Welcome to a blog now shared by one, two, um... four people. Wipe your shoes off on the mat and delve into the posts featuring rants, museum pictures, and some cool facts. Nerds of all kinds welcome.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Prosperous Procyonids, Part Uno

What do the six animals above have in common? Besides suffering from a crippling case of the adorables. Hint: they're all procyonids. Raccoons are perhaps the most famous of the family (kinkajous come in at second) and therefore are the ones we'll cover first. But in a flashback to yesterday's post, what is a procyonid?

This is not a procyonid. It's a raccoon dog.

Procyonids are carnivorans (like Darren Naish, a share a longing for people to refer to them as "carnivorans" instead of "carnivores") that are closest to weasels, skunks, and red pandas in relationship. All are united with bears, seals and dogs in Caniformia, the "dog-like" carnivorans. Most are nocturnal, and most have banded tails. They are native to the New World and have been since they evolved 20 million years ago. There are six genera, though one is tentative and might be a species of another. Let's chronicle the genera now.


Procyon is the most famous and widespread of the procyonid genera, with three generally accepted species, though it has been considered that seven actually exist. Of these, only P. lotor and P. cancrivorus are widespread and "non-insular", if you will. They can be distinguished by their highly manipulative hands, "bandit mask" facial markings and banded tails.

COMMON RACCOON (Procyon lotor):

As one can well imagine by its name, the common raccoon is the most famous of all raccoons (and was also once lumped into Ursus by Linnaeus), and is probably the one you'll always see on a cartoon or any show to be exact. It is also the one associated with washing food. Interestingly enough, this behaviour has never been recorded in the wild, only taking apart their food but never dousing it; proving that they are not nature's neat freaks. 

"No one understands me."

 Found in every contiguous state of the US, all but four of the Canadian provinces, several islands, Mexico, and Central America, the common raccoon is the most abundant of the genus and all procyonids. They have also been introduced to several European countries, Japan, and the Near East. There are nineteen subspecies, but luckily we'll only feature a few. These are the four sometimes considered to be separate species.
  • The Guadeloupe raccoon, shown at right, is known as Procyon lotor minor. It shows insular dwarfism, much smaller than the mainland raccoon subspecies. It is found on the Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre Islands and is endangered.
  • The Tres Marias raccoon, Procyon lotor insularis, is found on the two main of islands of Islas Marias. The average length is 33in, slightly larger than mainland raccoons. It is distinguished by its pale coat and angular skull.
  • The Bahamian raccoon, Procyon lotor maynardi is another endangered raccoon subspecies, endemic to the New Providence Island. It is most similar to the Guadeloupe and Florida Keys subspecies, perhaps providing evidence for the idea that these are just introduced mainland raccoons.
  • The Barbados raccoon, Procyon lotor gloveralleni was an extinct subspecies found only in the Barbados, of course. It too was smaller than most mainland raccoons and bore resemblance to the Guadeloupe raccoon.
CRAB-EATING RACCOON (Procyon cancrivorus):

The crab-eating raccoon, also known as the mapache, is just one of the many animals that shares the "crab-eating" adjective in his name (including the frog, the fox, the mongoose, the macaque, and the rat), and like all of them, it invariably eats more than crabs, also dining on fish, worms, frogs, turtle eggs, seeds, and fruits. It is much more lithe and ultimately rangier looker than its northern cousin and is found in every country in South America, including Trinidad and Tobago. It was once in its own genus Euprocyon. The crab-eating raccoon is one of nature's troopers, being able to survive riverine forests, rainforests, and even scrubland. Unlike its northern cousin, it is only nocturnal (common raccoons are diurnal to a degree); in parts of Costa Rica its range overlaps with the common raccoon and it also shares ranges with the Guadaloupe raccoon, having been introduced to the island.

COZUMEL RACCOON (Procyon pygmaeus):
The Cozumel raccoon, also known as the dwarf raccoon or pygmy raccoon is the smallest of all raccoons and one of the smallest procyonids, clocking in only at 9lbs at the most (45% lighter than the closest average mainland raccoon subspecies). Perhaps the title of "crab-eating raccoon" would better belong to them, as approximately 50% of their diet consists of the amiable crustaceans. Like all procyonids, it is omnivorous, dining on seeds, fruits, reptiles, insects, and other meaty tidbits. Unlike the common raccoon and more similar to the crab-eating raccoon, its tail is a buff yellowish in colour, with darker brown bands. Endemic to Cozumel Island, they are critically endangered.

Well that's it for now. I leave you with the raccoon shuffle. 


Guadeloupe raccoons - Wikipedia user Line1
Crab-eating raccoon - Steven G. Johnson
"Raccoon shuffle" - Bergamo Cattaneo

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Animals of the World by Tom Jackson
Wild Animals of the World by William Bridges
Book of the Animal Kingdom by Arnoldo Mondadori
Encyclopedia of Mammals by Dr. David MacDonald

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