Brazilian guinea pig (Cavia aperea)
|Size||Head-body length: 27.2 cm (2)|
Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).
The Brazilian guinea pig closely resembles the well-known domestic guinea pig (Cavia porcellus), and is possibly its wild ancestor (2) (3). Like its domestic counterpart, the Brazilian guinea pig is a small rodent, with a stocky, tailless body, and a large head ending in a blunt snout (3) (4). The legs are short, while the feet are bare, with four toes on the front feet, and three on the rear, each equipped with strong claws (4) (5). Unlike the diverse coat patterns, lengths and colours found in the different breeds of domestic guinea pig, all Brazilian guinea pigs have long, coarse, dark grey-brown or black fur (4).
The northern part of the Brazilian guinea pig’s large range extends from western Colombia eastwards to Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and the northern regions of Brazil bordering these countries. Since this species is absent from rainforest, the southern part of its range begins south of the Amazon basin, extending from Bolivia and southern Brazil, southwards through eastern Paraguay as far as Uruguay and north-east Argentina. Small populations also occur in extreme northern Peru and Ecuador (1).
The Brazilian guinea pig is mainly found in shrubby grassland savanna and other open habitats, at elevations from 400 to 3,000 metres above sea level (1) (4)
The Brazilian guinea pig lives in small groups, usually consisting of a single male and one or two females. While each group occupies a separate nest concealed amongst brush and vegetation (3) (4), they share a complex network of tunnels and runs—constructed through the dense undergrowth—with the numerous groups that live close by (2).
The Brazilian guinea pig primarily grazes on grass, but will also take leaves, seeds, flowers and bark (4). Being highly vulnerable to predators, this species feeds at dusk and dawn, never more than a few metres from cover, and with the group continuously on the alert for potential threats (2) (5). Predators mainly comprise birds of prey and South American mustelids, such as the greater and lesser grison (5).
Although the Brazilian guinea pig breeds throughout the year, most births usually occur between September and April. Females can produce up to five litters in a single year, generally producing an average of two pups per litter after a gestation period of around 62 days (1). The young are born extremely well-developed, and on the first day are able to run and eat solid food, although they normally suckle for three weeks (2). Brazilian guinea pigs become sexually mature after just 30 days (2), and may live for around 8 years in captivity (3).
There are currently no significant threats to the Brazilian guinea pig’s survival. Although habitat degradation and loss is ongoing in many parts of its range, this species is believed to be capable of tolerating a degree of habitat modification and is currently widespread and common (1).
There are no specific conservation measures in place for the Brazilian guinea pig. It is, however, found in a number of protected areas throughout its range (1).
To learn more about conservation initiatives within the Brazilian guinea pig’s range, visit:
The Nature Conservancy:
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
- Gestation: the state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
- Mustelids: a family of carnivores with short, stocky legs, an elongated body and long sharp canine teeth. Includes otters, weasels, ferrets and badgers.
IUCN Red List (February, 2009)
- Eisenberg, J.F. and Redford, K.H. (2000) Mammals of the Neotropics: Ecuador, Bolivia and Brazil. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
- Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker's Mammals of the World. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
- Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
- Macdonald, D.W. (2001) The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.