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Datasheet

Myocastor coypus (coypu)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 27 July 2017
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Animal
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Myocastor coypus
  • Preferred Common Name
  • coypu
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Chordata
  •       Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •         Class: Mammalia
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Myocastor coypus (coypu) is a large semi-aquatic rodent which originated from South America. However, due to escapes and releases from fur farms there are now large feral populations in North America, Europe and...
  • Principal Source
  • Global Invasive Species Database  

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Adullt coypu, (Myocastor coypus)
TitleAdullt
CaptionAdullt coypu, (Myocastor coypus)
Copyright©John & Karen Hollingsworth/US Fish and Wildlife Service/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Adullt coypu, (Myocastor coypus)
AdulltAdullt coypu, (Myocastor coypus)©John & Karen Hollingsworth/US Fish and Wildlife Service/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Myocastor coypus (Molina, 1782)

Preferred Common Name

  • coypu

International Common Names

  • English: nutria
  • Spanish: coipù
  • French: ragondin
  • Portuguese: ratão-do-banhado

Local Common Names

  • Germany: Biberratte; Sumpfbiber

Summary of Invasiveness

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Myocastor coypus (coypu) is a large semi-aquatic rodent which originated from South America. However, due to escapes and releases from fur farms there are now large feral populations in North America, Europe and Asia. Their burrows penetrate and damage river banks, dykes and irrigation facilities. Myocastor coypus' feeding methods lead to the destruction of large areas of reed swamp. Habitat loss caused by coypus impacts plant, insect, bird and fish species. This species has been nominated as among 100 of the "World's Worst" invaders.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Chordata
  •             Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •                 Class: Mammalia
  •                     Order: Rodentia
  •                         Family: Myocastoridae
  •                             Genus: Myocastor
  •                                 Species: Myocastor coypus

Description

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Myocastor coypus (coypu) is a large rodent (5-9kg; 40-60cm body; 30-45cm tail), superficially rat-like, pelage brown and yellow-brown in colour with a cylindrical tail. It has webbed hindfeet, with a footprint up to 15cm long, imprints of the web is often visible; incisors are prominent and bright orange-yellow (unlike rats which are yellow-brown), with white marks on muzzle (Woods et al. 1992, Carter and Leonard 2002). Faeces cylindrical, up to 70mm long, with fine longitudinal striations (LeBlanc, 1994).

Distribution

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Native range: Native to South America south of 23 degree latitude, including Argentina, Bolivia, southern Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay (Carter and Leonard 2002).
Known introduced range: Introduced to areas of North America, Europe, Africa and Asia (Carter, 2007).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Asia

ArmeniaPresentIntroduced1940 Invasive ISSG, 2011
AzerbaijanPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
ChinaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedearly 1960s Invasive ISSG, 2011
Georgia (Republic of)PresentIntroduced1930-1932 Invasive ISSG, 2011
IsraelPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
JapanPresentIntroduced1910 Invasive ISSG, 2011
-HonshuPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-KyushuPresentIntroducedISSG, 2011
-ShikokuPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
JordanPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
KazakhstanPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
Korea, Republic ofPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
TajikistanPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
ThailandPresentIntroduced1993 Invasive ISSG, 2011
TurkeyPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
TurkmenistanPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011

Africa

BotswanaUnconfirmed recordIntroducedpre 1958 Invasive ISSG, 2011
KenyaPresentIntroduced1950 Invasive ISSG, 2011
TanzaniaPresentIntroduced Not invasive ISSG, 2011
ZambiaUnconfirmed recordIntroducedpre 1958 Invasive ISSG, 2011
ZimbabweUnconfirmed recordIntroducedpre 1958 Invasive ISSG, 2011

