Nasua nasuaSouth American coati

Geographic Range

Nasua nasua is found in tropical regions of South America, from Colombia and Venezuela to Uruguay, northern parts of Argentina, and into Ecuador. On the eastern and western slopes of the Andes Mountains they are found up to 2500 meters.

(Marwell Zoological Park, 1996; Gompper, 1998; Animals 1999)


Ring-tailed coatis primarily live in forested areas; deciduous, evergreen, cloud forest, riverine gallery forest, xeric, Chaco, cerrado, and dry scrub forest habitats. Due to human influence, coatis prefer secondary forests and forest edges. They are found up to 2500 meters in elevation (Emmons, 1997; Gompper, 1998)

  • Range elevation
    2500 (high) m
    8202.10 (high) ft

Physical Description

Coati upper parts are dark brown, gray, or dark or brightly rust colored. The underparts are white. The head is narrow with the nose slightly turned upward and elongated, and is very flexible, allowing coaties to search out food under leaf litter and overturned debris. The muzzle is brown with pale spots above, below, and behind the eye. The ears are small and fringed with white on the inside rims. The long tails of coatis are used for balance, and are black to brown with yellow rings. Coatis have thick, dull fur. The young are not as darkly colored as adults. Adults measure 41 to 67 cm from head to the base of the tail, with the tail adding an additional 32 to 69 cm to their length. These animals are about 30 cm tall at the shoulder, and weigh between 3 and 6 kg. Coatis have strong claws and forelimbs to climb and dig out food from under rotted logs. They can reverse the joints of the anklebone to descend trees headfirst. (Marwell Zoological Park, 1996; Emmons, 1997; Kalasinkas, 1999)

  • Range mass
    3 to 6 kg
    6.61 to 13.22 lb
  • Range length
    73 to 136 cm
    28.74 to 53.54 in
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    5.591 W


See Reproduction.


Typically, one male is accepted into a band of females and juveniles near the beginning of the breeding season. The mating system is polygynous, with that male mating the females in the band. (Nowak, 1991)

Breeding season for coatis varies with location, and corresponds with the maximum availability of fruit. Occurs between January and March in some locations, and between October and February in others. Males will join the losely organized bands of females to mate. After mating, males leave the bands for a mainly solitary existence, and the females disperse and build tree nests for the remainder of gestation and parturation. Females give birth to litters of 3 to 7 young 74 to 77 days after mating. Most births occur between April and June Five to six weeks after birth, the females and their young will rejoin the band. (Marwell Zoological Park 1996, Emmons, 1997; Gompper, 1998; Kasalinkas, 1999; Nowak, 1991)

Young are altricial. Neonates weigh 78 g at 5 days. Eyes open at 10 days. Young coatis are able to stand at 19 days. By 24 days of age, coatis are able to walk and to focus their eyes. Young can climb at 26 days, and eat solid food at 4 months. Females become sexually mature at 2 years of age, and male mature sexually around three years of age. (Marwell Zoological Park, 1996; Gompper, 1998; Kalasinkas, 1999)

  • Breeding season
    Mating occurs from October through March, with exact timing varying by location, and young are born between April and June.
  • Range number of offspring
    3 to 7
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    74 to 77 days
  • Average weaning age
    4 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    2 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    730 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    2 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    730 days

Females care for the altricial young in isolated tree nests until they are able to walk and climb, at which time they rejoin the social group. Mothers continue to nurse the young until they are weaned around 4 months of age. (Nowak, 1991)


One captive coati was reported to be still alive after 17 years and 8 months. In the wild, coatis only live for about 7 to 8 years (Nowak, 1991; Kasalinkas,1999).


Males are normally philopatric whereas the females disperse. Unrelated females and their young form bands with up to 30 individuals. Coatis are good climbers and swim well. They are diurnal and spend most of the day hunting for food. Although coatis are mostly terrestrial, they do sleep, mate, and give birth in trees. When disturbed, they descend from the tree and escape on the ground. Coatis have been known to enter human habitations to rummage through garbage. They typically do not prefer to move up or down a tree, but rather climb out to the end of a branch and jump to a new branch that is still on the same tree. (Emmons, 1997; Gompper, 1998; Kasalinkas, 1999)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Primarily omnivorous, coatis usually seek out fruits and invertebrates. Coatis eat palms, eggs, larval beetles, scorpions, centipedes, spiders, ants, termites, lizards, small mammals, rodents, and carrion when it is available. They infrequently take chickens (Gompper, 1998; Kasalinkas, 1999; Nowak, 1991).

  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • reptiles
  • eggs
  • carrion
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • fruit


Coatis seem to prefer edges and secondary forest habitats, possibly due to human interactions (Gompper, 1998; Kasalinkas, 1999). They have a wide variety of predators, most notably large cats.

Ecosystem Roles

Coatis help to control pest populations through their foraging behavior. They provide food to predators, and are likely important in dispersing some seeds.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Hunted by local populations for food, coatis are also vital in helping control populations of insects. There is a small demand for these animals in the live pet trade. (Marwell Zoological Park, 1996; Emmons, 1997; Gompper, 1998)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

They cause damage to crops, and household damage in villages. They have also been known to take poultry. (Marwell Zoological Park, 1996; Kasalinkas, 1999; Nowak, 1991).

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest
  • household pest

Conservation Status

They are protected under CITES Appendix III in Uruguay, but are not classified as threatened in the wild (Emmons, 1997; Marwell Zoological Park, 1996).

Humans cause detrimental effects from hunting and deforestation for mining, road building, petroleum, and timber extraction.

Other Comments

Experiments on captive coatis indicate cognitive skills of shape differentiation and shape recognition. Initially, confusion over solitary males led to designation of a separate species. Other common names are the ring-tailed coati, the brown-nosed coati, the southern coati, and the South American coati. Coatis are also referred to in some texts as coatimundis. The name coati or coatimundi is Tupian Indian in origin. The prefix "coati" means “belt”, and "Tim" means “nose” referring to the way the coatis tuck their noses under their bellies to sleep. The name Nasua is Latin for “nose”, possibly for the same reason. (Marwell Zoological Park, 1996; Emmons, 1997; Gompper, 1998)


Sarah Braddy (author), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Chris Yahnke (editor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.



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

World Map


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.


flesh of dead animals.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.


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.


union of egg and spermatozoan


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


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


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).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


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.


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

pet trade

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


having more than one female as a mate at one time


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


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


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


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).


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


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


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


Emmons, L. 1997. Neotropical Rainforest Mammals; A Field Guide, Second Edition. Chicago: The Univeristy of Chicago Press.

Gompper, M., D. Decker. 1 June 1998. Nasua nasua. Mammalian Species, No. 580.

Kalasinkas, R. 1999. "Animals Of The Rainforest, Ring-Tailed Coati" (On-line). Accessed December 8, 2001 at

Marwell Zoological Park, 22 April 1996. "Fact Sheet 4-Ringtailed Coati" (On-line). Accessed December 8, 2001 at

Nowak, R. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition. Baltimore and London: The John Hopkins University Press.