Every Tuesday, we'll share a few fun animal facts with you from experts all over the country.

This week, we're focusing on the surprisingly charming capybara, and today's expert is our own Linda Lombardi, former small mammal zookeeper and author of the oldest page about capybaras on the Internet.

  • Capybaras are the largest rodent in the world: about two feet tall, four feet long and, on average, about a hundred pounds.
  • Holding a record among rodents is a pretty big deal because there are more rodents than any other kind of mammal: over 1,800 species.
  • Capybaras are impressive because most rodents are much smaller. But they hardly compare to their extinct prehistoric ancestors, who weighed about eight times as much.
  • Like other rodents, a capybara's front teeth never stop growing. They're constantly worn down by chewing on the tough grasses that make up their diet.
  • Don't call a capybara a big rat! Not that there's anything wrong with being a big rat, but they're more closely related to guinea pigs.
  • Capybaras live alongside rivers and lakes in parts of Central and South America and spend a lot of time in the water. They have webbed feet for swimming, which also help them to walk on soggy ground.
  • Their eyes, ears and noses are high up on their heads so they can see and breathe while swimming. They can also close their ears.
  • They can stay underwater for up to five minutes.
  • Jaguars, anacondas and caiman prey on capybaras. Some people eat them too, and in Venezuela, Catholics are allowed to eat them during Lent (when usually only fish is permitted, not meat). They taste like slightly fishy pork.