Desmarest's hutia

The Desmarest's hutia (Capromys pilorides), also known as the Cuban hutia, is a species of rodent endemic to Cuba, although an extinct subspecies is known from the Cayman Islands.[2][3] Weighing up to 8.5 kg (19 lb), it is the largest of the extant species of hutia (the extinct giant hutias were far larger).

Desmarest's hutia
Demarest's hutia.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Capromyidae
Subfamily: Capromyinae
Tribe: Capromyini
Genus: Capromys
Desmarest, 1822
C. pilorides
Binomial name
Capromys pilorides
Say 1822


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 distributionEdit

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 reproductionEdit

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 humansEdit

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. l.[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 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.

An extinct undescribed species of Capromys 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]


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.[10][11][12][13][14][15]


  1. ^ Soy, J.; Silva, G. (2008). "Capromys pilorides". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2008: e.T3842A10116507. Retrieved 14 February 2020.
  2. ^ a b c 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.
  3. ^ a b 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. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ a b Nowak, R. M. (1999). Walker's Mammals of the World. Vol. 2. 6th edition. p. 1706. ISBN 0-8018-5789-9
  5. ^ "Three new mammal species discovered in Cayman Islands after bones found inside crocodiles". The Independent. 2019-03-05. Retrieved 2019-03-06.
  6. ^ "Capromys pilorides (Desmarest's hutia)".
  7. ^ Bailly, Anatole (1981-01-01). Abrégé du dictionnaire grec français. Paris: Hachette. ISBN 978-2010035289. OCLC 461974285.
  8. ^ Bailly, Anatole. "Greek-french dictionary online". Retrieved 2017-10-15.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ 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 readingEdit