Mountain coatis (Nasuella olivacea) are found in the Andes of western Venezuela, Columbia, and Ecuador. They may also be found in the far north of Peru. (Cabrera, 1957; Nowak, 1997)
Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )
Mountain coatis are approximately half the size of common coatis (Nasua nasua) with head and body lengths of 360 to 390 mm, and tail lengths of 200 to 240 mm. Other information suggests that mountain coatis can be 70 to 80 cm long from nose to tail tip. Their thick, coarse fur is olive-brown to rust colored. Animals from Colombia and Venezuela have blackish undercoats, whereas those from Ecuador have whitish undercoats. Their tails are yellowish-gray with rings of black and are often held upright when walking. Their heads are slender, with long flexible snouts that give them the coati name. Forty small teeth with low crowns and sharp crests fill these long snouts .
Strong forelimbs and reversible ankles allow mountain coatis to descend trees head first. Additionally, the long tail aids in balancing while these animals climb trees.
(Eisenberg, 1989; Poglayen-Neuwall, 1990; Russell, 1984)
Range length: 36 to 80 cm.
Average length: 50.00 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Mountain coatis are found in high elevation forests over 2,000 m. (Aagard, 1982; Nowak, 1997)
Range elevation: 2000 (low) m.
Habitat Regions: tropical
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest ; mountains
Habitat and Ecology
Mountain coatis are omnivores that mostly eat insects. They utilize their powerful noses to sniff out beetles, grubs, termites, land crabs, other other invertebrates while occasionally catching frogs, lizards, and mice. Mountain coatis are said to be specialist consumers of small soil and subsoil animals in their habitat. Researchers found over 5,000 holes from digging left by a group of mountain coatis in an area no more than 35 square meters. Male coatis forage alone, and so are able to catch more lizards and rodents than females and young foraging in clans. (Rodríguez-Bolaños and S·nchez, 2000; Russell, 1984)
Animal Foods: mammals; amphibians; reptiles; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods
Plant Foods: fruit
Primary Diet: omnivore
As predators of insects and other invertebrates, mountain coatis probably have some effect of regulating their prey populations. Consumption of fruit, when available, may lead to dispersal of seeds. Their foraging behavior probably helps to aerate the soil.
As a prey species, the availability of these animals probably helps to regulate predator populations.
Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds; soil aeration
Among clans of females and young coatis, members of the clan will sound a barking alarm when danger is detected such as the presence of a jaguar. The older females of the clan with often attempt to chase away the threat while the rest of the clan scurries up trees. (Poglayen-Neuwall, 1990)
Life History and Behavior
Note: Because information is sparse for mountain coatis, this has been generalized from information regarding other coatis in the genus Nasua.
Coatis communicate most commonly by using vocalizations and scent marking. Females use a barking vocalization to warn their fellow clan members of the presence of danger. They also use whimpering sounds to keep their young close by during the process of weaning. Males most commonly use scents to establish territories and chase away rivals during mating. (Poglayen-Neuwall, 1990). Because of the close contact between mothers and infants, it is likely that tactile communication is common for this relationship. Also, coatis are known to groom one another, and this communicates information about social bonds from one coati to another.
Communication Channels: tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: scent marks
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
Mountain coatis, like other coatis, are expected to live for an average of 7 years in the wild. Although no mountain coatis have been kept in captivity, other coatis have lived for up to 17 years in captivity (Poglayen-Neuwall, 1990; Russell, 1984).
Status: wild: 7 years.
Adult males are usually loners but are accepted into a pack of coatis during the February to March mating season. These males will defend the pack from rival males via scent marking, and even physical aggression. After the mating season, the male is once again chased away from the pack by the females. Pregnant females will then separate themseves from the pack near the end of her 74 to 77 day gestation period. A litter of three to six young is born in platform nests built in trees by the female. (Poglayen-Neuwall 1990)
Mating System: polygynous
Note: No infomration exists for reproduction in mountain coatis. The following has been generalized from information regarding other coatis (Genus Nasua).
