Ring-tailed cat

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Ringtail
Squaw-ringtail-28073.jpg
Ringtail in Phoenix, Arizona
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Procyonidae
Genus: Bassariscus
Species:
B. astutus
Binomial name
Bassariscus astutus
(Lichtenstein, 1830)
Subspecies
  • Bassariscus a. arizonensis
  • Bassariscus a. flavus
  • Bassariscus a. yumanensis
  • Bassariscus a. nevadensis
Ring-tailed Cat area.png
Ring-tailed cat range

The ringtail (Bassariscus astutus) is a mammal of the raccoon family, native to arid regions of North America. Even though it is not a cat, it is also known as the ringtail cat, ring-tailed cat, miner's cat or bassarisk, and is also sometimes called a "civet cat" (after similar, though only distantly related, cat-like carnivores of Asia and Africa). The ringtail is sometimes called a cacomistle, though this term seems to be more often used to refer to Bassariscus sumichrasti .[ citation needed ]

Mammal class of tetrapods

Mammals are vertebrate animals constituting the class Mammalia, and characterized by the presence of mammary glands which in females produce milk for feeding (nursing) their young, a neocortex, fur or hair, and three middle ear bones. These characteristics distinguish them from reptiles and birds, from which they diverged in the late Triassic, 201–227 million years ago. There are around 5,450 species of mammals. The largest orders are the rodents, bats and Soricomorpha. The next three are the Primates, the Cetartiodactyla, and the Carnivora.

Procyonidae family of mammals

Procyonidae is a New World family of the order Carnivora. It comprises the raccoons, coatis, kinkajous, olingos, olinguitos, ringtails, and cacomistles. Procyonids inhabit a wide range of environments and are generally omnivorous.

Civet mammal of the families Viverridae and Nandiniidae

A civet is a small, lithe-bodied, mostly nocturnal mammal native to tropical Asia and Africa, especially the tropical forests. The term civet applies to over a dozen different mammal species. Most of the species diversity is found in southeast Asia. The best-known civet species is the African civet, Civettictis civetta, which historically has been the main species from which was obtained a musky scent used in perfumery. The word civet may also refer to the distinctive musky scent produced by the animals.

Contents

Description

The ringtail is buff to dark brown in color with pale underparts. Ringtails have a pointed muzzle with long whiskers resembles that of a fox (which is appropriate in that its name means ‘clever little fox’) and its body resembles that of a cat. These animals are characterized by a long black and white "ringed" tail with 14–16 stripes, [2] which is the about the same length as its body. The claws are short, straight, and semi-retractable, and are perfect for climbing. [3]

Smaller than a house cat, it is one of the smallest extant procyonids (only the smallest in the olingo species group average smaller). Its body alone measures 30–42 cm (12–17 in) and its tail averages 31–44 cm (12–17 in) from its base. It typically weighs around 0.7 to 1.5 kg (1.5 to 3.3 lb). [4] The dental formula of Bassariscus astutus is 3.1.4.23.1.4.2 = 40. [5]

Cat domesticated feline

The cat is a small carnivorous mammal. It is the only domesticated species in the family Felidae and often referred to as the domestic cat to distinguish it from wild members of the family. The cat is either a house cat, kept as a pet, or a feral cat, freely ranging and avoiding human contact. A house cat is valued by humans for companionship and for its ability to hunt rodents. About 60 cat breeds are recognized by various cat registries.

Ringtails are primarily nocturnal, with large eyes and upright ears that make it easier for them to navigate and forage in the dark. It uses its long tail for balance, as it is an adept climber. The rings on its tail can also act as a distraction for predators. The white rings act as a target, so when the tail rather than the body is caught, the ringtail has a greater chance of escaping. [6]

Ringtails have occasionally been hunted for their pelts, but the fur is not especially valuable.

Fur soft, thick, hairy coat of a mammal

Fur is a thick growth of hair that covers the skin of many animals. It is a defining characteristic of mammals. It consists of a combination of oily guard hair on top and thick underfur beneath. The guard hair keeps moisture and the underfur acts as an insulating blanket that keeps the animal warm.

