Nasua nasua (Linnaeus, 1766)

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-

publication ID 10.1206/00030090-417.1.1

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Nasua nasua (Linnaeus, 1766)


Nasua nasua (Linnaeus, 1766)

Figure 16C View FIG

VOUCHER MATERIAL (TOTAL = 8): Boca Río Yaquerana (FMNH 88877, 88878), Nuevo San Juan (AMNH 268248; MUSM 11176, 11178), Quebrada Esperanza (FMNH 88879–88881).

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

IDENTIFICATION: Measurements of our voucher material ( table 15 View TABLE 15 ) fall within the range of variation for Nasua nasua tabulated by Decker (1991), at least to the extent that her unexplained measurement abbreviations can be deciphered, 11 but morphometric variation in this species broadly overlaps with that of the somewhat larger white-nosed species ( N. narica ), so quantitative comparisons are of limited diagnostic value. Of the qualitative characters said to distinguish N. nasua from N. narica in Decker’s revision, our material lacks a whitish patch of postrhinarial fur (present in N. narica ), the anterior alveolar foramen is visible anterior to the infraorbital foramen (the anterior alveolar foramen is concealed inside the infraorbital canal of N. narica ), and a well-developed postorbital process of the jugal is present (this process is absent or indistinct in N. narica ). By contrast, we were not consistently able to distinguish our material from N. narica using the other craniodental and pelage characters alleged to diagnose these species.

Although 41 nominal taxa are currently regarded as synonyms or subspecies of Nasua nasua (see Wozencraft, 2005), the empirical basis for a subspecies classification has never

been established. Following Cabrera (1958), western Amazonian coatis (which tend to have very dark pelage) are usually referred to Nasua nasua dorsalis Gray, 1866 , but the type locality of dorsalis is effectively unknown; among the nominal taxa commonly listed as synonyms of dorsalis, the oldest that might apply to any population from western Amazonia is juruana Ihering, 1911. In the absence of any assessment of geographic variation in phenotypic or molecular traits, however, we are not persuaded of the need for a trinomial classification of N. nasua . A comparison of our measurement data ( table 15 View TABLE 15 ) with measurements of Surinamese specimens identified as N. nasua vittata (in Husson, 1978: tables 41, 42), for example, does not suggest any substantial morphometric divergence between populations from opposite sides of Amazonia.

Most coati skins from the Yavarí-Ucayali interfluve are rich reddish brown lined with black, but the pelt of FMNH 88881 (an old adult male) is predominantly blackish, the black almost obscuring the banding pattern on the tail. As usual for this species, old male skulls have tall sagittal crests, widely flaring zygomatic arches, and huge canines by comparison with female skulls (which lack sagittal crests and have narrower zygomatic arches and much smaller canines; fig. 16C).

ETHNOBIOLOGY: The coati is called tsise, a monomorphemic term common in the Panoan family. The Matses recognize two named varieties: tsisedapa (“big coati”) and tsisempi (“small coati”). The large variety occurs in smaller packs (up to about 10) and the small variety is darker and runs in larger packs (up to about 15). The Matses have no archaic synonyms for the coati.

The coati is a game animal of secondary importance. Traditionally only old people ate coatis. Today, after having seen that non-Indians eat them, some younger Matses eat them, but only roasted and if they have a lot of fat. Sometimes coatis injure dogs by biting them when chased. Coatis are considered very good pets to keep, not only because young animals readily become tame and are fun to play with, but because pet coatis warn people about pitvipers (e.g., Bothrops spp. ) near the village. Coatis give a warning call (“tsa tsa tsa”) when they find a venomous snake, and then someone goes and kills it.

Young people do not eat coatis lest they become lethargic. Coati spirits sometimes make children ill, causing them to have a high fever, with is treated by bathing the sick child with certain medicinal plants (“coati medicine”).

MATSES NATURAL HISTORY: The coati has a ringed tail that it carries raised up vertically as it walks on the ground. It has a dark-colored body and a light-colored face. It has a long snout, small ears, and big claws. Seasonally it has a lot of fat. It has a very strong smell, such that one can easily know that coatis have recently passed by.

