Conepatus humboldtiiHumboldt's hog-nosed skunk

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Geographic Range

Patagonian hog-nosed skunks are found in Chile and Argentina from 38 to 42 degrees south to the Strait of Magellan. (Fuller, et al., 1987)

Habitat

Habitat use for Patagonian hog-nose skunks ranges from grass and shrub land to rocky outcroppings. They may also be found around human dwellings (e.g. houses, sheds, etc.). Conepatus humboldtii is found at elevations from 200 to 700 m above sea level. (Fuller, et al., 1987)

  • Range elevation
    200 to 700 m
    656.17 to 2296.59 ft

Physical Description

Conepatus humboldtii is approximately 50 to 60 cm in length counting the tail which is 15 to 18 centimeters in length. These animals weigh between 1100 to 4500 g. Both males and females are black and may have 1 or 2 stripes down the side of their bodies. They are sexually dimorphic with the males being slightly larger. Conepatus humboldtii has a bare, broad, projecting face that lacks the thin white line down the middle. This allows it to be easily distinguished from similar species of skunk. (Nowak, 1999)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    1100 to 4500 g
    38.77 to 158.59 oz
  • Range length
    50 to 60 cm
    19.69 to 23.62 in

Development

C. humboldtii undergoes similar development as other mustelidae. At birth young weigh approximately one ounce. Growth to adulthood usually takes up to 3 months (Chapman and Feldhammer 1982).

Reproduction

The mating system of these animals has not been described.

Data are lacking on the breeding season of this species, but in congeneric Conepatus leuconotus in Texas, reproduction usually occurs between February and March. Gestation for C. humboldtii lasts approximately 9 weeks. Patagonian hog-nosed skunks bear 3 to 7 altricial young. The reason for such a small litter is believed to be the relatively small number of mammae possessed by the females. Female Patagonian hog-nosed skunks have 3 pair of mammae, as opposed to other species of skunks, which may have more. Young are not “weaned” in the traditional sense, but simply stop nursing when able to take in a regular diet. (Chapman and Feldhamer, 1982; Fuller, et al., 1987)

The timing of sexual maturity in C. humboldtii is not known, but in C. leuconotus has been reported as 10 to 11 months of age. (Nowak, 1999)

  • Breeding interval
    These animals appear to breed once per year.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding season for this species is not reported.
  • Range number of offspring
    3 to 7
  • Average gestation period
    9 weeks
  • Average weaning age
    2 months

The parental care of this species has not been described. However, other skunks give birth to altricial young, which are kept in a den or nest until they are able to walk about. The mother provides the young with food in the form of milk, and protection. (Nowak, 1999)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • protecting
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

Little is known about the lifespan of C. humboldtii in the wild. However, similar species of hog-nosed skunk have lived up to 7 years in captivity. (Chapman and Feldhamer, 1982)

Behavior

Patagonian hog-nosed skunks are solitary creatures that are active mainly at night. Home ranges of individual skunks may overlap and range from 9.7 ha to 16.4 ha. During the daylight hours C. humboldtii seeks out burrows or dens for resting. It was observed that C. humboldtii never returned to the same den during the day. Patagonian hog-nosed skunks forage exclusively in green grassy areas. (Chapman and Feldhamer, 1982; Fuller, et al., 1987)

Home Range

Home ranges vary from 9.7 to 16.4 ha. (Fuller, et al., 1987)

Communication and Perception

Conepatus humboldtii communicates by bodily gestures to ward off potential danger. This may be stamping its feet or raising its rear in the air. Like other skunks, it is known to eject a foul smelling secretion from its anal glands if threatened. Little is known of mating behavior of C. humboldtii. (Chapman and Feldhamer, 1982; Nowak, 1999)

Food Habits

Patagonian hog-nosed skunks primarily eat insects. They may however feed on small mammals, shrubs, and fruit in addition to insects. (Fuller, et al., 1987)

  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • amphibians
  • reptiles
  • fish
  • eggs
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit

Predation

Conepatus humboldtii has no real natural predators, although certain species of skunks have been preyed upon by raptors such as great-horned owls. The lack of natural predators may be in fact due to the skunk’s ability to emit a powerful smelling musk out of anal glands on its rear end. (Chapman and Feldhamer, 1982)

There are reports that hog-nosed skunks in the Andes are immune to the venum of pit vipers. This might indicate an historic case of predation on these skunks by snakes which is no longer of importance, or it may indicate that the skunks prey on pit vipers. (Nowak, 1999)

Ecosystem Roles

C. humboldtii probably affects populations of insects and other small mammals it preys upon. To the extent that it digs in the soil for burrowing or to locate its insect prey, this species probably also helps to aerate the soil. (Chapman and Feldhamer, 1982)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The pelts of hog-nosed skunk were exported a great deal between 1960 and 1980. The pelts of C. humboldtii were thought to be of lesser value than other Conepatus species. In 1983, C. humboldtii was protected against export in Argentina and Chile. These animals are apparently still used in the pet trade. (Chapman and Feldhamer, 1982)

  • Positive Impacts
  • pet trade
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

These anmals are not reported to have any negative economic impact on humans.

Conservation Status

Conepatus humboldtii is listed on the CITES appendix II. (Fuller, et al., 1987)

Other Comments

Very little is known about this particular species of hog-nosed skunk (e.g. population density, mating system, etc.). More research into the natural history of this species is required for complete understanding.

Contributors

Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Weylan Shaw (author), Humboldt State University, Brian Arbogast (editor), Humboldt State University.

Glossary

Neotropical

living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

agricultural

living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chaparral

Found in coastal areas between 30 and 40 degrees latitude, in areas with a Mediterranean climate. Vegetation is dominated by stands of dense, spiny shrubs with tough (hard or waxy) evergreen leaves. May be maintained by periodic fire. In South America it includes the scrub ecotone between forest and paramo.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

delayed implantation

in mammals, a condition in which a fertilized egg reaches the uterus but delays its implantation in the uterine lining, sometimes for several months.

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

mountains

This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

soil aeration

digs and breaks up soil so air and water can get in

solitary

lives alone

tactile

uses touch to communicate

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

Chapman, J., G. Feldhamer. 1982. Wild Animals of North America. Biology, Management, and Economics. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Fuller, T., W. Johnson, W. Franklin, K. Johnson. 1987. Journal of Mammology, 68(4): 864-867.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition. Baltimore and London: John's Hopkins University Press.

Zapata, S., A. Travaini, R. Martinez-Peck. 2001. Acta Theriologica, 46(1): 97-102.