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Temporal range: Early Miocene–Recent
Desmarest's hutia (Capromys pilorides)
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Echimyidae
Subfamily: Capromyinae
Smith, 1842
Type genus
Desmarest, 1822

Tribe Capromyini

Tribe Plagiodontini

†Tribe Hexolobodontini

†Tribe Isolobodontini

Hutias (known in Spanish as jutía[1]) are moderately large cavy-like rodents of the subfamily Capromyinae that inhabit the Caribbean islands. Most species are restricted to Cuba, but species are known from all of the Greater Antilles, as well as The Bahamas and (formerly) Little Swan Island off of Honduras.

Twenty species of hutia have been identified, but at least half are extinct. Only Desmarest's hutia and the prehensile-tailed hutia remain common and widespread; all other extant species are considered threatened by the IUCN.

The extinct giant hutias of the family Heptaxodontidae also inhabited the Caribbean, but are not thought to be closely related, with the giant hutias belonging in the superfamily Chinchilloidea.[2]


Most species have a head-and-body length that ranges from 21 to 46 cm (8.3 to 18.1 in) and weigh less than 2 kg (4.4 lb), but Desmarest's hutia has a head-and-body length of 31 to 60 cm (12 to 24 in) and weighs 2.8–8.5 kg (6.2–18.7 lb).[3] They resemble the coypu in some respects. Tails are present, varying from vestiges to prehensile. They have stout bodies and large heads. Most species are herbivorous, though some consume small animals. Instead of burrowing underground, they nest in trees or rock crevices.

They are hunted for food in Cuba, where they are often cooked in a large pot with wild nuts and honey. At the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base however, there is an over population due to an abundant food source and the lack of natural predators. Desmarest's hutias are referred to by those stationed at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base as banana rats.[4] Banana rats are not named for their dietary preference, but because their feces look like small versions of the fruit. They are known to come out at night.


Molecular studies of phylogeny indicate that hutias nest within the Neotropical spiny rats (Echimyidae).[5] Indeed, the hutia subfamily, Capromyinae, is the sister group to Owl's spiny rat Carterodon.[6] In turn, this clade shares phylogenetic affinities with a subfamily of spiny rats, the Euryzygomatomyinae.[6]

Within Capromyidae, the deepest split involves Plagiodontia with respect to other genera, followed by the divergence of Geocapromys. The latter genus is the sister group to a clade in which Capromys branches off before the Mesocapromys and Mysateles split.

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.[7][8][9][5][10][6]

Hutias colonized the islands of the Caribbean as far as the Bahamas by island hopping from South America,[11][12] reaching the Greater Antilles by the early Oligocene.[13] This was facilitated by the direction of prevailing currents.


Prehensile-tailed hutia (Mysateles prehensilis)

The systematics of the 10 extant and 11 extinct recognized species of Capromyidae is as follows.[14][15][16] Taxa known to be extinct are marked with a dagger (†).

Subfamily Capromyinae
Tribe Capromyini
Garrido's hutia (Capromys garridoi) (possibly extinct)
Desmarest's hutia (Capromys pilorides)
Jamaican hutia (Geocapromys brownii)
Bahamian hutia (Geocapromys ingrahami)
Cayman hutia (Geocapromys caymanensis)
Cuban coney (Geocapromys columbianus)
Little Swan Island hutia (Geocapromys thoracatus)
Cabrera's hutia (Mesocapromys angelcabrerai)
Eared hutia (Mesocapromys auritus)
Black-tailed hutia (Mesocapromys melanurus)
Dwarf hutia (Mesocapromys nana) (possibly extinct)
San Felipe hutia (Mesocapromys sanfelipensis) (possibly extinct)
Prehensile-tailed hutia (Mysateles prehensilis)
Tribe †Hexolobodontini
Imposter hutia (Hexolobodon phenax)
Tribe Isolobodontini
Montane hutia (Isolobodon montanus)
Puerto Rican hutia (Isolobodon portoricensis)
Tribe Plagiodontini
Hispaniolan hutia (Plagiodontia aedium)
Samaná hutia (Plagiodontia ipnaeum)
Small Haitian hutia (Plagiodonta spelaeum)
Wide-toothed hutia (Hyperplagiodontia araeum)
Lemke's hutia (Rhizoplagiodontia lemkei)


  1. ^ "Cuba's government mocked by stampede of ostrich memes". BBC News. 23 April 2019.
  2. ^ Fabre, Pierre-Henri; Vilstrup, Julia T.; Raghavan, Maanasa; Der Sarkissian, Clio; Willerslev, Eske; Douzery, Emmanuel J. P.; Orlando, Ludovic (July 2014). "Rodents of the Caribbean: origin and diversification of hutias unravelled by next-generation museomics". Biology Letters. 10 (7). doi:10.1098/rsbl.2014.0266. ISSN 1744-9561. PMC 4126619. PMID 25115033.
  3. ^ Nowak, R. M. (1999). Walker's Mammals of the World. Vol. 2. 6th edition. pp. 1703–1710. ISBN 0-8018-5789-9.
  4. ^ Larson, Vaughn (23 September 2008). "Sailor Volunteers to Help Base Environment". Joint Task Force Guantanamo Public Affairs. Retrieved 24 September 2011.
  5. ^ a b 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. PMC 4126619. PMID 25115033.
  6. ^ a b c 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.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ 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. S2CID 83639441.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Hedges, S. Blair (November 1996). "Historical biogeography of West Indian vertebrates". Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics. 27 (1): 163–196. doi:10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.27.1.163.
  12. ^ Hedges, S. Blair (2006-08-23). "Paleogrography of the Antilles and Origin of West Indian Terrestrial Vertebrates". Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden. 93 (2): 231–244. doi:10.3417/0026-6493(2006)93[231:POTAAO]2.0.CO;2. S2CID 198149958.
  13. ^ Vélez-Juarbe, J.; Martin, T.; Macphee, R. D. E.; Ortega-Ariza, D. (January 2014). "The earliest Caribbean rodents: Oligocene caviomorphs from Puerto Rico". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 34 (1): 157–163. doi:10.1080/02724634.2013.789039. S2CID 140178414.
  14. ^ Woods, C.A.; Kilpatrick, C.W. (2005). "Family Capromyidae". 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. 1575–1592. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  15. ^ Fabre, Pierre-Henri; Patton, James L.; Leite, Yuri L. R. (2016). "Family Echimyidae (hutias, South American spiny-rats and coypu)". In Wilson, Don E.; Lacher, Thomas E. Jr; Mittermeier, Russell A. (eds.). Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Vol 6. Lagomorphs and Rodents I. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. pp. 552–641. ISBN 978-84-941892-3-4.
  16. ^ Database, Mammal Diversity (2021-08-10), Mammal Diversity Database, doi:10.5281/zenodo.5175993, retrieved 2021-09-27

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