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Hindlimb musculature of the largest living rodent Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris (Caviomorpha): Adaptations to semiaquatic and terrestrial styles of life.

Authors
  • García-Esponda, César M1
  • Candela, Adriana M2
  • 1 Cátedra Zoología III Vertebrados, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Museo, Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Avenida 122 y 60, La Plata, 1900, Argentina. , (Argentina)
  • 2 CONICET, División Paleontología Vertebrados, Museo de La Plata, Paseo del Bosque, La Plata, 1900, Argentina. , (Argentina)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of morphology
Publication Date
Mar 01, 2016
Volume
277
Issue
3
Pages
286–305
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1002/jmor.20495
PMID: 26626863
Source
Medline
Keywords
License
Unknown

Abstract

The caviomorph species Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris (Cavioidea), or capybara, is the largest living rodent. This species is widely distributed, from northern South America to Uruguay and eastern Argentina, inhabiting in a wide variety of densely vegetated lowlands habitats in the proximity of water. Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris not only runs with agility, like other members of the Cavioidea, but it can also swim and dive easily. For these reasons, it has been classified as a cursorial as well as semiaquatic species. However, comprehensive anatomical descriptions of the osteology and myology of the capybara are not available in the literature and analyses on its swimming abilities are still required. We hypothesize that some of the characters of the hindlimb of H. hydrochaeris could reveal a unique morphological arrangement associated with swimming abilities. In this study, an anatomical description of the hindlimb musculature of H. hydrochaeris, and a discussion of the possible functional significance of the main muscles is provided. In addition, we explore the evolution of some myological and osteological characters of the capybara in the context of the cavioids. We concluded that most of the muscular and osteological features of the hindlimb of H. hydrochaeris are neither adaptations to a specialized cursoriality, nor major modifications for an aquatic mode of life. Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris share several features with other cavioids, being a generalized cursorial species in the context of this clade. However, it shows some adaptations of the hindlimb for enhancing propulsion through water, of which the most notable seems to be the shortening of the leg, short tendons of most muscles of the leg, and a well-developed soleus muscle. These adaptations to a semiaquatic mode of life could have been acquired during the most recent evolutionary history of the hydrochoerids.

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