Physical characteristics

Members of the family are stout bodied with large heads and short pelage. Like many mammals that feed on plant materials, cavids have high-crowned jaw teeth that are continuously growing. Dorsal coloration varies from yellow, gray, olive, and agouti, with ventral pelage color being white or lighter than upper parts. Size and basic body plan ranges from small, tailless, short-legged cavies (Cavia, Microcavia, and Galea) with body lengths 5.9-15.7 in (150-400 mm) and weights of 7.0-21.1 oz (200-600 g) to large-bodied, rabbitlike salt-desert cavies and maras (Dolichotis and Pediolagus) with short tails 0.9-1.3 in (24-35 mm) and long, slender limbs, and larger body sizes 17.7-29.5 in (450-750 mm) and weights of 2.2-35.2 lb (1-16 kg). Dolichotis is considerably larger than Pediolagus. Unlike the small, scampering cavies, salt-desert cavies and maras are highly specialized for cursorial or fast-running locomotion displaying digit reduction and hoof-like nails. Cavies have clawed digits with less reduction in number (four on front and three on rear). The rock cavy, Kerodon rupestris, is the ecological-equivalent of rock hyraxes in Africa. Its padded feet and nail-like digits make it highly adapted for climbing rocks and trees.

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