Bassariscus sp.—Ringtails // Bassariscus astutus—Ringtail // Procyon sp.—Raccoons // Procyon lotor—Raccoon
Procyonids are medium to medium-large mammals generally considered to be omnivores, though the Ringtail veers to the carnivorous side.
Three species of procyonids occur in our regions: Bassariscus astutus (Ringtail), Nasua narica (White-nosed Coati), and Procyon lotor (Raccoon). The coati barely enters into our region today in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona. It is unknown from the region as a fossil. The Raccoon, though quite widespread today in our region, is represented only by a single record at the margin of the region. In contrast, Ringtails are common in both the modern-day region and as fossils.
Late Blancan: 111 Ranch (Morgan and White 2005: ?).
Sangamon: La Brisca (Van Devender et al. 1985).
Morgan and White 2005; Van Devender et al. 1985.
Synonyms. Bassariscus sonoitensis Skinner 1942.
Ringtails are common inhabitants of the Southwestern roughlands, from low desert to montane forests. They also are fairly common members of late Pleistocene faunas. These agile members of the Raccoon family tend to be somewhat more carnivorous than Raccoons. They are at home wherever there are climbable surfaces, easily scaling near-vertical rock faces. They are known to occasionally venture beyond the twilight zone of caves.
Fig. 1. Ringtail. Photograph courtesy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Bassariscus sonoitensis was described from Papago Springs cave, Santa Cruz County, Arizona (Skinner 1942). Czaplewski et al. (1989) used radiometric dating to determine that the age of the deposits predated the late Wisconsin, thus suggesting that perhaps B. sonoitensis was ancestral to B. astutus. Harris (1990b) examined the relationship between B. sonoitensis and B. astutus, arriving at the conclusion that the former should be considered a synonym of B. astutus, although possibly deserving of temporal subspecific status based on it being characteristically within or near the upper limits of the present populations on the characters of tooth length and width and of robustness of muzzle.
Fig. 2. Ventral view of the skull and lateral view of the dentary of Bassariscus astutus from U-Bar Cave (UTEP 5689.140.53). The skull originally was identified as Bassariscus sonoitensis and formed the basis for further research concerning the relationship between B. astutus and B. sonoitensis. Scale in mm.
Fig. 3. Enlargement of right P4 and M1 of Bassariscus astutus, same individual as in Fig. 2.
Mid and late Wisconsin recorded only as Bassariscus have been entered here as B. astutus.
Rancholabrean: Anthony Gap Cave (UTEP); Papago Springs Cave (Skinner 1942).
Wisconsin: Big Manhole Cave (Harris 1993c).
Early/Early-Mid Wisconsin: Sabertooth Camel Maze (Harris 1993c).
Mid Wisconsin: Pendejo Cave (UTEP: cf. gen.); U-Bar Cave (Harris 1990b).
Mid/Late Wisconsin: Dark Canyon Cave (Tebedge 1988); Rampart Cave (Lindsay and Tessman 1974).
Mid/Late Wisconsin/Holocene: Sierra Diablo Cave (UTEP).
Late Wisconsin: Animal Fair 18-20 ka (Harris 1989: Bassariscus sp.); Cueva Quebrada (Lundelius 1984: cf.); Harris' Pocket (Harris 1989: Bassariscus sp.); Muskox Cave (Logan 1981); Pendejo Cave (Harris 2003); U-Bar Cave 14-15 ka (Harris 1989: Bassariscus sp.); Upper Sloth Cave (Logan and Black 1979); Vulture Cave (Mead and Phillips 1981).
Late Wisconsin/Holocene: Baldy Peak Cave (Harris 1993c); Burnet Cave (Schultz and Howard 1935); Conkling Cavern (Harris 1993c); Deadman Cave (Mead et al. 1984); Pendejo Cave (Harris 2003); Stanton's Cave (Olsen and Olsen 1984).
Czaplewski et al. 1989; Harris 1989, 1990b, 1993c, 2003; Lindsay and Tessman 1974; Logan 1981; Logan and Black 1979; Lundelius 1984; Mead and Phillips 1981; Mead et al. 1984; Olsen and Olsen 1984; Schultz and Howard 1935; Skinner 1942; Tebedge 1988.
Late Blancan: San Simon Fauna (Morgan and White 2005).
Irvingtonian: El Golfo (Croxen et al. 2007: gen. cf.).
Mid Wisconsin: Térapa (Mead et al. 2006).
Croxen et al. 2007; Morgan and White 2005.
Despite numerous records of fossil Raccoons to the east and to the west, and despite the presence of Raccoons in our region today, they are nearly absent from our fossil record. Our only record is from Blackwater Draw, where several taxa otherwise known from east of our region show up in the fossil record. The most likely reason for this pattern is eastern forms moving up the gallery forests typical of the drainageways.
The evidence strongly suggests recent invasion for most of the region, probably as a result of human occupation of the area with the resultant food supply in the way of crops and garbage. Current distribution seems to be concentrated in river valleys and mountain forests in the vicinity of towns and campgrounds.
Fig. 1. Raccoon. Photograph courtesy of U.S. National Park Service.
Late Wisconsin: Blackwater Draw Fauna (Slaughter 1975).
Last Update: 22 Nov 2013