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The Cozumel Island coati (Nasua nelsoni). (Species at Risk).

Abstract

Nasua nelsoni is a diurnal mammal that lives only on Mexico's Cozumel Island in the Caribbean Sea. The Cozumel island coati is a species considered very similar to the white-nosed coati (N. narica), which has an extensive range but does not reach Cozumel Island. There have been no studies on the natural history of N. nelsoni but its social structure and habitat requirements are thought to be similar to the white-nosed coati. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species reports N. nelsoni as an endangered species. Although the white-nosed coati is able to live in populated areas and is considered common over most of their range, there are no known studies on the interaction between human and coati populations. In order to make informed decisions about conservation, identifying those unique qualities and conditions of the island coati that distinguish it from the white-nosed coati may be particularly valuable.

El Coati de la Isla de Cozumel

Resumen

Nasua nelsoni es un mamifero diurno que vive solamente en la isla de Cozumel en Mexico, localizada en el mar Caribe. El coati de la isla de Cozumel es considerado co-especifico del coati de nariz blanca (N. narica), el cual tiene un rango de dispersion muy extenso, pero que no llega a la isla de Cozumel. No ha habido estudios sobre la historia natural de N. nelsoni pero se piensa que su estructura social y requerimientos de habitat son similares al coati de nariz blanca. La lista roja de especies amenazadas de la ICUN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Union Internacional para la Conservacion de la Naturaleza) reporta a N. nelsoni como una especie en peligro de extincion. Aunque la especie co-especifica, el coati de nariz blanca, es considerado comun en la mayor parte de su rango geografico, no existen estudios sobre la interaccion entre las poblaciones humanas y de coatis. Para poder tomar decisiones sobre conservacion sustentadas en informacion confiable, seria particularmente valioso identificar las cualidades y condiciones unicas del coati de la isla que lo distinguen del coati de nariz blanca.

Le Coati d'ile de Cozumel

Resume

Nasua nelsoni est un mammifere journalier qui vit seulement sur l'ile de Cozumel au Mexique dans les Caraibes. Le coati d'ile de Cozumel est considere comme une espece tres similaire du coati a museau blanc (N. narica) qui a une vaste repartition mais ne se trouve pas sur l'ile de Cozumel. Il n'y existe aucune etude sur l'histoire naturelle du Nasua nelsoni mais sa structure sociale et besoins ecosystemes sont senses d'etre semblables au coati a museau blanc. La liste rouge d'UICN des especes menacees indique le Nasua nelsoni comme espece en voie de disparition. Bien que le coati a museau blanc puisse vivre dans des lieus peuples et soit considere repandu dans leur repartition, il n'y a aucune etude connue sur l'interaction entre les humaines et les populations de coati. Afin de prendre des decisions au sujet de leur conservation, il est peut etre particulierement utile d'identifier les qualites et caracteristiques uniques du coati d'ile de Cozumel pour le distinguer du coati a museau blanc.

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Cozumel Island Coati

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Procynidae

Genus: Nasua

Species: Nasua nelsoni

Geographic Range

Nasua nelsoni lives only on Mexico's Cozumel Island in the Caribbean Sea (IUCN 2002). Off the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, Cozumel Island is located 17.7 km out separated from the mainland by a 914-meter deep channel (National Geographic 2002; Travelnotes 2003) (Figure 1). This island endemic is considered a conspecific of Nasua narica, the white-nosed coati. The range of the white-nosed coati is extensive, but does not reach Cozumel Island. The white-nosed coati can be found on the North, Central, and South American continents (Deker 1991; SILO 2003). Present from the south of Arizona and New Mexico down through Mexico and Central America into western Ecuador and Colombia, the white-nosed coati is a common species throughout its range (Poglayen-Neuwall 1990).

Physical Characteristics

Coatis are medium-sized mammals with a rather stocky build, rounded ears, and narrow face (Gittleman 1989). The body averages 38 cm in length and the tail extends another 20-24 cm (Postanowicz 2003). The ringed tail and flexible snout are both long and mobile. The tail is used for balance when climbing and held aloft while walking, and the snout is used to forage in the soil and undergrowth. The Cozumel Island coati appears very similar to the white-nosed coati with slightly softer and shorter, gray to brown colored fur (Postanowicz 2003). It also has the same light muzzle, throat, and underbelly that distinguish N. narica from other coati species. All four feet have sharp claws and lack fur on their soles. Male coatis are larger than females.

