The Crab-eating Raccoon (Procyon cancrivorus) is very similar in appearance to the Northern Raccoon (P. lotor), but with legs and feet dark brown (Northern Raccoons typically have whitish forelegs and feet). Crab-eating Raccons also have the hair on the back of the neck slanting forward (this hair slants backward on Northern Raccoon), appearing reversed. Crab-eating Raccoons are found in a range of waterside habitats, including swamps, rivers, and beaches from eastern Costa Rica and Panama south to Uruguay and northeastern Argentina. They appear to be more closely tied to water and less adapted to urban areas than the Northern Raccoon. That said, they seem not to be highly sensitive to habitat fragmentation and are the third most common species to be encountered as roadkill in southern Brazil. They are mainly nocturnal, sleeping in treeholes during the day. Different studies of this species' feeding habits have yielded somewhat dfferent results: in Venezuela, they ate mainly aquatic prey (crawfish, fish, snails), whereas in Brazil, fruit was found to be a major component of the diet followed by insects and small vertebrates. Where Crab-eating and Northern Raccoons overlap in Central America, the Northern Raccoon is found in mangrove swamps while the Crab-eating Raccon is found along inland rivers.
(Emmons 1990; Keys 2009 and references therein)
Procyon cancrivorus is found from Costa Rica through eastern and western Paraguay, Uruguay, and into northern Argentina. Its range overlaps with that of northern raccoons in Costa Rica and Panama.
Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )
Crab-eating raccoons are nocturnal, omnivorous/frugivorous animals. Body weights range from 3 to 7 kg. Body lengths are reported as being between 54 and 65 cm, with the tail comprising 25 to 38 cm of the total length. Males tend to be larger than the females.
Procyon cancrivorus is smaller than P. lotor, which helps to distinguish the two species. Male northern raccoons weigh from 7 to 8.3 kg, with the females weighing from 5.1 to 7.1 kg.
The neck fur of crab-eating raccoons slants forward towards the head. These animals appear thinner than P. lotor due to the lack of underfur, an adaptation to the warmer climates it occupies. The black mask of P. cancrivorus fades behind the eyes, unlike the northern species, which has a mask that extends almost to the ears. Pelage of P. cancrivorus is a fairly uniform brown dorsally, making it easily distinguishable from the more grizzled appearance of P. lotor. The legs and feet of P. cancrivorus are dark brown and slender in appearance compared to the white forelegs and whitish-brown hind legs of P. lotor. The tail makes up approximately 60% of the body length in P. lotor, but only 50% in P. cancrivorus.
Dental Formula: I 3/3, C 1/1, P 4/4, M 2/2 = 40 teeth
Not much is known on the BMR of crab-eating raccoons. However, there is adequate information on the northern species, P. lotor. Northern raccoons have a higher mass-specific BRM than other procyonids, which explains why this species has a more widespread distribution. Their metabolic rates do not vary seasonally. Both males and females tend to lose or gain weight among seasons, gaining in the winter and losing in the summer.
Range mass: 3.0 to 7.0 kg.
Range length: 54 to 65 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger
Average basal metabolic rate: 2.588 W.
Rio Negro-Rio San Sun Mangroves Habitat
This taxon occurs in the Rio Negro-Rio San Sun mangroves, which consists of a disjunctive coastal ecoregion in parts of Costa Rica, extending to the north slightly into Nicaragua and south marginally into Panama. Furthermore, this species is not necessarily restricted to this ecoregion. Mangroves are sparse in this ecoregion, and are chiefly found in estuarine lagoons and small patches at river mouths growing in association with certain freshwater palm species such as the Yolillo Palm (Raphia taedigera), which taxon has some saline soil tolerance, and is deemed a basic element of the mangrove forest here. These mangrove communities are also part of a mosaic of several habitats that include mixed rainforest, wooded swamps, coastal wetlands, estuarine lagoons, sand backshores and beaches, sea-grasses, and coral reefs.
The paucity of mangroves here is a result of the robust influx of freshwater to the coastline ocean zone of this ecoregion. Among the highest rates of rainfall in the world, this ecoregion receives over six metres (m) a year at the Nicaragua/ Costa Rica national border. Peak rainfall occurs in the warmest months, usually between May and September. A relatively dry season occurs from January to April, which months coincides with stronger tradewinds. Tides are semi-diurnal and have a range of less than one half metre.
