Cuniculidae – Pacas

Meet the pacas – large pig-like rodents with dots and stripes, short ears, and a barely visible tail  

Equipped with long whiskers that serve as sensitive antennae in the darkness, pacas deftly navigate their subterranean tunnels, relying on tactile cues to navigate their environment with precision and grace. Their large, luminous eyes further enhance their nocturnal prowess, allowing them to detect even the faintest glimmers of moonlight filtering through the dense canopy above.

Despite their solitary habits during the night, pacas exhibit remarkable fidelity in their relationships, forming lifelong pair bonds with their chosen mates. Interestingly, while they share their lives with a mate, pacas retreat to separate dens during the night, perhaps reflecting a need for personal space and autonomy even within the context of a committed partnership.

Pacas are highly selective in their choice of habitat, preferring forests near water bodies where they can find both refuge and sustenance. Here, amidst the verdant foliage and tranquil streams, pacas excavate deep burrows that provide shelter from predators and serve as a refuge during the daylight hours. These burrows, intricately woven into the fabric of the forest ecosystem, serve as sanctuaries where pacas can rest, rear their young, and seek respite from the rigors of the nocturnal hunt.

Remarkably, pacas have evolved a unique strategy for evading detection by their natural predators. By defecating in streams, they effectively disperse their scent, creating a smokescreen of olfactory confusion that confounds would-be predators and enhances their chances of remaining hidden from prying eyes. Additionally, pacas have been observed engaging in coprophagy, the consumption of their own feces, as a means of extracting maximum nutritional value from their diet. This unusual behavior involves passing their feces through their guts twice, a process known as hindgut fermentation, which enables them to extract essential nutrients that may have been missed during the initial digestion process.