Tuesday, October 18, 2011

ABC Wednesday: N is for Nutria

Three nutrias (Myocaster coipus) also known as coypu or river rat is a large semiaquatic rodent. They were native to South America, but have been introduced all over the world and have become an invasive species.

They live near rivers and lakes and will spend the majority of their time in the water. With webbed feet, they are excellent swimmer and can also dive. Once out of the water, nutrias spend a lot of time grooming their fur to keep it dry and watertight. They look like muskrats (who don't have webbed hindfeet and a tail that#s not as round) and beavers (who have a completely flat tail).

Here you can see the rounded tail. Nutrias are herbivores and will eat almost anything, from grasses to crops to leaves. They have huge front teeth that, typically for rodents, continue to grow all their life. Allow me to demonstrate:

They live in groups of about 15 animals, usually a pair and their offspring, although bigger colonies with several adult pairs are possible. A litter has a size of 6-8 babies and a female can give birth two or three times a year, the babies are able to see and have fur when they are born. The group lives in a big nest either constructed from plants or dug into the earth. The entrance is always above water, another thing to tell them apart from muskrats and beavers.

I took all photos at Wildpark Schwarze Berge, where a big colony of nutrias is kept. At least one of the adults carries a gene that causes leucism, the nutria on the right is leucistic for example, it even has blueish eyes.

See what else N stands for with ABC Wednesday

Sources and further reading:
Nutria Fact Sheet
Georgia Wildlife Web
Animal Diversity Web

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