On Friday I gave you this skull to identify:
I was impressed by the efficiency with which the possibilities were whittled down and the correct species identified, since this isn’t an animal that’s very well known by most people (in the UK at least). Dave Godfrey immediately recognised this as being a member of the Carnivora and a dog-like one at that, an opinion supported by Matthew Partridge’s observations.
This line of investigation was somewhat derailed by Gimpy’s suggestion that this was a Tasmanian devil skull, an observation that was incorrect, yet very pertinent, since there are quite striking similarities between this and a Tasmanian devil skull as a result of convergent evolution. It’s strange to think that two species can look so similar and yet be separated by at least 124 million years of divergence (check out the placental-marsupial divergence node using the awesome University of Bristol Date-a-Clade webpage). That’s what similarities in environment and lifestyle will do to organisms with similar ancestral skeletal bodyplans.
Debi Linton then came to the rescue with some astute observations about the teeth of this animal and after trawling the Skulls Unlimited site (which appears to be much-used by people hunting for the answer to the FMO) she hit upon the correct answer of Coatimundi or Coati. In fact, this is the South American Coati subspecies Nasua nasua dorsalis Gray, 1866 and since it is a solitary male specimen it can accurately be called a Coatimundi. Dave Godfrey, jonpaulkaiser and David Craven all subsequently managed to work this out as well, so congrats to all.
So, what about the Coati? These close relatives of the Raccoon are also known by the names Snookum-bear, Brazilian aardvark and Hog-nosed coon – these latter names relating to the flexible nose that they sometimes use to root through undergrowth in search of invertebrates and small vertebrates. Apparently there is a breeding population of Coatis in Cumbria, so who knows how long it will be before we start having them turning up in UK museums for identification on a regular basis?
Chester Zoo used to have quite a big colony of coatimundis (not sure where they are at the moment), they’re a rather dynamic bunch. Surprised at how big their canine teeth are.
The Chester coatis are still there, they live in with the Spectacled Bears. Bit more space in there, though they still alternate between their two default settings of “dynamic searching for food” and “sleeping”.
I hadn’t heard about the Cumbrian breeding group, but now I see it’s been there for a few years. I’ll have to keep an eye out when work takes me into Furness, or maybe even a dedicated holiday!
I first learned about Coatis on the old Channel 4 show “Path of the Rain God”. I lost count of the times I rewatched it (admittedly mainly for the cave fish sequence), when I was a callow youth, that these days I’m surprised more people haven’t heard of them. Its one of those “you mean you haven’t seen 2001 15 times? Oh, just me then…” moments that still happen to me.
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