procyon cancrivorus

Procyonidae

Procyonidae is a New World family of the order Carnivora. It includes the raccoons, coatis, kinkajous, olingos, ringtails and cacomistles. Procyonids inhabit a wide range of environments, and are generally omnivorous.

Characteristics

Procyonids are smallish animals, with generally slender bodies and long tails. (The common raccoon tends to be bulky.) Except for the kinkajou, all procyonids have banded tails, and distinct facial markings. These are especially visible in the raccoons. Like bears, procyonids are plantigrade, walking on the soles of their feet. Most species have non-retractile claws.

Because of their omnivorous diet, procyonids have lost some of the adaptations for flesh-eating found in their carnivorous relatives. While they do have carnassial teeth, these are poorly developed in most species, especially the raccoons. Apart from the kinkajou, procyonids have the dental formula:

While coatis are diurnal, all other procyonids are nocturnal. They are mostly solitary animals, and the mother raises litters of up to four young on her own.

Evolution

Fossils belonging to the genus Bassariscus, which includes the modern ringtail and cacomistle, have been identified from the Miocene epoch, around twenty million years ago. It has been suggested that early procyonids were an offshoot of the canids that adapted to a more omnivorous diet.

Classification

Recent genetic studies have shown that the kinkajous were an early offshoot of the ancestral procyonid line and are not closely related to any of the other extant genera; coatis and olingos are closest relatives, while the closest relatives of the raccoons are the ringtails and cacomistles. These data are not yet reflected in the classification scheme, which groups kinkajous and olingos together on the basis of similarities in morphology which are now known to be an example of parallel evolution.

There is considerable uncertainty over the correct classification of several members. The Red Panda was previously classified in this family, but some experts, including Don E. Wilson and DeeAnn M. Reeder, classify it as a member of the bear family (Ursidae) or in its own family the Ailuridae. The status of the various olingos is disputed: they may all be better regarded as subspecies of Bassaricyon gabbii.

Because of their general build, the Procyonidae are often viewed as smaller cousins of the bear family. This is apparent in their German names: a raccoon is called a Waschbär (washing bear, as he "washes" his food before eating), a coati is a Nasenbär (nose-bear) while a Kinkajou is a Honigbär (honey-bear). Dutch follows suit, calling the animals wasbeer, neusbeer and rolstaartbeer respectively.

References

Search another word or see procyon cancrivoruson Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature