Procyonidaecoatis, raccoons, and relatives(Also: cacomistle, coatis, raccoons, and relatives)

The raccoon family includes 18 species in 6 genera. We follow Wilson and Reeder (1993) in placing red pandas, Ailurus, in the Ursidae rather than in this family. Thus restricted, the Procyonidae is restricted to the New World, from southern Canada to northern Argentina. Procyonids can be found in a wide variety of habitats, including desert, northern forests, tropical rainforest, and wetlands.

Procyonids are generally small to medium-sized animals, ranging from slightly less than 1 kg to over 20 kg in weight. Some species have slender bodies, while others are stocky. All have medium or long tails. The pelage is gray or brown, sometimes with contrasting markings on the face and light and dark rings around the tail. Most species have relatively short, broad faces; and short but erect ears, which may be rounded or pointed. Forefeet and hindfeet have 5 digits, and procyonids are plantigrade, often walking with a bear-like shuffle. The claws are short and curved. In some species they can be partially retracted. The tail of of species, the kinkajou, is prehensile, and that of coatis is very mobile and is used for balancing during climbing. Males have a well-developed, bilobed baculum.

Procyonid skulls have relatively short rostrums (shorter than canids, longer than felids). They lack alisphenoid canals, but they have well-developed paroccipital processes. Their incisors are unspecialized, and their canines are moderately long and ovate (not round) in cross section. The molars are wide and at least somewhat bunodont. Most species lack secodont carnassials. The dental formula is 3/3, 1/1, 3-4/3-4, 2/2-3 = 36-42.

Procyonids are omnivorous. They consume both plant and animal material, including small mammals and birds. Some species are social, living in family groups or bands containing a number of families. Others are solitary. All species are to some degree arboreal, often seeking refuge in the trees when pursued by predators. Most are nocturnal, often denning in hollow trees during the day.

The Procyonidae is a member of the canoid subgroup of carnivores. Their geologic history is old, going back to the late Eocene.

Technical characters

Literature and references cited

Feldhamer, G. A., L. C. Drickamer, S. H. Vessey, and J. F. Merritt. 1999. Mammalogy. Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. WCB McGraw-Hill, Boston. xii+563pp.

Paradiso, J. L. 1975. Walker's Mammals of the World, Third Edition. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

Savage, R. J. G. and M. R. Long. 1986. Mammal Evolution, an Illustrated Guide. Facts of File Publications, New York. 259 pp.

Stains, H. J. 1984. Carnivores. Pp. 491-521 in Anderson, S. and J. K. Jones, Jr. (eds). Orders and Families of Recent Mammals of the World. John Wiley and Sons, N.Y. xii+686 pp.

Vaughan, T. A. 1986. Mammalogy. Third Edition. Saunders College Publishing, Fort Worth. vii+576 pp.

Vaughan, T. A., J. M. Ryan, N. J. Czaplewski. 2000. Mammalogy. Fourth Edition. Saunders College Publishing, Philadelphia. vii+565pp.

Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder. 1993. Mammal Species of the World, A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. 2nd edition. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington. xviii+1206 pp.


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


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.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


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.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


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


uses touch to communicate