Eira barbaratayra

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Geographic Range

The tayra, Eira barbara, can be found in the neotropical forests of Central and South America. It ranges from Mexico south to Bolivia and northern Argentina and also on the island of Trinidad (Mares et al., 1989; Reid, 1997).

Habitat

Tayra are found in tropical deciduous and evergreen forests, secondary growth, and plantations. The elevation of the tayra's habitat ranges from the lowlands to about 2000-2400m. Because the tayra is both terrestrial and arboreal, it has been found to live in hollow trees, burrows built by other animals, and occasionally in tall grass (Reid, 1997; Nowak, 1999).

  • Range elevation
    0 to 2400 m
    0.00 to 7874.02 ft

Physical Description

The tayra is a weasel about the size of a medium sized dog, with a long, bushy tail and long neck ending in a robust head. Its head and body range from 60 to 70 cm in length and its tail length is 35 to 45 cm. Tayras have large hind feet varying in length from 80 to 90 mm and ears about 35 to 40 mm long. Color varies with geographic range, but in general the tayra has a dark brown body with a slightly paler head. Usually it has a white, diamond shaped patch on its throat. Tayras have long claws and pronounced canines. Their dental pattern is 3/3, 1/1, 3/4, 1/1 =34. (Emmons, 1990; Mares, et al., 1989; Nowak, 1999; Reid, 1997)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    3 to 6 kg
    6.61 to 13.22 lb
  • Range length
    60 to 70 cm
    23.62 to 27.56 in
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    6.811 W
    AnAge

Reproduction

Little is known about the tayra's reproduction. It is thought, however, that gestation lasts for about 63-70 days with a litter size of 2-3 babies per season, each weighing about 74-92 grams. Newborns open their eyes at about 35-58 days and they nurse for 2-3 months. Some believe that the estrous cycle of Eira barbara is seasonal, with births occuring in March and July. Others believe that the tayra is polyestrous and a non-seasonal breeder, experiencing an estrous cycle of around 17 days with a 2-3 day receptivity about three times a year (Nowak, 1999).

  • Breeding interval
    Tayras probably breed once per year at most.
  • Range number of offspring
    2 to 3
  • Average number of offspring
    2
    AnAge
  • Range gestation period
    63 to 70 days
  • Range weaning age
    2 to 3 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    700 days
    AnAge
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    183 days
    AnAge

Lifespan/Longevity

Behavior

Eira barbara is a diurnal species that usually travels alone or in pairs. Sometimes, however, they are seen in small groups of 3-4 individuals, the sexual distribution of which is unknown. Tayras are both terrestrial and arboreal; terrestrial locomotion is usually composed of erratic, bouncing movements with the back arched and the tail along the ground. Arboreal movements along horizontal branches are more fluid, and the tail is used as a balancing rod. A tayra may leap for considerable distances, run up rocky clifs, and bound from branch to branch in the trees. When alarmed, the tayra gives a short, barking call and seeks protection in the nearest tree. Although usually silent, the tayra has been known to give yowls, snarls, or clicks when in groups (Reid, 1997; Mares et al., 1989).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

The tayra is omnivorous. It shows a preference for small mammals, the spiny rat in particular, but it will eat whatever is available. Mammals are the most abundant part of the tayra's diet but it also eats significant amounts of fruit, invertebrates and reptiles, in that order. It has also been shown that the tayra occasionally eats honeycomb when it is available (Bisbal, 1986; McNab, 1995).

  • Animal Foods
  • mammals
  • reptiles
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • mollusks
  • Plant Foods
  • fruit

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

It has been found that Eira barbara can be tamed, and is often used by humans as pets. The Tayra was once used by the indigenous people of the area to control rodents (Nowak, 1999).

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Because of the close proximity of the tayra's habitat to that of humans, specifically human farmers, this species has been known to cause some damage to neighboring plantations. Eira barbara occasionally eats poultry and raids corn and sugar fields, but damage is usually minimal (Nowak, 1999).

Conservation Status

The tayra is not endangered in most of its range; in some parts of South America it is the most common carnivore due to its ability to live near humans in disturbed habitats. However, in Mexico, human spread of agriculture, loss of tropical habitat, and hunting have greatly reduced populations. The Mexican sub-species, E. b. senex, is now considered vulnerable by the IUCN (Emmons, 1990; Nowak, 1999).

Contributors

Christina Schreffler (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Neotropical

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

World Map

agricultural

living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

arboreal

Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

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.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
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.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

heterothermic

having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.

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.

native range

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

omnivore

an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals

rainforest

rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

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

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year

References

Bisbal E., F. 1986. Food habits of some neotropical carnivores in Venezuela (Mammalia, Carnivora). Mammalia, 50(3): 329-340.

Emmons, L. 1990. Neotropical Rainforest Mammals: A Field Guide. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Mares, N., R. Ojeda, R. Barquez. 1989. Guide to the Mammals of Salta Province, Argentina. University of Oklahoma Press.

McNab, B. 1995. Energy expenditure and conservation in frugivores and mixed-diet carnivorans. Journal of Mammology, 76(1): 206-222.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, 6th ed.. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Reid, F. 1997. A Field Guide to the Mammals of Central America and Southeastern Mexico. Oxford University Press.