Ecology

In areas with a bountiful source of water, as many as 50 ringtails/sq. mile have been found. Ranging from 50 to 100 acres, the territories of male ringtails occasionally intersect with several females [7] It has been suggested that ringtails utilize feces as a way to mark territory. In 2003, a study done in Mexico City found that ringtails tended to defecate in similar areas in a seemingly nonrandom pattern, mimicking that of other carnivores that utilized excretions to mark territories. [8] Ringtails prefer a solitary existence but may share a den or be found mutually grooming one another. They exhibit limited interaction except during the breeding season, which occurs in the early spring. Occasional prey to coatis, foxes, coyotes, bobcats, lynxes, and mountain lions, the ringtail is rather adept at avoiding predators. The ringtail’s success in deterring potential predators is largely attributed to its ability to excrete musk when startled or threatened. The main predators of the ringtail are the Great Horned Owl and the Red-tailed Hawk. [7] Ringtails can survive for long periods on water derived from food alone, and have urine which is more concentrated than any other mammal studied, an adaptation which allows for maximum water retention. [9]

Range and habitat

The ringtail is found in the southwestern United States in southern Oregon, California, eastern Kansas, Oklahoma, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, southern Nevada, Utah and Texas. In Mexico it ranges from the northern desert state of Baja California to Oaxaca. Its distribution overlaps that of B. sumichrasti in the Mexican states of Guerrero, Oaxaca and Veracruz. [1] It has been reported to be living in western Louisiana, although no conclusive evidence has been found to support this. The ringtail is the state mammal of Arizona. [10]

It is commonly found in rocky desert habitats, where it nests in the hollows of trees or abandoned wooden structures. The ringtail has been found throughout the Great Basin Desert, which stretches over several states (Nevada, Utah, California, Idaho, and Oregon) as well as the Sonoran desert in Arizona, and the Chihuahuan Desert in New Mexico, Texas, and northern Mexico. The ringtail also prefers rocky habitats associated with water, such as the riparian canyons, caves, or mine shafts.

The ankle joint is flexible and is able to rotate over 180 degrees, making it an agile climber. Their long tail provides balance for negotiating narrow ledges and limbs, even allowing them to reverse directions by performing a cartwheel. Ringtails also can ascend narrow passages by stemming (pressing all feet on one wall and their back against the other or pressing both right feet on one wall and both left feet on the other), and wider cracks or openings by ricocheting between the walls.[2]

Habits

Two ringtails Bassariscus.jpg
Two ringtails

Much like the common raccoon, the ringtail is nocturnal and solitary. It is also timid towards humans and seen much less frequently than raccoons. Despite its shy disposition and small body size, the ringtail is arguably the most actively carnivorous species of procyonid, as even the closely related cacomistle eats a larger portion of fruits, insects and refuse.

Small vertebrates such as passerine birds, rats, mice, squirrels, rabbits, snakes, lizards, frogs and toads are the most important foods during winters. [4] However, the ringtail is omnivorous, as are all procyonids. Berries and insects are important in the diet year-round, and become the primary part of the diet in spring and summer along with other fruit. [11]

Foxes, coyotes, raccoons, bobcats, hawks and owls will opportunistically prey upon ringtails of all ages, though most predominantly younger, more vulnerable specimens. [4] They produce a variety of sounds, including clicks and chatters reminiscent of raccoons. A typical call is a very loud, plaintive bark. As adults, these mammals lead solitary lives, generally coming together only to mate.

Ringtails have been reported to exhibit fecal marking behavior as a form of intraspecific communication to define territory boundaries or attract potential mates. [12]

Diet

As an omnivore the ringtail enjoys a variety of foods in its diet, the majority of which is made up of animal matter. Insects and small mammals such as rabbits, mice, rats and ground squirrels are some examples of the ringtail's carnivorous tendencies. Occasionally the ringtail will also eat fish, lizards, birds, snakes and carrion. The ringtail also enjoys juniper, hack and black berries, persimmon, prickly pear, and fruit in general. They have even been observed partaking from hummingbird feeders, sweet nectar or sweetened water. [7] In one study the scat of ringtails located on the island of San Jose were analyzed. The results showed that the ringtail tended to prey on whatever was most abundant during each respective season. During the spring time the ringtail's diet consisted largely of insects, showing up in about 50% of the analyzed feces. Small rodents, snakes and some species of lizard were also present. Plant matter also presented in large amounts, around 59% of the collected feces contained some type of plant. The fruits Phaulothamnus , Lycium and Solanum were the most common. Characterized by their large amount of seeds, and ironwood leaves, these fleshy fruits were an obvious favorite of the ringtail. [13]

Reproduction

Ringtails mate in the spring. The gestation period is 45–50 days, during which the male will procure food for the female. There will be 2–4 cubs in a litter. The cubs open their eyes after a month, and will hunt for themselves after four months. They reach sexual maturity at ten months. The ringtail's lifespan in the wild is about seven years. [14]