North America

Canada
-British ColumbiaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-Nova ScotiaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-OntarioPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-QuebecPresentIntroduced1927 Invasive ISSG, 2011
MexicoUnconfirmed recordIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
USAPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-AlabamaPresentIntroduced1949 Invasive ISSG, 2011
-ArkansasPresentIntroducedlate 1940s Invasive ISSG, 2011
-CaliforniaEradicatedIntroduced1899 Invasive ISSG, 2011
-ColoradoPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-DelawarePresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-FloridaPresentIntroduced1950s Invasive ISSG, 2011
-GeorgiaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-IdahoUnconfirmed recordIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-IllinoisUnconfirmed recordIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-IndianaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-KansasUnconfirmed recordIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-KentuckyAbsent, formerly presentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-LouisianaRestricted distributionIntroducedearly 1930s Invasive ISSG, 2011
-MarylandPresentIntroduced1943 Invasive ISSG, 2011
-MichiganPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced1930s Invasive ISSG, 2011
-MinnesotaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-MississippiPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-MissouriUnconfirmed recordIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-MontanaUnconfirmed recordIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-NebraskaAbsent, formerly presentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-New MexicoPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-North CarolinaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-OhioPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced1937 Invasive ISSG, 2011
-OklahomaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-OregonPresentIntroduced1937 Invasive ISSG, 2011
-TennesseePresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-TexasPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-UtahPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced1939 Invasive ISSG, 2011
-VirginiaUnconfirmed recordIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-WashingtonPresentIntroducedlate 1930s Invasive ISSG, 2011

South America

ArgentinaPresentNative Not invasive ISSG, 2011
BoliviaPresentNative Not invasive ISSG, 2011
BrazilPresentNative Not invasive ISSG, 2011
ChilePresentNative Not invasive ISSG, 2011
ParaguayPresentNative Not invasive ISSG, 2011
UruguayPresentNative Not invasive ISSG, 2011

Europe

AustriaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
BelgiumPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
BulgariaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
CroatiaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
Czech RepublicPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
DenmarkAbsent, formerly presentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
FinlandAbsent, formerly presentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
FrancePresentIntroduced1882 Invasive ISSG, 2011
GermanyPresentIntroduced1926 Invasive ISSG, 2011
GreecePresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
HungaryPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
ItalyPresentIntroduced1928 Invasive ISSG, 2011
NetherlandsRestricted distributionIntroducedaround 1930 Invasive ISSG, 2011
NorwayAbsent, formerly presentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
PolandIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
RomaniaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
Russian FederationPresentIntroduced1926 Invasive ISSG, 2011
SloveniaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
SpainPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
SwedenAbsent, formerly presentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
SwitzerlandUnconfirmed recordIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
UKEradicatedIntroducedlate 1920s Invasive ISSG, 2011

Habitat

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Myocastor coypus (coypu) are generally found near permanent water, particularly reed beds and swamp/marsh. Also found in rivers, streams, lakes, ponds and brackish marsh in coastal areas.They prefer habitats near the water, animals are rarely observed over 100m away from river. Severe winter could reduce reproductive success and adult survival.

Habitat List

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CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Freshwater
Lakes Present, no further details
Rivers / streams Present, no further details
Littoral
Coastal areas Present, no further details
Terrestrial-natural/semi-natural
Riverbanks Present, no further details
Wetlands Present, no further details

Biology and Ecology

Top of page Nutrition
Herbivorous, Myocastor coypus (coypu) eat wetland plants and crops. Selective feeding causes massive reduction in reed swamp. Occasional feeding on freshwater mussels are reported. It practices coprophagy. (Woods et al. 1992, Carter and Leonard 2002, Genesis Laboratories, Inc. 2002).
    Reproduction
    Placental. Sexual. Significant relationship between winter severity and female reproduction in the following spring. Prenatal embryo losses are high until 13-14 weeks of gestation. Sexual maturity 3-10 months. Gestation 127-138 days. Litter size 2-9; prenatal embryo losses are common during cold winter and in females in poor health condition. (Woods et al. 1992, Genesis Laboratories, Inc. 2002).
      Lifecycle stages
      Myocastor coypus (coypu) breed throughout the year; post-partum oestrus. Sexual maturity 3-10 months. Gestation 127-138 days. Mean litter sizes 5-6 (2-9), prenatal embryo losses are common during cold winter and in females in poor health condition. Woods et al. 1992).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

Top of page Introduction pathways to new locations
Other: Fur farms, introduced for fur exploitation.


