Animals You've Never Heard Of - C Edition
DISCLAIMER: You may have heard of some of these animals.
Sometimes called the axis deer, the chital deer is widely accepted as being one of, if not the, most beautiful deer species out there. With the male's 2-and-a-half feet long lyre-shaped antlers, and both genders' spotted and striped coats, they are definitely sights to behold.
Chital deer are common India and surrounding areas, but they have been introduced into Texas and many other neighboring states for the purpose of exotic hunting. They are prized for their expensive pelts and lean meat.
In their native homes, chital deer do not experience a set "rutting season" or a specific "fawning season." Instead, every season is breeding season! This means that in India there are chital does all year round who are in estrous or with fawns, and bucks who are in velvet, hardened, or actively rutting. Every individual may have their own schedule depending on when they were born.
Also known as simply coatis, coatimundis are members of the Procyonidae family, meaning they are related to raccoons. It's not hard to visualize the similarities between them, but behaviorally these are very different animals.
Unlike raccoons, coatis are diurnal, and the females will often travel in raucous family groups as they search for grubs, rodents, eggs, and fruits to snack on. The males are more solitary, but may join these loose-knit bands for a time during the breeding season. Being social creatures, coatis sport a complex range of auditory and visual signals which they use to convey intent to one another.
In the U.S they are sometimes kept as pets, and can be litter trained like a ferret or a rabbit.
Not to be confused with the delicious dish couscous, the Common spotted cuscus is one of Australia's versions of our oppossum (which of course means they are very different). They are more common in New Guinea, however, where their numbers seem to be going strong despite being hunted for their meat and pelt. The males are typically the only ones with spots, but there are exceptions. Their coat colors can range from the beautiful orange-red to a more subdued gray and sometimes even a complete white.
Like the opposums of our world, the cuscus is a shy, nocturnal creature which would much rather not be bothered. They have similar diets, eating a wide range of omnivorous favorites including berries, grubs, and eggs - but seems to prefer vegetation over anything else.
With a fully prehensile tail, the cuscus differs from the opposums we know by restricting themselves almost entirely to the treetops. They are often mistaken for monkeys because of their tail, and sloths because of their sluggish nature.
The caiman lizard is a species of lizard endemic to South America. They get their name from the similar anatomy that they share with caimans or alligators. The heavy jaws, which are characteristic of this species, are designed for crushing crustaceans such as snails.
Topping out at 4 feet, caiman lizards are not the size of caimans, but their heavy-set build is a window into the prehistoric nonetheless. While their wild numbers are unknown, they were hunted heavily in the past for their leather and are still being bred for these purposes.
Though at one time considered difficult to keep in captivity due to their restrictive snail diet, this semi-aquatic lizard is gaining novelty in herpetoculture as more people have bred less picky individuals. They are reputed to make responsive, intelligent pets.
So what's with all these animals living in other countries? Why isn't there anything cool that lives here in our land? Why is North America so freaking boring?! Well, worry not, my friends. We actually do have a few wonders ourselves. Enter one cacomistle, sometimes called the ringtail cat, and sometimes erroneously called the civet cat even though it is neither a civet nor a cat. It is a procyonid, like the raccoon and coatimundi.
Ringtails inhabit the southwest corner of our country, venturing as far north as Oregon and spreading well on down through central America. Why have you never seen one in the wild? Because they are nocturnal, sneaky, and very shy, preferring the desert in favor of your backyard.
Notice the striking ringed tail? Wonder what its for? Well so do we! Scientists have been speculating as to the purpose of ringed tails for centuries, and have come up with a few great theories. Because of its beautiful tail, it has been hunted for its fur - though the pelts are not worth much. Fortunately the cacomistle is listed under Least Concern by the IUCN and is even the state mammal of Arizona.