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Temporal range: PlioceneHolocene
Cavia aperea, or Brazilian guinea pig
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Caviidae
Subfamily: Caviinae
Genus: Cavia
Pallas, 1766
Type species
Cavia cobaya

Cavia is a genus in the subfamily Caviinae that contains the rodents commonly known as guinea pigs or cavies.[1] The best-known species in this genus is the domestic guinea pig, Cavia porcellus, a meat animal in South America and a common household pet outside of that continent.

Former taxonomic controversy[edit]

Cavia is classified in order Rodentia, although there was once a minority belief in the scientific community that evidence from mitochondrial DNA and proteins suggested the Hystricognathi might belong to a different evolutionary offshoot, and therefore a different order.[2] If this had been so, it would have been an example of convergent evolution. However, this uncertainty is largely of historical interest, as abundant molecular genetic evidence now conclusively supports classification of Cavia as rodents.[3][4] This evidence includes draft genome sequences of Cavia porcellus and several other rodents.[5]


Historically, there has been little consensus in regard to the number of Cavia forms and their taxonomic affiliations. Morphological characters differentiating between Cavia species are limited and levels of inter- and intraspecific morphologic variation have not been well documented, thus, interpretations have varied and resulted in very different taxonomic conclusions. Three scientists disagreed on the number of species, Tate (1935) recognized 11 species, while Cabrera (1961) recognized 7, and Huckinghaus (1961) recognized only 3. Recent scientific compilations have generally followed either Cabrera or Huckinghaus.[6]

A domestic guinea pig (Cavia porcellus) eating grass leaves

At least five wild species of guinea pig are recognised, in addition to the domestic form:

Some authors also recognise the following additional species:

In addition, four fossil species have been identified:[8]

  • Cavia cabrerai - early Pliocene Argentina
  • Cavia galileoi - late Pliocene Argentina
  • Cavia lamingae - late Pleistocene Brazil
  • Cavia vates - late Pleistocene Brazil


  1. ^ Woods, C.A.; Kilpatrick, C.W. (2005). "Infraorder Hystricognathi". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 1552–1553. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  2. ^ Stiefel, Chana Freeiman (1996). "Family feud – genetic evidence seems to show that guinea pigs are not rodents". Science World. Retrieved 2013-11-14.
  3. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-09-23. Retrieved 2012-05-19.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) (and references therein)
  4. ^ ""Molecular Biology and Evolution," Vol 11, 593–604". Archived from the original on 2008-12-05. Retrieved 4 April 2017.
  5. ^ "UCSC Genome Browser Gateway". Retrieved 4 April 2017.
  6. ^ Dunnum, Jonathan L, Salazar-Bravo, Jorge (21 January 2010), "Molecular systematics, taxonomy, and biogeography of the genus Cavia (Rodentia:Caviidae) Page 1
  7. ^ Donnum, J.L.; Salazar-Bravo, J. (November 2010). "Molecular systematics, taxonomy and biogeography of the genus Cavia (Rodentia: Caviidae)". Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research. 48 (4): 376–388. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0469.2009.00561.x.
  8. ^ Candela, A.M.; Bonini, R.A. (July 2017). "A new guinea pig (Rodentia, Caviomorpha) from northwestern Argentina: implications for the origin of the genus Cavia". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 37 (4): e1352591. Bibcode:2017JVPal..37E2591C. doi:10.1080/02724634.2017.1352591. S2CID 89872825.

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