Domestication


Ringtail in Phoenix, Arizona Squaw-ringtail-28112.jpg
Ringtail in Phoenix, Arizona

The ringtail is said to be easily tamed, and can make an affectionate pet, and effective mouser. Miners and settlers once kept pet ringtails to keep their cabins free of vermin; hence, the common name of "miner's cat" (though in fact the ring-tail is no more a cat than it is civet). [15] The ringtails would move into the miners' and settlers' encampments and become accepted by humans in much the same way that some early domestic cats were theorized to have done. At least one biologist in Oregon [ who? ] has joked that the ringtail is one of two species – the domestic cat and the ringtail – that thus "domesticated humans" due to that pattern of behavior.

Often a hole was cut in a small box and placed near a heat source (perhaps a stove) as a dark, warm place for the animal to sleep during the day, coming out after dark to rid the cabin of mice.

Related Research Articles

Carnivore organism that eats mostly or exclusively animal tissue

A carnivore, meaning "meat eater", is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of animal tissue, whether through predation or scavenging. Animals that depend solely on animal flesh for their nutrient requirements are called obligate carnivores while those that also consume non-animal food are called facultative carnivores. Omnivores also consume both animal and non-animal food, and, apart from the more general definition, there is no clearly defined ratio of plant to animal material that would distinguish a facultative carnivore from an omnivore. A carnivore at the top of the food chain, not preyed upon by other animals, is termed an apex predator.

White-nosed coati Species of mammal

The white-nosed coati, also known as the coatimundi, is a species of coati and a member of the family Procyonidae. Local Spanish names for the species include pizote, antoon, and tejón, depending upon the region. It weighs about 4–6 kg (8.8–13.2 lb). However, males are much larger than females: small females can weigh as little as 2.5 kg (5.5 lb), while large males can weigh as much as 12.2 kg (27 lb). On average, the nose-to-tail length of the species is about 110 cm (3.6 ft) with about half of that being the tail length.

Coati

Coatis, also known as the coatimundis, are members of the raccoon family (Procyonidae) in the genera Nasua and Nasuella. They are diurnal mammals native to South America, Central America, and the southwestern United States. The name coatimundi is purportedly derived from the Tupian languages of Brazil.

Kinkajou species of mammal

The kinkajou is a tropical rainforest mammal of the family Procyonidae related to olingos, coatis, raccoons, and the ringtail and cacomistle. It is the only member of the genus Potos and is also known as the "honey bear". Kinkajous are arboreal, a lifestyle they evolved independently; they are not closely related to any other tree-dwelling mammal group.

Desert cottontail species of mammal

The desert cottontail, also known as Audubon's cottontail, is a New World cottontail rabbit, and a member of the family Leporidae. Unlike the European rabbit, they do not form social burrow systems, but compared with some other leporids, they are extremely tolerant of other individuals in their vicinity.

Cacomistle species of mammal

The cacomistle, Bassariscus sumichrasti, is a nocturnal, arboreal and omnivorous member of the carnivoran family Procyonidae. Its preferred habitats are wet, tropical, evergreen woodlands and mountain forests, though seasonally it will venture into drier deciduous forests.

<i>Bassariscus</i> genus of mammals

Bassariscus is a genus in the family Procyonidae. There are two species in the genus: the ring-tailed cat or ringtail and the cacomistle. Genetic studies have indicated that the closest relatives of Bassariscus are raccoons, from which they diverged about 10 million years ago. The two lineages of Bassariscus are thought to have separated after only another two million years, making it the extant procyonid genus with the earliest diversification.

Caniformia suborder of mammals

Caniformia, or Canoidea, is a suborder within the order Carnivora. They typically possess a long snout and nonretractile claws. The Pinnipedia are also assigned to this group. The center of diversification for Caniformia is North America and northern Eurasia. This contrasts with the feliforms, the center of diversification of which was in Africa and southern Asia.

Ailuridae monotypic family of mammals

Ailuridae is a family in the mammal order Carnivora. The family consists of the red panda and its extinct relatives.

Striped polecat species of mammal

The striped polecat - also called the African polecat, zoril, zorille, zorilla, Cape polecat, and African skunk - is a member of the family Mustelidae that resembles a skunk. The name "zorilla" comes from the word "zorro", which in Spanish means "fox". It lives predominantly in dry and arid climates, such as the savannahs and open country of Central, Southern, and sub-Saharan Africa, excluding the Congo basin and the more coastal areas of West Africa.

