Ever lowered yourself into a perfectly warm bath or hot tub and immediately closed your eyes in relaxation? It turns out that capybaras, the world’s largest and most meme-able rodent, essentially react the same way. Scientists in Japan watched them sit in tubs of hot water for at least 30 minutes per day for 21 days and measured their comfort level by looking at their eye shape and ear position, as shown in the figure below. The result? Capybaras like hot baths. Here’s hoping they also did a meta study at the same time that shows scientists who watch capybaras sit in hot baths for at least 30 minutes a day for 21 days are more relaxed than they were at the beginning of the experiment.
Capybaras are native to humid regions in Central and South America and spend a lot of their time in or near water. They are popular in wildlife parks in Japan, where the environment is much different. Their skin dries out in cold Japanese winters. The scientists also measured the moisture content and health of the capybara’s skin during the experiment and found that it improved as well. Soaking in the hot water also kept them warm even after they got out of the 95 degree Fahrenheit water. The peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports published the results, which we first saw on Vice.
Capybaras can be four feet long and weigh 170 pounds, a real rodent of unusual size. Luckily, they’re much cuter than the ones in Princess Bride’s fire swamp. Some other fun capybara facts include that they enjoy munching on pumpkins in the fall. Also, other animals seem to love them and sometimes even take naps on top of them. One of the true joys of the internet is all the pictures and videos of everything from turtles to chickens to cats hanging out with capybaras.
Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.