Local dispersal methods
Escape from confinement:
Natural dispersal (local):

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Escape from confinement or garden escape Yes

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Environment (generally) Negative

Impact

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Myocastor coypus (coypu) burrows undermine the banks of rivers and dykes causing instability (Carter and Leonard, 2002). Feeding on rhizomes and young shoots of marsh plants leads to plant community breakdown and can lead to erosion in coastal habitats (LeBlanc, 1994). Coypu feeding on sea oat rhizomes in Mississippi barrier islands have led to sand dune erosion in these important habitats (GSMFC 2005).

At high densities coypu are able to convert marshland to open water by feeding on plants. Habitat destruction caused by coypu threatens rare marshland species of bird, fish and invertebrates. In Italy coypu have caused breeding whiskered tern (Chlidonias hybrida) to decline by largely destroying the cover of water-lilies Nymphaea in Valli di Argenta a designated IBA (Important Bird Area). The habitats of two national treasure species in Japan - a critically endangered dragon fly (see Libellula angelina in IUCN Red List of Threatened Species) and a fish the vulnerable deep-bodied bitterling (see Acheilognathus longipinnis in IUCN Red List of Threatened Species) (Shirow Tatsuzawa, pers. Comm.) are threatened by coypu.

Coypu also feed on agricultural crops (Carter and Leonard 2002) including sugarcane, alfalfa and root crops (Woods et al. 1992).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Acheilognathus longipinnisVU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable) VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable)JapanISSG, 2011
Chlidonias hybridusLC (IUCN red list: Least concern) LC (IUCN red list: Least concern)ItalyISSG, 2011
Libellula angelinaCR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered)JapanISSG, 2011

Risk and Impact Factors

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Impact mechanisms

  • Herbivory/grazing/browsing

Impact outcomes

  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration

Uses

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Myocastor coypus (coypu) are valued as a source of fur (Carter and Leonard 2002) and have been used as a meat source. Coypu provides prey for alligators and other native predators in some areas.

Uses List

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Materials

  • Skins/leather/fur

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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Musk rats (Ondatra zibethicus) are native to north America and occupy same aquatic habitats as coypu. They have been introduced to areas of South America, Europe and Asia so may be found in the same areas as coypu. Musk rats are smaller than coypu and have a laterally flattened tail compared to the coypu's rounded one.

Prevention and Control

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Feral populations of coypu are managed by shooting and trapping. Eradication is preferable for small to medium size populations but some level of control is essential in most cases if eradication is not feasible . High fur prices can help encourage sufficient hunting to control populations (Carter and Leonard 2002). In times of high fur prices little damage was observed to wetlands in Louisiana, USA (Marx et al. 2003). In 2002 a bounty system existed in Louisiana. That year a $12.5 million investment resulted in 342 trappers returning 300,000 tails over a 4 month season. Animals were shot or trapped and carcasses were either retained and sold as pelts or disposed of in the wetlands (Marx et al. 2003). Coypu have been eradicated from a number of states in the USA and are classed as pests in countries throughout the world (Carter and Leonard, 2002). A population of around 6000 coypu (Genovesi, 2005) was eradicated from East Anglia, UK in a campaign using cage traps. 24 trappers were employed for 8 years at a cost of £2.5 million (Gosling, 1989). An eradication was proposed for a small lake in Sicily but opposition by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) prevented the eradication taking place (Genovesi, 2005). An unsuccessful attempt was made to use pythons (Python rebae) as a biocontrol for coypu in Lake Navaisha in Keya (Harper et al. 1990).

Bibliography

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Abbas, A. 1991. Feeding strategy of coypu (Myocastor coypus) in central western France. Journal of Zoology, London, 224: 385-401.

Bomford, M., 2003. Risk Assessment for the Import and Keeping of Exotic Vertebrates in Australia. Bureau of Rural Sciences, Canberra. http://www.feral.org.au/feral_documents/PC12803.pdf

Borgnia, M., Galante, M. L. and Cassini, M. H. 2000. Diet of the coypu (Nutria, Myocastor coypus) in agro-systems of Argentina Pampas. Journal of Wildlife Management 64(2): 354-361.