Coatis are found in all types of habitats, including upland and floodplain forest, and in primary and secondary forest. They are encountered frequently while hunting.

Coatis are strictly diurnal. They sleep together up in trees at night. They lie together in trees to rest when it is dry. They eat fruits up in the trees and also forage for fallen fruits on the ground. They search the ground for earthworms, and when they find a place with many earthworms they root there for a long time. They eat beetle grubs that feed on the rotting pith of fallen palm trees. They dig into rotten logs with their noses to search for invertebrates.

When they see people from far off, they yell, saying “kosh,” drop to the ground, and flee running on the ground. If they are on the ground when they see or hear people, they climb partway up a tree to get a good look at the person(s), yelling “kosh, kosh, kosh,” and then drop to the ground and flee running on the ground.

Coatis live in packs of up to about 15 individuals. Sometimes only two or three are seen traveling together. To give birth, coatis make big nests by breaking off many small branches with the leaves still attached and weaving them together in the crotch of a tree branch. Each female that is going to give birth makes a separate nest in the same tree. They give birth and suckle their young in the nest. Once they get stronger, the females take their young down to the ground to forage with the rest of the pack, and then at dusk they carry them back up to the nest. Once the young are strong enough to grasp tightly, they begin to come down to the ground on their own, and eventually the nests are abandoned. The nests are often made in a fruiting tree.

Jaguars and pumas eat coatis.

Coatis bark saying “tsat tsat tsat tsat,” and hiss saying, “tse, tse, tse.”

Coatis eat all sorts of things. They eat dicot tree fruits, including those of bata ( Pseudolmedia spp. [ Moraceae ]). They eat the mesocarp of the fruits of isan palms ( Oenocarpus bataua [ Arecaceae ]) and swamp palms ( Mauritia flexuosa ) that have ripened and fallen to the ground. They eat earthworms, armored millipedes, round millipedes, scorpions, beetle grubs that feed on palm pith, and grubs that live in the soil.

REMARKS: Matses observations about Nasua nasua agree in most essential details (e.g., diurnal activity, sociality, omnivory, construction of arboreal nursery nests, escape behavior) with Kaufmann’s (1962) classic study of the Central American species ( N. narica ), and with the scattered natural history literature on N. nasua (reviewed by Gompper and Decker, 1998). A significant omission from our interviews is any mention of solitary males. 12 Additionally, these accounts describe nursery-nesting behavior in greater detail than in any previous report about Nasua spp. (including Olifiers et al., 2009), and they provide new information about fruit species and invertebrate taxa consumed in Amazonia, where the foraging habits of coatis have not previously been studied.

TABLE 15 Measurements (mm) and Weights (g) of Adult Specimens of Nasua nasua from the Yavarí-Ucayali Interfluve

  AMNH 268248 FMNH 88878 FMNH 88880 FMNH 888877 FMNH 88881 MUSM 11176 MUSM 11178
Sex female female female male male male male
Head-and-body length 483 521 524 565 536 535a 516
Length of tail 428 413 420 465 422 438 414
Hind foot 96 87 90 98 88 90 95
Ear 40 36 37 38 38 40 42
Weight 3700 3480 3780
Condylobasal length 110.7 113.9 113.5 118.3 115.3 117.2 115.0
Nasal length 38.1 39.6
Least interorbital breadth 23.8 23.5 24.0 26.8 24.1 23.8 25.4
Least postorbital breadth 25.2 23.9 24.4 24.1 20.2 22.1 21.1
Zygomatic breadth 59.7 61.1 61.5 77.6 63.4 70.4
Breadth of braincase 43.7 42.9 43.1 45.3 42.9 44.3 44.0
Maxillary toothrow 42.5 44.1 45.5 47.1 45.5 45.2 47.4
Breadth of M1 6.9 7.2 7.1 7.8 7.5 7.2 8.0

Measurements (mm) and Weights (g) of Adult Specimens of Nasua nasua from the Yavarí-Ucayali Interfluve

a Collector’s measurement of total length (1073 mm) is an obvious lapsus; computed value for head-and-body length is based on the assumption that total length was 973 mm.


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