The tayra, Eira barbara, can be found in the neotropical forests of Central and South America. It ranges from Mexico south to Bolivia and northern Argentina and also on the island of Trinidad (Mares et al., 1989; Reid, 1997).
Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )
The tayra is a weasel about the size of a medium sized dog, with a long, bushy tail and long neck ending in a robust head. Its head and body range from 60 to 70 cm in length and its tail length is 35 to 45 cm. Tayras have large hind feet varying in length from 80 to 90 mm and ears about 35 to 40 mm long. Color varies with geographic range, but in general the tayra has a dark brown body with a slightly paler head. Usually it has a white, diamond shaped patch on its throat. Tayras have long claws and pronounced canines. Their dental pattern is 3/3, 1/1, 3/4, 1/1 =34.
Range mass: 3 to 6 kg.
Range length: 60 to 70 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike
Average basal metabolic rate: 6.811 W.
- Emmons, L. 1990. Neotropical Rainforest Mammals: A Field Guide. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.
- Mares, N., R. Ojeda, R. Barquez. 1989. Guide to the Mammals of Salta Province, Argentina. University of Oklahoma Press.
- Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, 6th ed.. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press.
- Reid, F. 1997. A Field Guide to the Mammals of Central America and Southeastern Mexico. Oxford University Press.
Tayra are found in tropical deciduous and evergreen forests, secondary growth, and plantations. The elevation of the tayra's habitat ranges from the lowlands to about 2000-2400m. Because the tayra is both terrestrial and arboreal, it has been found to live in hollow trees, burrows built by other animals, and occasionally in tall grass (Reid, 1997; Nowak, 1999).
Range elevation: 0 to 2400 m.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest
Other Habitat Features: agricultural
Habitat and Ecology
Diet of Tayras is omnivorouse, including fruits, carrion, small vertebrates, insects, and honey and small vertebrates as marsupials, rodents, iguanids among others (Cabrera and Yepes, 1960; Emmons and Freer, 1990; Galef et al. 1976; Hall and Dalquest, 1963). This species does well in agricultural areas and along the edge of human settlements.
The tayra is omnivorous. It shows a preference for small mammals, the spiny rat in particular, but it will eat whatever is available. Mammals are the most abundant part of the tayra's diet but it also eats significant amounts of fruit, invertebrates and reptiles, in that order. It has also been shown that the tayra occasionally eats honeycomb when it is available (Bisbal, 1986; McNab, 1995).
Animal Foods: mammals; reptiles; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; mollusks
Plant Foods: fruit
Primary Diet: omnivore
Known prey organisms
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
Status: captivity: 18.0 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Little is known about the tayra's reproduction. It is thought, however, that gestation lasts for about 63-70 days with a litter size of 2-3 babies per season, each weighing about 74-92 grams. Newborns open their eyes at about 35-58 days and they nurse for 2-3 months. Some believe that the estrous cycle of Eira barbara is seasonal, with births occuring in March and July. Others believe that the tayra is polyestrous and a non-seasonal breeder, experiencing an estrous cycle of around 17 days with a 2-3 day receptivity about three times a year (Nowak, 1999).
Breeding interval: Tayras probably breed once per year at most.
Range number of offspring: 2 to 3.
Range gestation period: 63 to 70 days.
Range weaning age: 2 to 3 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous
Average birth mass: 83 g.
Average number of offspring: 2.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
Sex: male: 183 days.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
Sex: female: 700 days.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Eira barbara
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 4
Species With Barcodes: 1
The tayra is not endangered in most of its range; in some parts of South America it is the most common carnivore due to its ability to live near humans in disturbed habitats. However, in Mexico, human spread of agriculture, loss of tropical habitat, and hunting have greatly reduced populations. The Mexican sub-species, E. b. senex, is now considered vulnerable by the IUCN (Emmons, 1990; Nowak, 1999).
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: appendix iii
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Because of the close proximity of the tayra's habitat to that of humans, specifically human farmers, this species has been known to cause some damage to neighboring plantations. Eira barbara occasionally eats poultry and raids corn and sugar fields, but damage is usually minimal (Nowak, 1999).
The tayra (Eira barbara), also known as the tolomuco or perico ligero in Central America, motete in Honduras, irara in Brazil, san hol or viejo de monte in the Yucatan Peninsula, and high-woods dog (or historically chien bois) in Trinidad,  is an omnivorous animal from the weasel family Mustelidae. It is the only species in the genus Eira. There are at least nine subspecies.
Range and habitat
Tayras have an appearance similar to weasels and martens, growing to a size of about 60 cm (23.6 in), not including a 45 cm (17.7 in) long tail. Most tayras have either dark brown or black fur with a lighter patch on its chest. The fur on its head changes to brown or gray as it ages. Tayras grow to weigh around 5 kilograms (11 pounds), ranging from 2.7 to 7.5 kg (6-16.5 pounds).
The tayra, unlike other Mustelidae, does not display embryonic diapause, otherwise known as delayed implantation (this reproductive strategy in other mustelids delays embryonic development and allows the female to delay birth of offspring until environmental factors are favorable). The female gives birth to 2 to 4 altricial, black-coated young.
Tayras travel both alone and in groups during both the day and the night. They are expert climbers, and can leap from treetop to treetop when pursued; they can also run fast and swim well.
Tayras eat mainly rodents, but also consume carrion, other small mammals, reptiles, birds and fruits. They live in hollow trees, burrows in the ground, or terrestrial nests made of tall grass. Tayras are opportunistic eaters, hunting rodents and invertebrates, and climbing trees to get eggs and honey. In Central Brazil they are called "Papa Mel" (honey eater). They are attracted to fruit and can be found raiding orchards. They also have a sweet tooth for Pygmy Marmoset
An interesting instance of caching has been observed among tayras: a tayra will pick unripe green plantains, which are inedible, and leave them to ripen in a cache, coming back a few days later to consume the softened pulp.
Tayras and people
Tayras are playful and easily tamed. Indigenous people, who often refer to the tayra as "cabeza del viejo", or old man's head, due to their wrinkled facial skin, have kept them as household pets to control vermin. Sometimes, they attack domestic animals, such as chickens.
Wild tayra populations are slowly shrinking, especially in Mexico, due to habitat destruction for agricultural purposes. The species as a whole is listed as a Least Concern species; subspecies have not been evaluated by the IUCN.
- Eira barbara barbara (northern Argentina, Paraguay, western Bolivia and central Brazil)
- Eira barbara biologiae (central Costa Rica and Panama)
- Eira barbara inserta (South Guatemala to central Costa Rica)
- Eira barbara madeirensis (west Ecuador and northern Brazil)
- Eira barbara peruana (the Andes in Peru and Bolivia)
- Eira barbara poliocephala (Guyana, eastern Venezuela and Brazil)
- Eira barbara senex (central Mexico to northern Honduras)
- Eira barbara senilis (northern Ecuador)
- Eira barbara sinuensis (Colombia and western Venezuela)
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- Cuarón, A. D., et al. 2008. Eira barbara. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. Downloaded on 02 June 2013.
- Nowak, Ronald M. (2005). Walker's Carnivores of the World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press. ISBN 0-8018-8032-7
- Emmons, L.H. (1997). Neotropical Rainforest Mammals, 2nd ed. University of Chicago Press ISBN 0-226-20721-8