Mangroves play an important role in trapping sediments from land that are detrimental to the development of both coral reefs and sea grasses that are associated with them. Mangrove species including Rhizopora mangle, Avicennia germinans, Laguncularia racemosa, Conocarpus erecta and R. harrisonii grow alone the salinity gradient in appropriate areas. Uncommon occurrences of Pelliciera rhizophorae and other plant species associated with mangroves include Leather ferns Acrostichum spp., which also invade cut-over mangrove stands and provide some protection against erosion. In this particular ecoregion, the mangroves are associated with the indicator species, freshwater palm, Raphia taedigera. Other mangrove associated species are Guiana-chestnut ( Pachira aquatica) and Dragonsblood Tree (Pterocarpus officinalis).
Reptiles include the Basilisk Lizard (Basiliscus basiliscus), Caiman (Caiman crocodilus), Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas), Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) and Green Iguana (Iguana iguana). The beaches along the coast within this ecoregion near Tortuguero are some of the most important for nesting green turtles. The offshore seagrass beds, which are among the most extensive in the world, are a source of food and refuge for the endangered Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas). Several species of frogs of the family Dendrobatidae are found in this mangrove ecoregion as well other anuran species and some endemic salamander taxa.
Mammal species found in this highly diverse ecoregion include: Lowland Paca (Agouti paca), primates such as Mantled Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata), Geoffrey's Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi), White-faced Capuchin (Cebus capucinus), Brown-throated Sloth (Bradypus variegatus), Silky Anteater (Cyclopes didactylus) and Nine-banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcintus). Also found in this ecoregion are carnivores such as Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), Central American Otter (Lutra annectens), Jaguar (Panthera onca), Northern Racooon (Procyoon lotor), and Crab-eating Racoon (P. cancrivorus).
Moist Pacific Coast Mangroves Habitat
This taxon occurs in the Moist Pacific Coast mangroves, an ecoregion along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica with a considerable number of embayments that provide shelter from wind and waves, thus favouring mangrove establishment. Tidal fluctuations also directly influence the mangrove ecosystem health in this zone. The Moist Pacific Coast mangroves ecoregion has a mean tidal amplitude of three and one half metres,
Many of the streams and rivers, which help create this mangrove ecoregion, flow down from the Talamanca Mountain Range. Because of the resulting high mountain sediment loading, coral reefs are sparse along the Pacific coastal zone of Central America, and thus reef zones are chiefly found offshore near islands. In this region, coral reefs are associated with the mangroves at the Isla del Caño Biological Reserve, seventeen kilometres from the mainland coast near the Térraba-Sierpe Mangrove Reserve. The Térraba-Sierpe, found at the mouths of the Térraba and Sierpe Rivers, is considered a wetland of international importance.
Because of high moisture availability, the salinity gradient is more moderate than in the more northern ecoregion such as the Southern dry Pacific Coast ecoregion. Resulting mangrove vegetation is mixed with that of marshland species such as Dragonsblood Tree (Pterocarpus officinalis), Campnosperma panamensis, Guinea Bactris (Bactris guineensis), and is adjacent to Yolillo Palm (Raphia taedigera) swamp forest, which provides shelter for White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and Mantled Howler Monkeys (Alouatta palliata). Mangrove tree and shrub taxa include Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), Mangle Caballero (R. harrisonii) R. racemosa (up to 45 metres in canopy height), Black Mangrove (Avicennia germinans) and Mangle Salado (A. bicolor), a mangrove tree restricted to the Pacific coastline of Mesoamerica.
Two endemic birds listed by IUCN as threatened in conservation status are found in the mangroves of this ecoregion, one being the Mangrove Hummingbird (Amazilia boucardi EN), whose favourite flower is the Tea Mangrove (Pelliciera rhizophorae), the sole mangrove plant pollinated by a vertebrate. Another endemic avain species to the ecoregion is the Yellow-billed Cotinga (Carpodectes antoniae EN). Other birds clearly associated with the mangrove habitat include Roseate Spoonbill (Ajaia ajaja), Gray-necked Wood Rail (Aramides cajanea), Rufous-necked Wood Rail (A. axillaris), Mangrove Black-hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus subtilis),Striated Heron (Butorides striata), Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata), Boat-billed Heron (Cochlearius cochlearius), American White Ibis (Eudocimus albus), Amazon Kingfisher (Chloroceryle amazona), Mangrove Cuckoo (Coccyzus minor), Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia), and Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus VU) among other avian taxa.
