Saturday, December 29, 2007

More Coatis

My fondest Coati memory was undoubtedly of the nest we (my friend Miguel and I) found while climbing the trunk of a large Ficus (fig) tree. The nest was against the bole of the tree and on a large side branch, which also formed the bottom of the nest. What the Coatis had added was a cylinder of twigs and small branches to form a wall about two feet high. Inside this nest, which was largely concealed by a Philadendron (or similar) vine, were 6 cute babies.

The nest was (as I recall) about 30 feet above the ground, and was likely typical for most members of this largely tropical species. But where their distribution extends into the extreme southwest corner of Arizona (primarily in the Huachucas), nests are quite different, being not in trees but under rocks and in caves. The Coatis of Tikal were quite at home either on the ground or high in the trees.

Taxonomically, Coatis are members of the Procyonidae, the family shared by Raccoons, Kinkajous, and Ring-tails. Like Raccoons, Coatis have great manual dexterity and seem both intelligent and inquisitive. Unlike Raccoons, they are diurnal, and thus more easily observed. What really sets them apart, however, is that they (along with, say, wolves) are one of the very few species of communal carnivores in the Americas. Indeed, they could be found in fairly large groups in Tikal.

Again, our reason for climbing this particular tree was to reach a hawk nest in the very top of it. Large tropical trees like this Ficus harbor an astounding variety of plant and animal life and whole ecologies that could keep a curious researcher happy for a lifetime. That's why Tikal--with its Maya ruins and its tropical forests--is one of my favorite places on Earth.

No comments: