Potos flavus (Schreber, 1774)

Voss, Robert S. & Fleck, David W., 2017, Mammalian Diversity And Matses Ethnomammalogy In Amazonian Peru Part 2: Xenarthra, Carnivora, Perissodactyla, Artiodactyla, And Sirenia, Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 2017 (417), pp. 1-1 : 1-

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https://doi.org/ 10.1206/00030090-417.1.1

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Potos flavus (Schreber, 1774)


Potos flavus (Schreber, 1774)

Figure 16A View FIG

VOUCHER MATERIAL (TOTAL = 3): Nuevo San Juan (AMNH 268249; MUSM 11179) Orosa (AMNH 73765).

OTHER INTERFLUVIAL RECORDS: Actiamë ( Amanzo, 2006), Choncó ( Amanzo, 2006), Itia Tëbu ( Amanzo, 2006), Quebrada Pobreza ( Escobedo-Torres, 2015), Río Yavarí-Mirím (Salovaara et al., 2003), San Pedro (Valqui, 1999), Tapiche ( Jorge and Velazco, 2006).

IDENTIFICATION: Kinkajou specimens collected in the Yavarí-Ucayali interfluve conform closely to Husson’s (1978: 285–287) description of topotypical material from Surinam, and measurements of our vouchers ( table 14 View TABLE 14 ) broadly overlap the range of variation in homologous dimensions reported from kinkajous collected in the Guianas ( Husson, 1978; Voss et al., 2001). Side-by-side comparisons of crania from eastern Peru and French Guiana suggest that the former have somewhat larger auditory bullae, but no other consistent differences are apparent. Therefore, based on the phenotypic evidence at hand, we are quite confident of this identification and would even assign our vouchers to the nominotypical subspecies if a trinomial identification were deemed necessary. Remarkably, however, DNA sequence data suggest that western Amazonian and Guianan kinkajous differ by as much as 7%–9% at the mitochondrial cytochrome- b locus according to Nascimento et al. (2016). Those authors correctly point out that such high levels of sequence divergence are often found between full species, and they reasonably suggest that additional studies based on other genetic loci are needed to assess the possibility that several valid taxa are represented among the nominal forms currently treated as synonyms or subspecies of P. flavus . In this context, our morphological comparisons of Peruvian and Guianan specimens are inconclusive, but if a different name were eventually needed for our material, the geographically closest nominal taxon is chapadensis Allen, 1885, based on a type from Mato Grosso, Brazil.

ETHNOBIOLOGY: The Matses name for the kinkajou is kuichikkekid, which can be analyzed as meaning “one that says ‘kuichik’” (“kuichik” is the Matses rendition of the vocalization that kinkajous are often heard to make from the treetops at night). The name is often shortened to kuichik. It has no archaic synonyms or named overdifferentiated varieties (but see the Ethnobiology entry for olingos, above).

The Matses do not kill or eat kinkajous, they do not raise them as pets, and they have no other interest in them. Although most Matses have never seen a kinkajou, most have heard kinkajous vocalizing in the treetops at night. One of the few occasions when the Matses get a close look at a kinkajou is when they find one when felling trees for a swidden.

Contagion by a kinkajou spirit causes a very high fever in children.

MATSES NATURAL HISTORY: The kinkajou is like a small dog, but with a prehensile tail and larger eyes. It has a short rostrum, large eyes, and ears like a jaguar’s. Its body is reddish gray.

Kinkajous are arboreal. They almost never come down to the ground. They can be found in all types of habitat, including floodplain and upland forest, and primary and secondary forest.

Kinkajous sleep in dicot tree holes and holes in the trunks of bottle palms ( Iriartea deltoidea [ Arecaceae ]).

The kinkajou is nocturnal. It is almost never active in the daytime. It climbs around on the branches of trees looking for fruits, calling out “kuichik.” As it moves around up in the trees it rustles the branches lightly. Kinkajous come out of their holes during the day when a hunter climbs up a tree (to kill a sloth, retrieve an arrow, recover a killed monkey, etc.) and may try to bite him.

Kinkajous are solitary.

Kinkajous call out at night repeatedly saying “kuichik.”

Kinkajous eat mostly dicot tree fruits, especially those of këku ( Parahancornia peruviana [ Apocynaceae ]) and bata ( Pseudolmedia spp. [ Moraceae ]). They also eat bottle palm ( Iriartea deltoidea ) fruits. They also eat the eggs of toucanets ( Selenidera sp. [ Rhamphastidae ]) and other birds, baby birds, and adult passerines. They also eat katydids.

REMARKS: Matses observations about kinkajous are mostly consistent with published field studies of this species (e.g., Julien-Laferrière, 1993; Kays, 1999; Kays and Gittleman, 2001)—notably with respect to its exclusively nocturnal-arboreal activity and predominantly solitary lifestyle—but they are notably discrepant in one respect. Whereas published dietary studies suggest that Potos flavus is entirely frugivorous ( Julien-Laferrière, 1999; Kays, 1999) or partially insectivorous ( Bisbal, 1986; Redford et al., 1989), the Matses claim that it also eats bird eggs, nestlings, and adult birds. Given that captive kinkajous are known to eat meat and eggs ( Ford and Hoffmann, 1988), Matses observations are not implausible, but the discrepancy is of interest. Although Matses hunters could have mistaken olingos for kinkajous, olingos are also thought to be frugivorous ( Kays, 2000), so either the Matses are wrong, or there is still more to be learned about the diets of arboreal procyonids.