Mammals although not as numerous as birds, include species such as the Lowland Paca (Agouti paca), Mantled Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata), White-throated Capuchin (Cebus capucinus), Silky Anteater (Cyclopes didactylus), Central American Otter (Lontra longicaudis annectens), White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus), feeds on leaves within A. bicolor and L. racemosa forests. Two raccoons: Northern Raccoon (Procyon lotor) and Crab-eating Raccoon (P. cancrivorus) can be found, both on the ground and in the canopy consuming crabs and mollusks. The Mexican Collared Anteater (Tamandua mexicana) is also found in the Moist Pacific Coast mangroves.
There are a number of amphibians in the ecoregion, including the anuran taxa: Almirante Robber Frog (Craugastor talamancae); Chiriqui Glass Frog (Cochranella pulverata); Forrer's Grass Frog (Lithobates forreri), who is found along the Pacific versant, and is at the southern limit of its range in this ecoregion. Example salamanders found in the ecoregion are the Colombian Worm Salamander (Oedipina parvipes) and the Gamboa Worm Salamander (Oedipina complex), a lowland organism that is found in the northern end of its range in the ecoregion. Reptiles including the Common Basilisk Lizard (Basiliscus basiliscus), Boa Constrictor (Boa constrictor), American Crocodile (Crocodilus acutus), Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus), Black Spiny-tailed Iguana (Ctenosaura similis) and Common Green Iguana (Iguana iguana) thrive in this mangrove ecoregion.
Procyon cancrivorus and P. lotor are very similar and closely related. Both species can be found in a variety of habitats, including primary and secondary growth forest. Procyon cancrivorus makes use of habitats ranging from the forest of Ilanos, to the xeric chaco vegetation, and even the Amazon rainforests. As long as there are water, food, and places to hide and den, this raccoon will adapt. However, P. cancrivorus seems somewhat more restricted than P. lotor in habitat preferences. Procyon cancrivorous occupies areas around bodies of water, such as swamps, lakes, lagoons, and ocean beaches. Where both species overlap, crab-eating raccoons mainly occupy lands surrounding inland rivers, whereas northern raccoons occupy swamps and beaches.
This species is generally found at lower elevations.
Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest
Other Habitat Features: riparian
Habitat and Ecology
For the most part, P. cancrivorus is omnivorous, but fruit has been observed to be the main part of its diet. Crab-eating raccoons consume a variety of foods, including invertebrates, crustaceans, insects, nuts, vegetables, fish, frogs, and small turtles. Olfaction, vision, and their sense of touch are used to identify and capture food. The diet may change with season and food availability.
Animal Foods: amphibians; reptiles; fish; eggs; insects; aquatic crustaceans; other marine invertebrates
Plant Foods: fruit
Primary Diet: omnivore
As predators, these raccoons have some impact on prey species. As prey, they may affect predator populations.
Details on predation of these animals are lacking. However, it is likely that P. cancrivorus does fall prey to larger carnivores. Procyon lotor is known to be preyed upon by bobcats, coyotes, American alligators, and several species of owls. It is likely that P. cancrivorus has similar predators. Humans may hunt these animals for fur and food.
Life History and Behavior
Crab-eating raccoons have good hearing capabilities, and are keen to strange noises. Even though they are color blind, they have excellent nighttime vision. Their tactile senses are what really set them apart from other carnivores. This tactile sense allows them to identify food items better than any other senses. There has been 13 different vocalizations recognized, 7 of which involved the mother and young. Although not specifically reported for this species, it is likely that, as in other mammals, scent cues play some role in reproduction and identification of individuals.
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Data are lacking on the longevity of P. cancrivorus. However, few raccoons live longer than 5 years in the wild, although some are estimated to survive for 13 to 16 years. In 1982, a northern raccon was still surviving in a zoo after 20 years and seven months.
Status: wild: 14.0 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Males are polygynous, mating with several females in succession, but females reject other males once they are impregnated. Both sexes are mature after a year. However, younger males usually do not breed because they can not compete with larger, older males.
Mating System: polygynous
Procyon cancrivorus breeds once per year between July and September. The estrous cycle has been estimated to last 80 to 140 days. The gestation period lasts approximately 60 to 73 days and can yield from 2 to 7 pups, although 3 or 4 pups per litter is more typical. Females give birth to their young in dens located in rock crevices, hollow trees, or in the abandoned dens of other animals.
Young raccoons are born without teeth and with their eyes closed. After 3 weeks their eyes open and they begin to show the characteristic mask on their faces. The young are weaned anywhere between 7 weeks and 4 months, and are independent at about 8 months. Procyon cancrivorus undoubtedly falls within this range of variation. If a female loses a newborn litter, she may ovulate a second time during the season.