Cozumel raccoon species of mammal

The Cozumel raccoon, also called the pygmy raccoon, is a critically endangered species of island raccoon endemic on Cozumel Island off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.

Black jackrabbit species of mammal

The black jackrabbit is a species of mammal in the family Leporidae. Endemic to Mexico, its only known location is Espiritu Santo Island in the Gulf of California. The IUCN has listed this species as "near threatened" because of its restricted range. This taxon is regarded by some authorities as being a subspecies of the black-tailed jackrabbit, found on the mainland of Mexico.

Ringtail, ring tail, or ring-tail may refer to:

Raccoon medium sized procyonid mammal native to North America

The raccoon, sometimes spelled racoon, also known as the common raccoon, North American raccoon,, northern raccoon, or coon, is a medium-sized mammal native to North America. The raccoon is the largest of the procyonid family, having a body length of 40 to 70 cm and a body weight of 5 to 26 kg. Its grayish coat mostly consists of dense underfur which insulates it against cold weather. Three of the raccoon's most distinctive features are its extremely dexterous front paws, its facial mask, and its ringed tail, which are themes in the mythologies of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Raccoons are noted for their intelligence, with studies showing that they are able to remember the solution to tasks for at least three years. They are usually nocturnal and omnivorous, eating about 40% invertebrates, 33% plants, and 27% vertebrates.

Olinguito species of procyonid

The olinguito, Bassaricyon neblina, is a mammal of the raccoon family Procyonidae that lives in montane forests in the Andes of western Colombia and Ecuador. The species was described as new in 2013. The species name neblina is Spanish for fog or mist, referring to the cloud forest habitat of the olinguito.

References

  1. 1 2 Timm, R.; Reid, F. & Helgen, K. (2008). "Bassariscus astutus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2008. International Union for Conservation of Nature . Retrieved January 26, 2009.
  2. Lu, Julie. "The Biogeography of Ringtailed Cats". San Francisco University. Archived from the original on August 10, 2010. Retrieved December 25, 2010.
  3. Poglayen-Neuwall, Ivo; Toweill, Dale E. (1988). "Bassariscus astutus" (PDF). Mammalian Species (327): 1–8. doi:10.2307/3504321. JSTOR   3504321.
  4. 1 2 3 Hunter, Luke (2011) Carnivores of the World, Princeton University Press, ISBN   9780691152288
  5. Stangl, Frederick B.; Henry- Langston, Sarah; Lamar, Nicholas; Kasper, Stephen (2014). "Sexual Dimorphism in the Ringtail (Bassariscus astutus) from Texas". Natural Science Research Laboratory. 328.
  6. Bibliography Gilbert, Bil. "Ringtails." Smithsonian 08 2000: 65-70. ProQuest. Web. 2 Apr. 2015 .
  7. 1 2 3 Gilbert, Bil. "Ringtails." Smithsonian 08 2000: 65-70. ProQuest. Web. 2 Apr. 2015 .
  8. Barja I, List R. 2006. Faecal marking behaviour in ringtails (Bassariscus astutus) during the non-breeding period: Spatial characteristics of latrines and single faeces. Chemoecology. 16: 219–222.
  9. Schoenherr, Allen A. 1992. A Natural History of California. University of California Press. p. 386
  10. State mammal, Arizona State Library, Archives, & Public Records, retrieved May 24, 2019
  11. Ringtail (Bassariscus astutus). Nsrl.ttu.edu. Retrieved on April 17, 2013.
  12. Barja, Isabel; List, Rurik (December 1, 2006). "Faecal marking behaviour in ringtails (Bassariscus astutus) during the non-breeding period: spatial characteristics of latrines and single faeces". Chemoecology. 16 (4): 219–222. doi:10.1007/s00049-006-0352-x. ISSN   0937-7409.
  13. Rodríguez-Estrella, Ricardo, Angel Rodríguez Moreno, and Karina G. Tam. "Spring Diet of the Endemic Ring-tailed Cat (Bassariscus astutus insulicola) Population on an Island in the Gulf of California, Mexico." Journal of Arid Environments. 2nd ed. Vol. 44. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 241-46. Print.
  14. Postanowicz, Rebecca. "Ringtailed Cat". lioncrusher.com. Archived from the original on April 16, 2007. Retrieved March 6, 2007.
  15. Ringtails in Redwood Park

Further reading