Coatimundi

CoatimundiCoatimundi — The coati, Nasua nasua, also known as the hog-nosed coon, is a member of the raccoon family (Procyonidae); a diurnal mammal native to South, Central and south-western North America. The word coatimundi is a commonly used misnomer applied to solitary adult male N. nasua. The term is reported to be derived from the Tupi language (Brazil). Reports that this term is from the Guaraní language are likely untrue.

The coati is a mammal related to the raccoon, but the species has a characteristic, long snout with somewhat pig-like features and bear-like paws. Ring-Tailed coatis have a either a light brown or black coat, with a lighter under-part and a white-ringed tail in most cases. All coatis share a slender head with an elongated, slightly upward-turned nose, small ears, dark feet and a long, non-prehensile tail used for balance and signalling.

Adults measure 41 to 67 cm from head to the base of the tail, which will add 30 to 60 cm to their length. Coatis are about 30 cm tall at the shoulder, and weigh between 3 and 8 kg, about the size of a large housecat. Males can become almost twice as large as females and have large, sharp canine teeth.

They have strong limbs to climb and dig, and have a reputation for intelligence, like their fellow procyonid the raccoon.

Coatis walk on the soles of their feet, like the Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis), but contrary to their much bigger relatives, coatis are able to descend trees headfirst thanks to a double-jointed, flexible ankle. They prefer to sleep or rest in elevated places and niches, like the rainforest canopy, in crudely-built sleeping nests.

Coati females and young males up to 2 years of age are gregarious and travel through their territories in noisy, loosely-organized bands made up of 4 to 25 individuals, foraging with their offspring on the ground or in the forest’s canopy. Males over 2 years become solitary due to behavioural disposition and collective aggression from the females, and will join the female groups only during the breeding season.

When provoked, or for defense, coatis can be fierce fighters: their strong jaws, sharp canine teeth, and fast scratching paws, along with a tough hide sturdily attached to the underlying muscles, make it very difficult for predators (e.g. dogs, jaguars) to seize the small mammal.

The coati communicates its intentions or moods with chirping, snorting or grunting sounds. Different chirping sounds are used to express joy during social grooming, appeasement after fights, or to convey irritation or anger. Snorting while digging, along with an erect tail, states territorial or food claims during foraging.

Coatis additionally use special postures or moves to convey simple messages; for example, hiding the nose between the front paws as a sign for submission; lowering the head, baring teeth and jumping at an enemy signal an aggressive disposition.

Individuals recognize other coatis by their looks, voices and smells, the individual smell is intensified by special musk-glands on their necks and bellies.

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