Sunday, November 11, 2007

Gregory Peccary

Earlier this week, I read an article on about a newly discovered species. The giant peccary was found by Dutch scientist Mark van Roosmalen near the Aripuanã river in the Amazonas state in northeast Brazil.

Peccary are animals in the pig family that are native to the New World. There are three previously identified species of peccary: the collared peccary whose habitat extends from the southwestern United States down to South America and the island of Trinidad, the white-lipped peccary which is found in the rainforest of Central and South America, and the Chacoan peccary which inhabits the savanna in Paraguay, Bolivia, Argentina and southern Brazil.

In North America, we also have Old World wild pigs, commonly referred to as "razorbacks," who were brought to the continent by the conquistador Hernando de Soto in the mid-1500s. You can tell the difference between razorbacks and peccary (surely that will impress your date) because the Old World razorbacks have tusks.

The giant peccary can grow as big as a large dog. Besides their size, they also differ from other peccary in that they live in pairs or small nuclear families while other species are known to form large herds. Moreover, the giant peccary subsists on fruits whereas other peccary dig for roots and seeds. Giant peccary also don't mark their territory using scent. The new species' habitat is limited to dry wooded areas found in a small part of the Rio Aripuanã river basin (collared and white-lipped peccary also live in this region). Because of this small habitat researchers recommend that the giant peccary be placed on the red list of threatened species.

Although this species' existence has just recently been confirmed by scientists, it is not news to the indigenous Tupi people in the area who call them caitetú mundè which means "great peccary that lives in pairs." Indeed it is regarded as the most prized game by local hunters. The specimen officially representing the new species can be found at a museum in the state capital of Manaus.

This is not the first time Van Roosmalen has discovered a new species in the wilderness of Brazil. In 2002, he identified two new species of titi monkeys: the Stephen Nash monkey and the Bernhard monkey (pictured left) -- the latter of which was named in honor of the late Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands (1911-2004), husband to Queen Juliana and a noted naturalist.

Giant peccary photo (c) Naturfilm/Roland Gockel, Bernhard monkey photo (c) AP Photo/Conservation International


Josie said...

i want an orange bearded titi!! I'd make him a little hat and keep him on my shoulder.

Meeg said...

Maybe you could give him a stovetop hat and call him, "Mr. President."

Josie said...

lol! and of course he'll need his own MySpace account.

Meeg said...

I'd be his myspace friend.