Carter, J. and Leonard, B. P. 2002. A review of the literature on the worldwide distribution., spread of, and efforts to eradicate the coypu (Myocastor coypus) Source. Wildlife Society Bulletin. 30(1): 162-175.

Carter, Jacoby., 2007. Worldwide Distribution, Spread of, and Efforts to Eradicate the Nutria (Myocastor coypus) USGS National Wetlands Research Center http://www.nwrc.usgs.gov/special/nutria/index.htm

CONABIO. 2008. Sistema de información sobre especies invasoras en México. Especies invasoras - Mamíferos. Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad. Fecha de acceso. http://www.conabio.gob.mx/invasoras/index.php/Especies_invasoras_-_Mam%C3%ADferos

Fasham, M; Trumper, Kate., 2001. Review of non-native species legislation and guidance Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs http://www.defra.gov.uk/wildlife-pets/wildlife/management/non-native/documents/review-report.pdf

Genesis Laboratories, Inc. 2002. Report prepared for the Lousiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. 155pp.

Genovesi, P. 2005. Eradications of invasive alien species in Europe: a review. Biological Invasions. 7 (1): 127-133.

Gosling, L. M. 1989. Extinction to order. New Scientist, 4 march 1989: 44-49.

Gosling, L. M. and Baker, S. J. 1987. Planning and monitoring an attempt to eradicate coypus from Britain. Symposia of The Zoological Society of London 58: 99-113.

Gosling, L. M., Baker, S. J. and Clarke, C. N. 1988. An attempt to remove coypus (Myocastor coypus) from a wetland habitat in East Anglia. Journal of Applied Ecology 25: 49-62.

Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission (GSMFC), 2005. Myocastor coypus (Kerr, 1792)

Harper, D.M., Mavuti, K.M. and Muchiri, S.M., 1990. Ecology and management of Lake Naivasha, Kenya, in relation to climatic change, alien species' introduction, and agricultural development. Environmental Conservation 17: 328-336.

IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)., 2010. A Compilation of Information Sources for Conservation Managers Involved in the Prevention, Eradication, Management and Control of the Spread of Invasive Alien Species that are a Threat to Native biodiversity and Natural Ecosystems.

LeBlanc, Dwight J. 1994. Nutria Prevention and control of wildlife damage. (Eds) Scott E. Hygnstrom Robert M. Timm & Gary E. Larson http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/nreos/wild/pdf/wildlife/NUTRIA.PDF

Marx, J., Mouton, E., Linscombe, G. 2003. Nutria harvest distribution 2002-2003 And A survey of nutria herbivory damage in coastal Louisiana in 2003. Unpublished report by Fur and Refuge Division, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Mendelssohn H & Y Yom-Tov, 1987. Eds. Vol 7: Mammals. Plants and Animals of the Land of Israel. Ministry of Defence/The Publishing House, Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.

Reggiani, G., Boitani, L. and De Stefano, R. 1995. Population dynamics and regulation in the coypu Myocastor coypus in central Italy. Ecography 18: 138-146.

Reggiani, G., Boitani, L., D'Antoni, S. and De Stefano, R. 1993. Biology and control of the coypu in the mediterranean area. Suppl. Ric. Biol. Selvaggina XXI: 67-100.

Tatsuzawa, Shirow. Department of Regional Science, Hokkaido University, Japan.

Willner, G. R., Chapman, J. A. and Pursley, D. 1979. Reproduction, physiological responses, food habits, and abundance of nutria on Maryland marshes. Wildlife Monograph 65: 43.

Woods, C.A., Contreras, L., Willner-Chapman, G. & Whidden, H.P. 1992. Myocastor coypus. Mammalian Species 398: 1-8.

Contributors

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    Compiled by: Dr. Sandro Bertolino, DIVAPRA Entomology and Zoology, University of Turin, Italy & IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)

    Last Modified: Sunday, April 13, 2008

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