The least studied carnivore in the world can be considered a ghost species. The term designates a living organism whose information is collected through examination of specimens in the collections of natural history museums. The data-gathering sometimes gets supplemented by the in-house commentaries and scholarly publications of the institution’s departmental curators. The above-mentioned empirical evidence and scientific summaries give clarification or inject confusion depending upon:
• The potency of the technology;
• The precision of the identification;
• The purity of the specimen.
The dubious distinction of being the world’s most un-researched meat-eater in fact goes to the Andean mountain coati of northern South America. The honor lingers despite the nimble mammal’s sharing name recognition with:
• Beloved brown-nosed coatis (Nasua nasua) of continental South America and insular Chile;
• Lovable white-nosed coatis (Nasua narica) of mainland Central, North and South America and insular southern Mexico.
It also makes possible:
• Misidentification of animals in captivity and in the wild;
• Misperception of species’ lifestyles;
• Misunderstanding of wilderness’ stresses.
All three obstacles may be encountered in the case of the mountain coati.
• For example, zoo personnel and visitors – in Broussard, Louisiana; Columbus, Ohio; and Moorpark, California – misidentify the more accessible brown-nosed coati as the more elusive mountain coati.
• Researchers and wildlife-lovers misperceive the obligate role of mountain coatis solely as pollinators and seed-dispersers.
• Excepting locals and poachers, everyone misunderstands the consequences – for high altitude-adapted wildlife – of agro-industry’s expansion into loftier elevations.