Tayassu pecariwhite-lipped peccary

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Geographic Range

White-lipped peccaries are distributed from southern Mexico south to Ecuador, and from the Entre Rios in Argentina to the Pacific coast of South America (Mayer and Wetzel 1987).

Habitat

Tayassu peccari lives in a variety of habitats, including desert scrub, arid woodland, and rain forest. Thickets, limestone caves, and large boulders serve as shelters. Peccaries tend to live close to the place of their birth, and they rarely travel far from a water source. (Mayer and Wetzel, August 12, 1987)

Physical Description

Tayassu pecari is a medium sized species. They have a pig-like body with a long snout, thick neck, large head, tiny tails and thin, delicate legs. Head and body length ranges from 750 to 1,000 mm, tail length from 15 to 55 mm, shoulder height from 440 to 575 mm, and weight from 25 to 40 kg. Pelage is coarse and covers the entire body. In adults the color is dark brown to black with white areas in the pelvic regions and dorsal side of the neck. The young are distinguishable from adults by their combination of red, brown, black, and cream coat and the white colored legs and undersides of the throat and neck. Adult peccaries have forefeet with two large weight-bearing toes and two smaller toes used only on soft substrates, all toes have hooves. Their hindfeet consist of two large toes and one smaller one. Peccaries have large, sharp canines that form a distinct lump under the lips. Males have longer canines and females have a larger braincase, otherwise males and females are monomorphic (Mayer and Wetzel 1987). (Mayer and Wetzel, August 12, 1987)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes shaped differently
  • Range mass
    25 to 40 kg
    55.07 to 88.11 lb

Reproduction

White-lipped peccaries breed year round, breeding seasons vary among subspecies. However, spring and autumn seem to be the most common time for breeding. Females produce litters that range from 1 to 4 young, usually resulting in twins or occasionally triplets. The birth of just one young is less common. The gestation period varies from 156 to 162 days. Young can run within a few hours and accompany their mother 1 day after birth (Mayer and Wetzel 1987).

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Average number of offspring
    2
    AnAge
  • Average gestation period
    158 days
    AnAge
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    548 days
    AnAge
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    548 days
    AnAge

Lifespan/Longevity

Behavior

White-lipped peccaries are active both day and night, but are primarily nocturnal. They are a nomadic species, always moving in search of food and water. Peccaries are gregarious, their home range is estimate to be between 60 and 200 sq. km. They travel in herds that contain females and males of all ages, females usually dominate the males. Herds can include up to 2000 individuals, but most range from 5 to more than 200 members. This behavior protects them from attacks by their natural predators, the mountain lion (Puma concolor) and jaguars (Panthera onca). It also helps them forage more efficiently. Peccaries use their dorsal scent glands as a means of territorial marking, and to identify group members.

Tayassu peccari communicates with sounds. They make low level vocalizations and teeth clatters depending on the activity. Large active herds produce a constant racket of bellowing, screaming, and loud tooth-clacking, which can be heard for several hundred meters. On the other hand, small groups seem to stay quiet.

Peccaries travel long distances and their presence in a certain area is episodic and unpredictable. They usually visit each area for a few hours or for a day or two, often leaving the ground pocked and churned. Like pigs, these white-lipped peccaries use mud wallows. They are visited again and again if along the same route of travel.

(Mayer and Wetzel 1987).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

White-lipped peccaries consume many different types of food. Their tooth morphology allows them to consume a wide range of food in the tropical forests, however peccaries eat little meat. Peccaries eat fruit, leaves, roots, seeds, mushrooms, worms (Annelida), and insects. Occasionally, they will consume small vertebrates, such as frogs, snakes, lizards, eggs of birds and turtles, and carrion (Mayer and Wetzel 1987).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

White-lipped peccaries are an important source of hide and food for hunters in the area. They offer a large amount of protein for a hunter's diet (Mayer and Wetzel 1987).

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

White-lipped peccaries have been known to eat farmers' crops. Crops such as maize, sweet potatoes, manioc, bananas, and sugar cane are frequently eaten (Mayer and Wetzel 1987).

Conservation Status

Populations in some areas are stable. White-lipped peccaries have vanished from areas in Mexico and northern Argentina where they once lived. Peccaries are threatened by hunters and by deforestation. In areas where they seem to be disappearing, only herds of fewer than 10 members remain (Mayer and Wetzel 1987).

Other Comments

An odd ritual of grooming is performed by this species. One peccary grooms another's scent glands by rubbing the sides of its head on the other's hindquarters and scent glands. This is not related to sex or age (Mayer and Wetzel 1987).

Contributors

Rebecca Ann Csomos (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Cynthia Sims Parr (editor), 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.

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.

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

crepuscular

active at dawn and dusk

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.

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.

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.

nocturnal

active during the night

nomadic

generally wanders from place to place, usually within a well-defined range.

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.

riparian

Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

sexual

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

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

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.

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.

References

1993. "Mammals Species of the World" (On-line). Accessed December 13, 1999 at http://www.nmnh.si.edu/cgi-bin/wdb/msw/names/query.

Emmons, L. 1990. "Neotropical Rainforest Mammals: A Field Guide". Chicago: UP.

Hall, R., K. Kelson. 1959. The Mammals of North America Volume II. New York: The Ronald Press Company.

Mayer, J., R. Wetzel. August 12, 1987. Tayassu pecari. Mammalian Species, 293: 1-7.

Nowak, R. 1983. Walker's Mammals of the World, 4th ed.. USA: John Hopkins University Press.