Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Taxon of the Day: Procyon

Procyon lotor - A pest? Me?

There are three species of Raccoon in the Catalogue of Life (CoL). The most common one, Procyon lotor  (Linnaeus, 1758), peering out of the photo,  is often regarded as a pest due to its infiltration of urban areas and other unexpected habitats. This particular one was found inhabiting a Thuja shrub in a back garden in downtown Vancouver. Its range is large, distributed throughout North America in addition to some countries in Europe and Asia as a result of its introduction in the mid-20th century.

However, they are not all so common as one of the three species - Procyon pygmaeus Merriam, 1901 is listed in the IUCN Redlist as Critically Endangered. The Cozumel Raccoon, as the name suggests, is only found on the paradisaical island of Cozumel off the East coast of Mexico. Although significantly smaller than the common one (it is often referred to as the Pygmy Raccoon hence pygmaeus) and with a slightly different shaped snout, its overall appearance is similar.  Its already small population is declining, with mature individuals thought to be less that 250, which along with its limited geographic range make it the subject of conservation action. Threats to the species have been identified as the impact of natural disasters particularly hurricanes, increasing tourism and alien invasive species such as the Boa constrictor.  The IUCN redlist is the world's most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species. It is also a global partner in the i4Life project which is currently responsible for developing the Catalogue of Life. The IUCN Redlist links to the CoL using the CoL webservice allowing their users to get information on a species name they have searched for that is not in IUCN but is in CoL.  The fundamental  importance of that is that the user is reassured they have searched for a real species with a recognised spelling and is not tempted to try other spellings or to just give up their search. 

The final species of the three supplied by the ITIS Global checklist is the Crab-eating Raccoon or Procyon cancrivorus (G.[Baron] Cuvier, 1798) found in Central and South America.

CoL Annual Checklist: Procyon
CoL contributor: ITIS Global
Image copyright: R L F Matthias

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful photo. These little procyon lotors are curiously cute critters - easy to forget they're wild.