Natural History

The behavior and lifestyle of the Cozumel Island coati have not been closely studied. However, their social structure and habitat requirements are thought to be similar to their conspecific, the white-nosed coati (Postanowicz 2003). Most research on the white-nosed coati has been done in tropical forests, and several seminal works have focused on populations resident to Barro Colorado Island in Panama. On Cozumel, the island species primarily inhabits forested areas. Cozumel Island is largely undeveloped and covered with dense jungle and scrub. The island is 53 km long and 15 km wide, and much of the land and surrounding waters are protected as National parks (Noble et al. 2003).

Among N. narica, females and young of both sexes live in bands while adult males are solitary, except for a brief period of about two weeks when one male will join a band and mate with several females (Gompper 1994). In tropical forests of Central America band size often ranges from 4-12 individuals, whereas in the desert scrub of northern Mexico bands numbering over thirty individuals have been reported. Adult female band members are often related, but may include non-relatives, and larger bands are more likely to include non-relatives than smaller bands. Members in a band do not display strong dominance hierarchies, however during individual conflicts, coalitions form in support of individual band members (Russell 1983; Gompper 1994).

Although conflicts within bands do occur, white-nosed coati spend most of their time foraging, resting, or grooming one another (Gompper 1994). Social interactions involve reciprocal grooming, vocal communication, and shared protection of the young, but once an individual finds a food source, she is unlikely to share (Gompper 1994; Compton et al. 2003). Coati are diurnal and sleep in trees at night (Valenzuela and Ceballos 2000). They are not highly territorial, but they do maintain home ranges that may overlap with others (Valenzuela and Ceballos 2000; Hass 2002). They use their powerful claws and strong, flexible snout to root for invertebrates or small vertebrates on the ground. They prefer to eat the fruit of trees when it is available and will become more territorial, preventing other coati bands from having any access to the fruiting tree. Such trees are usually wider spaced and temporary food sources in tropical forests. When confronted by a larger band, smaller bands and solitary males renounce their claim to a fruiting tree.

Female white-nosed coati disperse and live solitarily when giving birth and during the first few weeks of growth. Gestation lasts approximately 77 days and young are weaned at about 4 months of age (Walker's Mammals of the World 2003). Shortly after weaning, bands of females and juveniles reform. Gompper (1996) noted that when foraging mature females in the group tend to form a loose oval with all the young contained in the center. He and others have hypothesized that this may be effective protection from predation for the young coati (Hass and Valenzuela 2002). Males do not help raise young and are actively driven away from bands except during the brief mating period.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Treatened Species (2002) reports N. nelsoni as an endangered species. The island population was last assessed in 1996 and little work has been done to monitor the species' status. White-nosed coatis are able to live in human populated areas and are considered common over most of their range. However, there have been no studies on the combination of ongoing habitat loss due to human development and hunting that do take a toll on N. nelsoni, especially when the population size is inherently limited by the restricted range of the island. There are no known studies on the interaction between human and coati populations.

Conservation Action

There is a dire need for further research to assess both the status and risks to this endangered species. Although Cozumel is home to the impressive Chankanaab Lagoon National Park, no known conservation efforts are targeted specifically to monitor or protect N. nelsoni. The cosmetic and taxonomic similarity between N. nelsoni and N. narica coupled with a dearth of research on the island coati, have led to many assumptions regarding the population's condition and needs. Those assumptions may inhibit efforts to conserve the island's species. The white-nosed coati is considered common throughout its range, while the island species is endangered. In order to make informed decisions about conservation, identifying those unique qualities and conditions of the island coati that distinguish it from the white-nosed coati may be specially valuable.

Economic Importance

Tourism is the primary economic enterprise of Cozumel Island. Wildlife, including the coati, are important tourist attractions for the island. In addition, coati are hunted for their fur and meat.

References

Compton, L. A., J. A. Clarke, and J. Seidensticker, J. 2001. Acoustic characteristics of white-nosed coati vocalizations: a test of motivation-structural rules. Journal of Mammalogy 82(4):1054-1058.

Decker, D.M. 1991. Systematics of the coatis, Genus Nasua (Mammalia: Procyonidae): Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 104(2): 370-386.

Gittleman, J.L., ed. 1989. Carnivore behavior, ecology, and evolution. Comstock Pub. Associates. Ithaca.

Gompper, M.E. 1994. The importance of ecology, behavior and genetics in the maintenance of coati (Nasua narica) social structure. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Tennessee.

Gompper, M.E. 1996. Sociality and asociality in white-nosed coatis (Nasua narica): foraging costs and benefits. Behavioral Ecology 7(3): 254-263.

Hass C. 2002. Home-Range Dynamics of White-Nosed Coatis in Southeastern Arizona. Journal of Mammalogy 83(4):934-946.

Hass C. and D. Valenzuela. 2002. Anti-predator benefits of group living in white-nosed coatis. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 51:570-578

IUCN. IUCN Redlist of Threatened Species. <http://www.redlist.org> (February 10, 2003).

Noble J., S. Forsyth, A. Wright, A. Nystrom, M. Konn. 2003. Lonely Planet Mexico. 8th Edition. Lonely Planet.

National Geographic. 2002. Atlas of the World. Seventh Edition. National Geographic Society. Washington, DC.

Poglayen-Neuwall, I. 1990. Procyonids. In Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals, Volume 3. McGraw-Hill Publishing Company. New York.

Postanowicz. Cozumel Island Coatimundi (Nasua nelsoni). <http:// www.lioncrusher.com/ animal.asp?animal=161> (February 10, 2003).

Russell, J.K. 1983. Altruism in coati bands: nepotism or reciprocity? Pp 263-290. In Wasser, S.K., ed. Social Behavior of Female Vertebrates. Academic Press, New York.

Species Information Library Online (SILO). Species Information Library. <http://biblioline.nisc.com/scripts/ login.dll> (February 10,2003).

Travelnotes. About Cozumel Island, Mexico.<www.travelnotes.com/ cozumel/links/about.html> (February 10, 2003).

Valenzuela, D. and G. Ceballos. 2000. Habitat selection, home range, and activity of the white-nosed coati (Nasua narica) in a Mexican tropical dry forest. Journal of Mammology 81(3): 810-819.

Walker's Mammals of the World. Walker's mammals of the world. <http://www.press.jhu.edu/books/ walkers_mammals_of_the_world/ prep.html> (February 10, 2003).

Coati de la isla de Cozumel

Reino: Animalia

Filum: Chordata

Clase: Mammalia

Orden: Carnivora

Familia: Procynidae

Oenero: Nasua

Especie: Nasua nelsoni

Rango Geografico

Nasua nelsoni vive solamente en la isla de Cozumel en Mexico, en el Mar Caribe (IUCN 2002). En la costa este de la Peninsula de Yucatan, la isla de Cozumel esta localizada a 17.7 km del continente separada por un canal de 914 m de profundidad (National Geographic 2002; Travelnotes 2003) (Figura 1). Esta especie endemica de la isla es considerada co-especifica del coati de nariz blanca, Nasua narica. El rango de distribucion geografica del coati de nariz blanca es extenso, pero no abarca la isla de Cozumel. N. narica se encuentra en Norte, Centro y Sudamerica (Deker 1991; SILO 2001). Se presenta desde el sur de Arizona y Nuevo Mexico, por todo Mexico y Centroamerica hasta la parte oeste de Ecuador y Colombia, siendo comun a traves de todo este rango geografico (Poglayen-Neuwall 1990).

Caracteristicas Fisicas

Los Coatis son mamiferos de tamano mediano con un cuerpo robusto, nariz achatada, orejas redondeadas y una cara angosta (Gittleman 1989). El promedio de longitud del cuerpo es de 38 cm y la cola se extiende otros 20-24 cm (Postanowicz 2003). Tanto la cola anillada como la trompa flexible son largas y moviles. La cola es usada para balance al escalar y es mantenida levantada al caminar, mientras que la trompa es usada para buscar alimento en el suelo y subsuelo. El coati de la isla de Cozumel tiene una apariencia muy similar al coati de la nariz blanca con un pelaje de gris a cafe, ligeramente mas suave y corto (Postanowicz 2003). Tambien tiene el mismo hocico, garganta y vientre bajo de color claros que distinguen a N. narica de otras especies de coatis. Las cuatros patas tienen garras filosas y las plantas de las paras carecen de pelaje. Los machos son mas grandes que las hembras.

Historia Natural

El comportamiento y estilo de vida del coati de la isla de Cozumel no han sido estudiados muy de cerca. Sin embargo, se piensa que su estructura social y requirimientos de habitat son similares a su co-especifico, el coati de nariz blanca (Postanowicz 2003). La mayor parte de la investigacion sobre el coati de nariz blanca se ha hecho en los tropicos, y varios trabajos fundamentales se han enfocado en poblaciones residentes de la isla de Barro Colorado en Panama. En Cozumel, la especie de la isla habita principalmente areas boscosas. La isla de Cozumel no se encuentra desarrollada yen su mayoria esta cubiertad densamente de vegetacion tropical y arbustiva. La isla tiene 53 km de largo por 15 km de ancho y gran parte de la isla y las aguas que la rodean estan protegidas en forma de parques nacionales (Noble et al. 2003).

