text of Hans Staden and Sérgio Eustáquio de Noronha for geo-referencing capybara occurrence in Brazil. This work would not have been possible without the valuable information provided by Carol Kelloff, Burton Lim, Mark Engstrom, Gerald Urquhart, Venicio Wilson, Eric Yensen, Sálvio do Carmo dos Santos Xavier, Álvaro Mones, and Erick Nuñez. Eric Yensen also helped with the English spelling. JRM would like to thank all the 1,695 city councils, 60 conservation units, and 4 indigenous reserves, which answered his questionnaire about the occurrence of capybaras in Brazil, and acknowledges the financial support of PRODETAB/World Bank. MRA is grateful for the valuable knowledge of Fernando O. Kravetz, Marta Piantanida, and Elio Masoia (in memoriam), colleagues at SAREM for information about capybara presence in Argentina, and Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA, Argentina) for financial support.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • José Roberto Moreira
    • 1
  • Martin R. Alvarez
    • 2
  • Teresa Tarifa
    • 3
    • 4
  • Víctor Pacheco
    • 5
  • Andrew Taber
    • 6
  • Diego G. Tirira
    • 7
  • Emilio A. Herrera
    • 8
  • Katia Maria P. M. B. Ferraz
    • 9
  • Juanita Aldana-Domínguez
    • 10
  • David W. Macdonald
    • 11
  1. 1.Embrapa Recursos Genéticos e BiotecnologiaParque Estação BiológicaBrasíliaBrazil
  2. 2.Departamento de Ciências BiológicasUniversidade Estadual de Santa CruzIlhéusBrazil
  3. 3.Coleccion Boliviana de FaunaLa PazBolivia
  4. 4.CaldwellUSA
  5. 5.Museo de Historia NaturalUniversidad Nacional Mayor de San MarcosLima 14Peru
  6. 6.ArlingtonUSA
  7. 7.Fundación Mamíferos y ConservaciónQuitoEcuador
  8. 8.Departamento de Estudios AmbientalesUniversidad Simón BolívarCaracasVenezuela
  9. 9.Departamento de Ciências Florestais, Escola Superior de Agricultura “Luiz de Queiroz”Universidade de São PauloPiracicabaBrazil
  10. 10.Independent consultant on biodiversity and landscapePuerto ColombiaColombia
  11. 11.Wildlife Conservation Research Unit Zoology DepartmentUniversity of Oxford The Recanati-Kaplan Centre OxfordAbingdonUK

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