Tayra

(Eira barbara)

Photo by Ninahale
Alternate coat without neck spots: Link 1, Link 2
Markings on the back / sides: Link 1, Link 2, Link 3

The tayra, also known as the tolomuco, perico ligero, motete, irara, san hol, viejo de monte, and high-woods dog, is both a terrestrial and arboreal mustelid, and is found in Central and South America. They are genetically close to the Martes genus, and are adapted for a semi-arboreal lifestyle similar to true martens.(1)

Appearance

The unusually long, monkey-like limbs and the short wrinkly fur on head and neck distinguishes the Tayra from all other mustelids. In colouration, tayras usually have dark brown to black fur that is relatively uniform across the body, limbs, and tail, except for a yellow to orange spot on the front of the neck or the back near or around the shoulders. Some tayras have pale heads and can either have or lack these spots. Albino or yellowish individuals exist, but they are not as common.(2)

Habitat

Tayras tend to dwell in hollow trees or burrows built by other animals in tropical deciduous and evergreen forests, secondary growth, and plantations.(3)

Behaviour

Tayras are solitary and usually travel alone, but have occasionally been observed in pairs up to 3 or 4 individuals. They are expert climbers—using their long tails for balance and being capable of leaping great distances from tree to tree. On the ground they have an erratic, bouncing gallop while moving at high speeds.(3)(4)

Possible prospective thinking

Tayras have been observed to accurately harvest and store unripe green plantains (which are inedible), then return a few days later to consume the fruit once ripe. This suggests they may be capable of prospective thinking, which was previously believed to only be a trait in primates and birds.(5)

Reproduction

Tayras are reported to breed year round, with the females entering estrus several times each year for 3 to 20 days at a time.(6) Unlike some other mustelids, they do not exhibit embryonic diapause. The gestation period lasts 63 to 67 days, after which birth is given to one to three young that are raised by the female alone.(2)(7)

The newborn are blind and with closed ears, and weigh about 100 g (3.5 oz). Their eyes open at about 35 to 47 days and wonder from the den soon after. They consume solid food after 70 days of age, and are completely weaned by 100 days. After three months, the mother will bring wounded or slow prey for her young to practise their hunting skills. They become fully grown around 6 months old and leave their mother in search of their own territory.(2)

Diet

An omnivore, the tayra is fond of juicy fruit, but is also an effective hunter. They have relatively poor eyesight and primarily hunt by scent—only giving chase once prey is located, rather than stalking or ambushing.(8) They are known to hunt rodents, small mammals, birds, lizards, and invertebrates. They will also climb trees to get fruit and honeycomb.(2)(3)

Predators

The main predator of the tayra is the harpy eagle.(9)

Threats

While the tayra is not endangered in most of its range, in Mexico, habitat destruction from agriculture have reduced populations. The species is also subject to hunting and road-kills in several countries in South America.(10)

Geographic range

Body length: 56–71 cm / 22–28 in
Tail length: 37–46-cm / 15–18 in
Weight: 2.7–7.0 kg / 6.0–15.4 lb
Lifespan: Unknown (wild), up to 22 years (captivity)
Range: From southern Mexico to the northern half of South America.
Conservation status: Least concern
Subfamily: Guloninae
Recognised subspecies(11)

  1. E. b. barbara
  2. E. b. biologiae
  3. E. b. inserta
  4. E. b. madeirensis
  5. E. b. peruana
  6. E. b. poliocephala
  7. E. b. senex
  8. E. b. senilis
  9. E. b. sinuensis
References
  1. Proulx, Gilbert, and Keith B. Aubry. The” Martes complex”–an opportunity to bring together marten, fisher, sable, wolverine, and tayra biologists. Canadian Wildlife Biology & Management 3.1 (2014): 30-33.
  2. Presley, Steven J. “Eira barbara”. Mammalian species 2000.636 (2000): 1-6.
  3. Schreffler, C. 2003. Eira barbara (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed February 21, 2021.
  4. Kavanau, J. Lee. “Locomotion and activity phasing of some medium-sized mammals”. Journal of Mammalogy 52.2 (1971): 386-403.
  5. Soley, Fernando G., and Isaías Alvarado-Díaz. “Prospective thinking in a mustelid? Eira barbara (Carnivora) cache unripe fruits to consume them once ripened.” Naturwissenschaften 98.8 (2011): 693-698.
  6. Poglayen-Neuwall, I. Copulatory behavior, gestation and parturition of the tayra. Bull. Br. Mus. (Nat. Hist.) Zool. 7 (1974): 1-140.
  7. VAUGHN, RICHARD. “Breeding the tayra: Eira barbara: at Antelope Zoo, Lincoln”. International Zoo Yearbook 14.1 (1974): 120-122.
  8. Defler, Thomas R. “Notes on interactions between the tayra (Eira barbara) and the white-fronted capuchin (Cebus albifrons)”. Journal of Mammalogy 61.1 (1980): 156-156.
  9. Ferguson-Lees, J.; Christie, David A. (2001). Raptors of the world. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 717. Accessed 22 December, 2021.
  10. Cuarón, A.D., Reid, F., Helgen, K. & González-Maya, J.F. 2016. Eira barbara. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T41644A45212151. Accessed on 22 December, 2021.
  11. Wilson, Don E. & Reeder, DeeAnn M. (Editors) 2005. Eira barbara in Mammal Species of the World. – A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference.

What Are Mustelids?

Badgers | Ferret-Badgers | Fisher | Grisons | Martens | Otters | Tayra | Weasels | Wolverine