This rodent, Coelogenys (or Agouti) paca, together with one or two other tropical American species, represents a genus near akin to the agoutis and included in the family Caviidae.
Pacas may be distinguished from agoutis by their heavier and more compact build, the longitudinal rows of light spots on the fur, the five-toed hind-feet, and the peculiar structure of the skull, in which the cheek-bones are expanded to form large capsules on the sides of the face, each enclosing a cavity opening on the side of the cheek.
Their habits are very similar to those of agoutis, but when pursued they invariably take to the water.
The typical genus Tragulus, which is Asiatic, contains the smallest representatives of the family, the animals having more of the general aspects and habits of some rodents, such as the agoutis, than of other ruminants.
The peculiar odour evolved by many rodents is due to the secretions of special glands, which may open into the prepuce, as in Mus, Microtus and Cricetus, or into the rectum, as in Arctomys and Thryonomys, or into the passage common to both, as in the beaver, or into pouches opening near the vent, as in hares, agoutis and jerboas.
As in the agoutis (Dasyproctidae), the milk-teeth are long retained,, while in the allied cavies (Caviidae) they are shed before birth.
In the family Caviidae, typified by the cavies (or guinea-pigs), may be included a large number of South and Central American rodents, among which the agoutis and pacas are often ranked as a family (Dasyproctidae) by themselves.
Agoutis are slender-limbed rodents, with five front and three hind toes (the first front toe very minute), and very short tails.
In habits agoutis are nocturnal, dwelling in forests, where they conceal themselves during the day in hollow tree-trunks, or in burrows among roots.
In the water-rat and agoutis it is.