Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Photo of the Day #34: White-nosed Coati

White-nosed coati
Nasua narica (Linnaeus, 1766)
Procyonidae; Carnivora; Mammalia; Chordata
Colchester Zoo
June 2009

Also called the pizote, the white-nosed coati is the only one of four species of coatis of the genera Nasua and Nasuella to be found in the U.S.A. The more well known (in British zoos, at least) ring-tailed coati (Nasua nasua) is found throughout lowland tropical South America; the rare Cozumel coati (N. nelsoni) is restricted to the Mexican island of Cozumel, where it is one of two endemic procyonids (the raccoon species Procyon pygmaeus is the other); and the equally rare mountain coati (Nasuella olivacea) from the northern part of the Andes Mountains. The white-nosed coati is found southwards to the coastal rainforests of Ecuador, in habitats as disparate as tropical rainforest and desert.

The coati social system has been well studied in N. nasua and N. narica. In both species, females and young live communally, searching for invertebrates in the soil, using their flexible, proboscis-like noses to do so, and with their flag-like tails held erect. The males remain solitary: they even go by a different name, 'coatimundi' (once even thought to be a different species). The reason for this is that males are exiled from the group once they reach sexual maturity; they become aggressive and will kill and eat young, even their own.

Although it can't be seen in my photo, the white-nosed coati has a very long tail, which is banded, although not to the extent of the ring-tailed coati. Often the bands run together and appear to merge. The white nose and facial mask are distinctive, although shared with the Cozumel coati. It is still disputed as to whether the latter taxon actually constitutes a species in its own right. Animals from Cozumel Island may originate from mainland white-nosed coatis brought to the island by the Mayan peoples as pets. Incidentally, coatis supposedly make loyal and inquisitive pets, but I wouldn't get too close to their claws; they look as if they could do some damage. They are able to rip apart bird-eating spiders with ease.

On a related but separate note, may I take this opportunity to advertise my new Facebook group called 'Tetrapod Club'. All are welcome to join... membership is currently very low but I've only started the group a few hours ago! On there are a selection of photos and illustrations, but feel free to add your own. I hope to get some interesting discussions going on.

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