Las hembras e individuos jovenes de ambos sexos de N. narica females viven en bandas mientras que los machos adultos son solitarios, excepto por un breve periodo de cerca de dos semanas en el que un macho se une a una banda y copula con varias hembras (Gompper 1994). En regiones tropicales de Centroamerica el tamano de los grupos frecuentemente varia de 4-12 individuos, mientras que en el desierto del norte de Mexico las bandas de mas de treinta individuos han sido reportadas. Las hembras adultas dentro de las bandas estan frecuentemente geneticamente relacionadas entre si, aunque estos grupos pueden incluir miembros sin ningun parentesco, lo que tiende a occurrir con mayor frecuencia en bandas de mayor tamano que en bandas pequenas. Los miembros de una banda no presentan un arreglo jerarquico, sin embargo, coaliciones que apoyan a diferentes miembros de la banda se forman durante conflictos entre individuos'(Russell 1983; Gompper 1994).

Aunque conflictos dentro de las bandas llegan a presentarse, el coati de nariz blanca pasa la mayor parte del tiempo buscando comida, descansando, o aseandose entre si (Gompper 1994). Las interacciones sociales involucran aseo reciproco, comunicacion vocal y proteccion compartida de individuos jovenes, pero es muy raro que un individuo comparta comida, una vez que una fuente de alimento es localizada (Gompper 1994; Compton et al. 2003). Los coatis son animales diurnos y duermen en arboles durante la noche (Valenzuela and Ceballos 2000). No son altamente territoriales, pero mantienen un rango territorial que puede ser compartido en algunas partes con otros grupos (Valenzuela y Ceballos 2000; Hass 2002). Los coatis usan sus poderosas garras y sus flexibles trompas para buscar invertebrados o vertebrados pequenos en el suelo. Prefieren comer la fruta de arboles cuando esta disponible y llegan a ser mas territoriales, evitando que miembros de otras bandas tengan acceso al arbol con frutos. Arboles con disponibilidad de frutos se encuentran bastante separados entre si y son una fuente temporal de comida en bosques tropicales. Cuando una banda chica es atacada por una banda de mayor tamano, la banda pequena y machos solitarios renuncian al arbol con frutos en disputa.

Al dar a luz las hembras del coati de nariz blanca se dispersan y viven solitarias durante las primeras semanas de crecimiento. El periodo de gestacion dura aproximadamente 77 dias y empiezan a consumir otros alimentos ademas de la leche materna cerca de los cuatro meses de edad (Walker's Mammals of the World 2003). Un poco despues de este cambio de alimentacion, las bandas de hembras e individuos jovenes vuelven a formarse. Gompper (1996) noto que hembras maduras tienden a formar un ovalo no muy cerrado que contiene a los individuos jovenes en el centro. Este y otros investigadores han hipotetizado que este comportamiento podria ser una medida efectiva de proteccion de coatis jovenes contra depredadores (Hass y Valenzuela 2002). Los machos no ayudan con la crianza de los individuos jovenes y son activamente rechazados por las bandas a excepcion del corto periodo de copula.

Estatus de la Conservacion

"IUCN Red List of Treatened Species" (Lista Roja de las Especies Amenazadas de la International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Union Internacional para la Conservacion de la Naturaleza) (2002) reporta a N. nelsoni como una especie en peligro de extincion. La ultima vez que la poblacion de la isla fue determinada fue en 1996 y desde entonces se ha hecho poco trabajo para "monitorear" el estatus de la especie. Los coatis de nariz blanca pueden vivir en lugares poblados por seres humanos y se consideran comunes a traves de la mayor parte de su rango geografico. Sin embargo, no ha habido estudios sobre el efecto de la combinacion de perdida de habitat debido al desarrollo humano y la caza de N. nelsoni, que afecta fuertemente a la especie, especialmente cuando el tamano de la poblacion esta limitado en forma natural debido al rango restringido de la isla. No se conoce ningun estudio sobre la interaccion de humanos y las poblaciones de coatis.

