On Friday I gave you this fairly characteristic skull to identify:
Unsurprisingly everyone opted for some kind of pig – after all, it has the tusks and general shape that most of us expect from swine.
Curatorialtrainee was the first to suggest a Peccary and Carlos Grau deduced that it was a the White-lipped variety, Tayassu pecari (Link, 1795).
These relatives of the pig are found in South America, Central America and in parts of Mexico. They are omnivores, but much of their diet is composed of fruits and roots (although they wouldn’t their nose up at a tasty rodent or lizard every now and again).
They often form herds of 100 or more individuals, roaming the tropical forest in search of fruiting trees. The large herds efficiently exploit locally abundant fruit crops and then they move on to find more fruiting trees in their home range (the beauty of living in a tropical forest it that the trees don’t all fruit at once like they do in temperate regions).
Peccaries are the regular prey of Jaguars, but these guys can put up a fight – those tusks aren’t just for show and when you have a hundred angry Peccaries after you it’s probably pretty unnerving, even for a Jaguar.
What in the skull separates different species of Peccary?
Because I’m pretty sure we were all guessing the species, not deducing? Apologies to Carlos if I’m wrong there.
T. pecari has a longer skull and bigger diastema than P. tajacu, so the gap behind the tusks looks like an elongate rectangle from the side instead of being square. The rostrum is also less ‘waisted’ behind the tusks in T. pecari, so the curve behind the upper tusk is not very noticeable in T. pecari but it’s very obvious in P. tajacu.