Ben Hirsch is a graduate student at SUNY Stony Brook, working in the anthropology department on primatology. He's in Argentina now doing a study on coatis. He submitted this report at the end of 2003; the exhaustive yolatengo.com vetting process is at last complete.
It’s been a busy year and a half in the life of the coatis! But first, a little background: Coatis typically live in social groups between 8-52 individuals. When the average male turns two years old, he leaves his group and lives solo. In the species I’m studying, most groups have one adult male associated with the group throughout the year.
Grizelda, very pregnant, licking herself
Like any good behavioral scientist, I needed a really cool naming system. So I decided one group would be named after musicians (the GR group), another after Simpsons characters (the Springfield group), and another after Yo La Tengo songs (the PQ group). Lone adult males are typically named after movie characters (Darth Vader, Scarface, Eraserhead . . .) and a few individuals are named after physical characteristics (Clarito, Gris, Vanilla Ice …). So far, the only name to incur the wrath of my field assistants has been Nico, which in Spanish should be a male and not a female. Anyway, the following reads a little bit like an indie rock version of Madlibs.
"In August of 2002, I trapped and eartagged
both Ira Kaplan and James McNew"
In August of 2002, I managed to trap and eartag several individuals from the GR group, and all individuals from PQ. The reason for the eartags is so I can recognize individuals and take behavioral data on them. At that point, GR had 52 individuals, and this was when I trapped and eartagged both Ira Kaplan and James McNew. I have to say that James McNew was probably the single nastiest coati that I have captured, which is kind of ironic given how nice James is as a person.
Ira Kaplan looking for food
Beginning in October, groups typically split apart while the females are giving birth. The females live alone with their offspring for two months until the cubs are big enough to walk on their own. Afterwards the groups reform. In 2002, PQ only had 8 individuals: four adult females (Alyda, Madeline, Grizelda, Nutricia); three cubs (Barnaby, Decora, Andalucia); and an adult male who disappeared. When the group reformed in December, Barnaby and Nutricia were nowhere to be seen (they probably became ocelot food). The three remaining females had a combined nine cubs (Alrock, Andrea, Cherry Chapstick, Clarito, Lewis, Pablo, Paul, Spec Bebop, Tom Courtney).
From left: Paul, Lewis, Tom Courtney. This behavior, which looks sexual, is usually related to playing in the juvenile males.
"Corin Tucker was plowed down by a Peugot.
I was eventually able to capture Patti Smith
and put a radio collar on her"
Unfortunately, at the same time I lost the GR group for several months. The lone individual with a radio collar (Liz Phair) was run over by a bus. (Some sort of cosmic retribution for her trying to be the next Avril Levigne?) In addition, Corin Tucker was plowed down by a Peugeot. I was eventually able to capture Patti Smith and put a radio collar on her. A few days after I put the collar on her, she left the GR group along with Georgia Hubley, Naomi Yang, Christina Martinez and Janet Weiss (all adult females). Patti Smith had two cubs (Brenda Sauter and Kim Gordon), and Georgia Hubley four cubs (Joe Strummer, Thurston Moore, Doug Marsch, and Siouxsie). These guys have now become the “Patti Smith Group.”
Alyda with her two-month-old cubs
James McNew has never been seen again, but in March, Ira Kaplan suddenly joined the PQ group. This was really exciting for me, because I was able to clearly document the transfer of this male from one group to another. He stayed with the group from March until July, when he was kicked out by OB1. Since then, he has been mostly solo. When we were capturing individuals in the Springfield group, it seemed like every time we caught an estrous female, Ira would suddenly pop up out of nowhere looking for action. It got to be a bit of a joke. Actually, Ira managed to join the Springfield group for about a week or two. When the subadult males (Otto, Kent Brockman, Barney Gumble …) left the group, we saw Ira hanging out with them a few times as well.
"Who's your daddy?" Andrea, Pablo, Vanilla Ice, Thurston Moore, Cherry Chapstick, Alrock, Spec Bebop, Paul and Joe Strummer on a day when the PQ and Patti Smith groups ran into each other.
Pablo scratching himself
Meanwhile, Vanilla Ice was permanently with the Patti Smith Group. During the mating season Vanilla Ice copulated with all five adult females in the group. After he was done, he left the group for about a week and joined the Springfield group in order to mate with those females. At this point, the Springfield group had about five adult male “hangers-on,” of whom would regularly fight each other (assumedly for access to the estrous females). Again, Ira Kaplan was on the losing side in these fights. Now, my field assistants don’t have much respect for Ira (they were talking about building a monument to Vanilla Ice for being such a “macho”), but when you consider that he is only three years old, I thought he did pretty well. We’ll see how he holds up this year!
Madeline with two month old cubs. The one on the ground appears to be Paul.
"During the mating season Vanilla Ice
copulated with all five adult females
in the Patti Smith Group"
In the past three weeks, the adult females have been returning to their groups with their new infants. I’m still not exactly sure why, but there has been a large increase in group sizes this year. PQ now has 25 new cubs. In addition, PSG has a total of 17 new cubs, six of whom are Georgia Hubley’s. And that’s the latest happenings with the critters.
Georgia Hubley with a few of this year's new cubs
Editor's note: we have not changed the spelling of any of the names in Ben's report.