Gibnut, Agouti paca


Classification: mammal; rodent

Description: Gibnuts are nocturnal rodents who usually live near water. When gibnuts are young their bodies are covered in small horny scales. But when they grow the scales begin to fall off and it is replaced with short soft fur. It grows to an average of two feet in length in the wild and weighs only about 22 pounds. It is usually light brown with white spots and stripes around its sides. It typically lives for 12 years in the wild. For defense the gibnut makes a distinctly hoarse bark when it is disturbed to warn others around it.

Habitat: The gibnut lives in a large variety of biomes that range from a tropical forest to the swamp. It likes to live in the tropical forest so that it can eat fallen leaves, fruits, and nuts. But it also loves the swamp for its plentiful water. Gibnuts are very good swimmers and can stay underwater for up to 15 minutes. And because of its ability to stay underwater for such a long time water is a good escape route from predators.

Niche: The gibnut does not play a large role in its ecosystem, but it is prey for larger predators. The gibnut is a herbivore so it is near the bottom of its food chain. But they are very territorial. They mark their territory with urine and they make a loud, low growl to any intruding animals.

Food Sources: It is prey and it eats fallen fruits and leaves. It also eats fungi, buds, flowers, and insects. When they eat they store food in their cheeks and eat it later. When they do eat they don't use their paws/feet instead they use their powerful jaws to break anything they need to eat.

Status: The gibnut is getting closer to extinction, and in some parts of the world it has already been hunted to extinction. Some people hunt them for food but they are also attacked by many predators in the forest.

Significance: They are very important to seed dispersal in the area that they live in, because when they eat some seeds may fall out of the fruit or nuts but others are put into the soil via feces. They are also important to many of the civilizations around the area that they live in because they provide a good and hearty food source. According to Chowhound the gibnut tastes like ham when it is smoked.

Cool Story: When Queen Elizabeth II visited Belize in 1985 she was fed gibnut to eat. Ever since she visited and ate the rodent it has since been called the “royal rodent” in Belize.  Maybe it will become a family tradition to eat the Royal Rodent!