One of the few modern mammals to be first described from fossil remains, this species was thought to be extinct until living animals were discovered.
Once widely distributed across mainland Cuba and the neighbouring Isle of Pines, by the early twentieth century the dwarf hutia was restricted to the largely inaccessible Zapata Swamp. The last individuals known to science were captured in 1937, but local reports and the discovery of tiny droppings suggest that the species may have persisted beyond this date. The species is now feared extinct, having suffered declines following the introduction of black rats and mongooses, and conversion of much of its forest habitat to sugarcane plantations. Hutias belong to the rodent family Capromyidae, which is endemic to the islands of the West Indies and represents an ancient, formerly diverse evolutionary radiation. The wider evolutionary relationships of the hutias are not yet clear; their closest living relatives are either the South American spiny rats (Echimyidae) or the coypu (Myocastor). Most species of hutia have become extinct following human colonization of the Caribbean, with many species having disappeared after European arrival in the region around 500 years ago. The surviving members of the Capromyidae reach their greatest diversity on Cuba.
- Order: Rodentia
- Family: Capromyidae
- Population: Unknown
- Trend: unknown
- Size: 360 mm
- Weight: 500g
The dwarf Hutia are found in the Zapata Swamp in Matanzas Province, Cuba, which is also the last refuge for other threatened Cuban species, like the Zapata rail.
Habitat and Ecology
They inhabit dry islets and forest patches in the inaccessible Zapata Swamp. Almost nothing is known about their ecology. A female dwarf hutia that was captured from the Zapata Swamp in 1937 and sent to Berlin Zoo gave birth to a single young. The species is common in fossil bone accumulations representing old owl roosts, indicating that it was once an important dietary component of these birds. Other hutia species are highly social and engage in various activities (e.g. foraging, grooming) as a group. The average lifespan of most hutia species is eight to eleven years.