In areas where P. lotor and P. cancrivorus are both found, there does not appear to be any inbreeding.
Breeding interval: Breeding occurs once per year.
Breeding season: Breeding occurs from July to September.
Range number of offspring: 2 to 7.
Average number of offspring: 3-4.
Range gestation period: 60 to 73 days.
Range weaning age: 7 to 16 weeks.
Average time to independence: 8 months.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 years.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; viviparous ; delayed implantation
Average birth mass: 71 g.
Average number of offspring: 3.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
Sex: male: 365 days.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
Sex: female: 365 days.
Females provide all the parental care for the young, and may exclude males from the immediate area while they have young. The mother reduces her activity and movements during the week of parturition and becomes intolerant of conspecifics. The young begin to forage with their mother before they are weaned. They are dependent upon the female for up to 8 months, but there is some variation. Males are not actively involved in caring for the young.
Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Protecting: Female)
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Procyon cancrivorus
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 7
Species With Barcodes: 1
Northern raccoons are managed as a game species through both hunting and trapping. There is currently no management in Central America for crab-eating raccoons. However, even though P. cancrivorus is less common than P. lotor, it is still doing well in the wild.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Procyon cancrivorus is a carrier of rabies, and can sometimes damage crops, but usually not to a serious extent.
Negative Impacts: crop pest; causes or carries domestic animal disease
Procyon cancrivorus is an important furbearer and game species. It generates revenue from the sale of fur.
Positive Impacts: body parts are source of valuable material
The crab-eating raccoon (Procyon cancrivorus) is a species of raccoon native to marshy and jungle areas of Central and South America (including Trinidad and Tobago). It is found from Costa Rica south through most areas of South America east of the Andes down to northern Argentina and Uruguay. That it is called the crab-eating raccoon does not mean that only this species eats crabs, as the common raccoon also seeks and eats crabs where they are available.
The crab-eating raccoon eats crab, lobster, and other crustaceans, but is an omnivore and its diet also includes, for example, small amphibians, turtle eggs, and fruits. It resembles its northern cousin, the common raccoon, in having a bushy ringed tail and "bandit mask" of fur around its eyes. Unlike the common raccoon, the hair on the nape of the neck points towards the head, rather than backward. The crab-eating raccoon also appears to be more adapted to an arboreal lifestyle than the common raccoon, with sharper, narrower claws. It also is better adapted for a diet of hard-shelled food, with most of the cheek teeth being larger than those of the common raccoon, with broader, rounded cusps. Although the crab-eating raccoon can appear smaller and more streamlined than the common raccoon due to its much shorter fur and more gracile build, the crab-eating raccoon is of similar dimensions to the northern species. Head and body length is 41 to 80 cm (16 to 31 in), tail length is 20 to 56 cm (8 to 22 in) and height at the shoulder is about 23 cm (9 in). Weights can range from 2 to 12 kg (4 to 26 lb), though are mostly between 5 and 7 kg (11 and 15 lb). Males are usually larger than the females.
The crab-eating raccoon is solitary and nocturnal, primarily terrestrial but will spend a significant amount of time in trees. It is almost always found near streams, lakes, and rivers. In Panama and Costa Rica, where it is sympatric with the common raccoon, it will be strictly found in inland rivers and streams, while the common raccoon lives in mangrove forests. Less frequently, it will reside in evergreen forests or the plains, but are only rarely found in rainforests. Compared to the common raccoon, which thrives in urban environments and adapts quickly to the presence of humans, the crab-eating raccoon adapts less easily and is much less likely to be found in human environments.
The crab-eating raccoon breeds between July and September, and gestation lasts between 60 and 73 days. Offspring are born in crevices, hollow trees, or abandoned nests from other creatures. Between 2 and 7 kits are born, with 3 being the average. While typically crab-eating raccoons only breed once per year, if a female loses all her kits early in the season, they will mate again and have a second litter. Males have no part in raising young, and while attending to young, females will become much more territorial and will not tolerate other raccoons around them.
Skins of a common raccoon (left) and crab-eating raccoon (right).
- Reid, F. & Helgen, K. (2008). Procyon cancrivorus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 26 January 2009.
- Zeveloff, Samuel (2002). Raccoons: a natural history. Smithsonian Books. ISBN 978-1588340337.
- Burnie D and Wilson DE (Eds.), Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife. DK Adult (2005), ISBN 0789477645
- "Procyon cancrivorous". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 25 May 2013.