During the annual breeding season of February to March, one male will mate with several females within a clan of coatis. After a 74 to 77 day gestation period, three to six young are born. At birth, coatis are poorly developed (altricial). The young are weaned over four to five months, but remain close to their mother until she bears her next litter the following year. Both males and females reach sexual maturity in two to three years
After young males have reached their sexual maturity between two and three years of age, they are chased away from the pack. Females reach sexual maturity in about two years, but stay with the pack.
(Poglayen-Neuwall, 1990; Russell, 1984)
Breeding season: INother coatis, the breeding season runs from February to March
Range number of offspring: 3 to 6.
Range gestation period: 74 to 77 days.
Range weaning age: 4 to 5 months.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2 years.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2 years.
Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); viviparous
Because no information exists regarding the parental care of mountain coatis, the following has been generalized from information available for the closely related genus, Nasua.
The newborn coatis are poorly developed (altricial) and it takes four days for their ears to open and eleven days for their eyes to open. Within three to four weeks, the young are able to explore their surroundings, although their mother prevents them from doing so until they rejoin their clan at about five weeks. While with the clan, the young are protected both by the mother and other clan members. During the weaning period of four to five months, the young are kept close to their mother with frequent whimpering sounds by the mother. After weaning, the mother and young will remain close until the mother bears her next litter.
(Poglayen-Neuwall, 1990; Russell, 1984)
Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care
Although moutain coatis are not currently listed by any organization as endangered or otherwise threatened, they are suspected by several groups, including the IUCN, to be rare. More research is needed to determine the actual status of the species.
As of 1998, discussions for the formation of the International Mountain Coati Management Group were underway for the purpose of supporting and guiding conservation efforts to protect "one of the least known and potentially most endangered procyonids" (IUCN, 1998). As of October 2001, the management group has not been publicized on the IUCN web site.
US Migratory Bird Act: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: data deficient
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1996Data Deficient
- 1994Insufficiently Known(Groombridge 1994)
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Where the ranges of mountain coatis come into contact with human settlements, they have been known to raid crops occasionally. (Poglayen-Neuwall, 1990; Russell, 1984)
Negative Impacts: crop pest
Coatis are sometimes hunted for meat, but it is unknown if the relatively rare mountain coatis specifically are hunted much. (Poglayen-Neuwall, 1990)
Positive Impacts: food
The western mountain coati or western dwarf coati (Nasuella olivacea) is a small procyonid, found in cloud forest and páramo at altitudes of 1,300–4,250 metres (4,300–13,940 ft) in the Andes of Colombia and Ecuador. A population discovered in the Apurímac–Cuzco region of southern Peru (more than 1,000 km or 620 mi south of the previous distribution limit) has tentatively been identified as the western mountain coati, but may represent an undescribed taxon.
Until 2009, the western mountain coati (then simply known as the mountain coati) usually included the eastern mountain coati as a subspecies, but that species is overall smaller, somewhat shorter-tailed on average, has markedly smaller teeth, a paler olive-brown pelage, and usually a dark mid-dorsal stripe on the back (versus more rufescent or blackish, and usually without a dark mid-dorsal stripe in the western mountain coati). When the two are combined, they are rated as Data Deficient by the IUCN, but no rating is available when the two are split.
There are two subspecies of the western mountain coati: N. o. olivacea and the slightly smaller and darker N. o. quitensis with less distinct rings on the tail. The former is known from Colombia and the latter from Ecuador, but the exact distribution limit between the two is not known.
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- Helgen, K. M., R. Kays, L. E. Helgen, M. T. N. Tsuchiya-Jerep, C. M. Pinto, K. P. Koepfli, E. Eizirik, and J. E. Maldonado (2009). Taxonomic boundaries and geographic distributions revealed by an integrative systematic overview of the mountain coatis, Nasuella (Carnivora: Procyonidae). Small Carnivore Conservation. 41: 65–74
- Pacheco, V., R. Cadenillas, E. Salas, C. Tello, and H. Zeballos (2009). Diversidad y endemismo de los mamíferos del Perú/Diversity and endemism of Peruvian mammals. Rev. Peru. Biol. 16(1): 5-32.
- Reid, F. & Helgen, K. (2008). "Nasuella olivacea". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
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