Accion para la Conservacion

Existe una necesidad urgente para una mayor investigacion para establecer el estatus y los riesgos que afectan a esta especie en peligro de extincion. Aunque la isla de Cozumel alberga el impresionante parque nacional de la laguna Chankanaab, no existen esfuerzos de conservacion cuyo objetivo especifico sea "monitorear" o proteger a N. nelsoni. La similitud taxonomica y cosmetica entre N. nelsoni y N. narica junto con la carencia de investigacion de la especie insular, han llevado a asumir muchas de las condiciones y necesidades poblacionales de esta especie. Estas asunciones pudieran inhibir los esfuerzos por conservar la especie islena. El coati de nariz blanca es considerado comun a traves de su rango geografico, mientras que N. nelsoni esta en peligro de extincion. Para poder tomar decisiones de conservacion basadas en informacion confiable, la identificacion de las cualidades y condiciones finicas que distinguen al coate de la isla de Cozumel del coate de nariz blanca pudiera ser especialmente valiosa.

Importancia Economica

El turismo es la principal industria de la isla. La vida silvestre, que incluye al coati son importantes atractivos de la isla. Ademas, el coati es cazado por su pelaje y carne.

References

Compton, L. A., J. A. Clarke, y J.Seidensticker, J. 2001. Acoustic characteristics of white-nosed coati vocalizations: a test of motivation-structural rules. Journal of Mammalogy 82(4):1054-1058.

Decker, D.M. 1991. Systematics of the coatis, Genus Nasua (Mammalia: Procyonidae). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 104(2): 370-386.

Gittleman, J.L., ed. 1989. Carnivore behavior, ecology, and evolution. Comstock Pub. Associates. Ithaca.

Gompper, M.E. 1994. The importance of ecology, behavior and genetics in the maintenance of coati (Nasua narica) social structure. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Tennessee.

Gompper, M.E. 1996. Sociality and asociality in white-nosed coatis (Nasua narica): foraging costs and benefits. Behavioral Ecology 7(3): 254-263.

Hass C. 2002. Home-Range Dynamics of White-Nosed Coatis in Southeastern Arizona. Journal of Mammalogy 83(4):934-946.

Hass C. y D. Valenzuela. 2002. Anti-predator benefits of group living in white-nosed coatis. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 51:570-578

IUCN. IUCN Redlist of Threatened Species. <http://www.redlist.org> (February 10, 2003).

Noble J., S. Forsyth, A. Wright, A. Nystrom, M. Konn. 2003. Lonely Planet Mexico. 8th Edition. Lonely Planet.

National Geographic. 2002. Atlas of the World. Seventh Edition. National Geographic Society. Washington, DC.

Poglayen-Neuwall, I. 1990. Procyonids. In Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals, Volume 3. McGraw-Hill Publishing Company. New York.

Postanowicz. Cozumel Island Coatimundi (Nasua nelsoni). <http:// www.lioncrusher.com/ animal.asp?animal=161> (February 10, 2003).

Russell, J.K. 1983. Altruism in coati bands: nepotism or reciprocity? Pp 263-290. In Wasser, S.K., ed. Social Behavior of Female Vertebrates. Academic Press, New York.

Species Information Library Online (SILO). Species Information Library. <http://biblioline.nisc.com/scripts/ login.dll> (February 10,2003).

Travelnotes. About Cozumel Island, Mexico. <www.travelnotes.com/ cozumel/links/about.html>(February 10, 2003).

Valenzuela, D. y G. Ceballos. 2000. Habitat selection, home range, and activity of the white-nosed coati (Nasua narica) in a Mexican tropical dry forest. Journal of Mammology 81(3): 810-819.

Walker's Mammals of the World. Walker's mammals of the world. <http://www.press.jhu.edu/books/ walkers_mammals_of_the_world/ prep.html> (February 10, 2003).

Katharine L. Adams

University of Michigan

9401 Stinchfield Woods Road Pinckney, MI 48169

(734) 426-4742

kladams@umich.edu

Katharine L. Adams holds a Master's degree in Biology and a Master's degree in Education from the University of Michigan. She has done studies on the evolution of coral snake mimics as a defense mechanism against bird predation. She is currently collaborating with the Biokids interdisciplinary research group at the University of Michigan, developing curriculum to teach biodiversity to children in public schools. Research interests include primate behavior, the effect of landscape patterns on medium-sized carnivore social structure, and how communication hinders or facilitates learning in humans and other organisms.
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Author:Adams, Katharine L.
Publication:Endangered Species Update
Geographic Code:1MEX
Date:Mar 1, 2003
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