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Haemig PD (2013) Sympatric White-lipped Peccary and Collared Peccary. ECOLOGY.INFO 10

Sympatric White-lipped Peccary and Collared Peccary

Note: This online review is updated and revised continuously, as soon as results of new scientific research become available.  It therefore presents state-of-the-art information on the topic it covers.

Although peccaries and pigs resemble each other, their classification and distribution are different.  Peccaries belong to the mammal family Tayassuidae (3 species) and are native to the New World, while pigs belong to the family Suiidae (16 species) and are native to the Old World (Taber et al. 2011).  

In this report, we review the ecology of the two most widespread peccary species (i.e. Collared Peccary Pecari tajacu and White-lipped Peccary Tayassu pecari), focusing on differences between them when they are sympatric (i.e. occur in the same area).

General ecology and behavior of peccaries

The Collared Peccary ranges from southwestern United States (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona) south to northern Argentina. Throughout its range, the Collared Peccary occurs in a wide variety of habitats, including deserts, thorn forests, chaco, caatinga, oak woodlands, and tropical rain forests.

The White-lipped Peccary ranges from southern Veracruz and Oaxaca, Mexico, south to Uruguay and Northern Argentina.  In the northern part of its range (e.g. Mexico and Central America) it is restricted to humid tropical forests, but in South America it occurs in both humid and dry habitats including tropical rain forest, tropical thorn forest, chaco scrub, and caatinga.  

White-lipped and Collared Peccaries are therefore sympatric in much of South America and in the humid tropical forests of Mexico and Central America.  A third species of peccary occurs with these two species in the Gran Chaco of Paraguay and adjacent parts of Bolivia and Argentina.  This third species, the Chacoan Peccary (Catagonus wagneri), is an endangered species and will be the subject of a separate review.

White-lipped peccaries and Collared Peccaries differ from each other in many ways.  Although all peccary species are highly social, the White-lipped Peccary typically lives in larger herds than the collared peccary.  For example, in tropical rain forests, Emmons (1997) reports that White-lipped Peccaries usually occur in herds of 50 to 300 or more individuals, while Collared Peccaries usually occur in herds of 6 to 9 individuals. However, larger aggregations of Collared Peccaries can sometimes be seen, for example when more than one herd is attracted to a rich food source (Robinson and Eisenberg 1985).

White-lipped Peccary herds range over great areas and do not seem to be territorial, while Collared Peccary herds have smaller home ranges and defend territories (Sowls 1997).  Kiltie and Terborgh (1983) point out that the large, nomadic herds of the White-lipped Peccary are unique.  No other forest-dwelling ungulate in the Neotropics occurs in such large groups, which in fact resemble in size the herds of many plains-dwelling ungulates.

The White-lipped Peccary is larger than the Collared Peccary, and weighs about one-third more.  The main predators of all peccaries are the jaguar (Panthera onca), puma or cougar (Puma concolor) and humans (Homo sapiens) (Kiltie and Terborgh 1983).

The Collared Peccary has a higher tolerance to hunting by humans and to man-made habitat alterations than the White-lipped Peccary, and so survives better than the latter species in areas where human settlements are more numerous (Altrichter and Boaglio 2004).  One reason for the White-lipped Peccary's greater vulnerability of hunting by humans may be that it tends to confront threats, while the Collared Peccary typically flees from danger (Peres 1996; Cullen et al. 2000; Keuroghlian et al. 2004)

Differences in foraging and food habits

In tropical rain forests and tropical deciduous forests, a great quantity of fruits, seeds and nuts fall from trees to the ground, and these constitute the primary food of  both the White-lipped and Collared Peccaries that live in these forests (Kiltie 1981; Bodmer 1991a; Barreto et al. 1997; Keutoghlian & Eaton 2008).  Large numbers of beetle larvae often infest the endocarps of fallen nuts and enhance the nutritional value of this food (Silvius 2002).

Because both peccaries so thoroughly masticate seeds, only very tiny seeds (e.g. Rubiaceae and small Brosimum) escape destruction and pass unharmed through their digestive systems (Bodmer 1991b).  Thus, the 2 peccary species are primarily seed predators rather than seed dispersers.  They disperse larger seeds only when they spit them out during mastication (Bodmer 1991b).  

Because it is larger in size, the White-lipped Peccary is able to crush harder seeds and nuts with its jaws than the Collared Peccary (Kiltie 1982; Beck 2006).  For example, in feeding trials conducted at the Lima Zoo in Peru, Kiltie found that Collared Peccaries were unable to crush and eat nuts of the palm trees Iriartea ventricosa and Socratea exorrhiza.  However, White-lipped Peccaries at the same zoo crushed and ate these hard nuts.

At Manú National Park in the Peruvian Amazon, Kiltie found that fallen nuts of Iriartea and Socratea accumulated in large numbers under trees until roving herds of White-lipped Peccaries found them and consumed them.  Apparently, these nuts were too hard for other animals to crush and eat.  However, Kiltie also found that there were several species of common seeds and nuts at Manú that even the White-lipped Peccary was not strong enough to crush.  These super-hard nuts came from certain palms (Phytelephas microcarpa, Scheelea sp., Mauritia flexuosa) and a legume (Dipteryx micrantha). 

In contrast, during the feeding trials at the zoo, both the White-lipped Peccary and the Collared Peccary were able to crush and eat nuts of the palms Astrocaryum macrocalyx and Jessenia sp., which were less hard than the other species that Kiltie studied, and which were also found at Manú.

In tropical rain forests, the foraging of the 2 peccary species differs in other ways as well.  At Manú, Kiltie and Terborgh (1983) found that the White-lipped Peccary "bulldozes through the upper few centimeters of soil and litter...using its snout more as a plow than a spade.  Often several animals move forward, shoulder to shoulder, pushing a row of litter ahead of them."  Rarely did the White-lipped Peccary make deep excavations. 

In contrast, the Collared Peccary sometimes made deep excavations for roots and tubers, but otherwise did not overturn the leaf litter on the forest floor like the White-lipped Peccary.  Nuts and fruits were taken individually from the surface by the Collared Peccary, without disturbing the leaf litter (Kiltie and Terborgh 1983). 

The White-lipped Peccary and Collared Peccary are also sympatric in the Brazilian Caatinga, an arid region of dry, open woodlands, thorn forest, and thorn scrub.   Here however, both peccaries feed mainly on roots and tubers, rather than fruits.

For example, in Serra da Capivara National Park, Piauí, Brazil, Olmos (1993) found that 79% of the diet of the White-lipped Peccary was roots, 6% tubers, 14% seeds and 1% succulent vines.  In contrast, the collared peccary was found to be more generalized in its food habits, feeding equally on roots (33%), tubers (40%) and seeds (26%). Only one percent of its diet was fruit.

Olmos points out that in the Caatinga, roots and tubers are a more dependable food resource than fruits and leaves, since the latter two are produced only when there is adequate rainfall.  During the prolonged droughts that occur in this region, peccaries can survive because they dig up and eat roots and tubers.

In the Caatinga, Olmos (1993) found some overlap in the diet of the 2 peccaries.  For example, one abundant tree, Manihot caerulescens (Euphorbiaceae), was important to both peccaries, its roots and very hard seeds supplying 33% of the food of the White-lipped Peccary and 21% of the food of the Collared Peccary.  However, Olmos also found separation in food habits. 

For example, the roots of one of the most common trees of the area, Thiloa glaucocarpa (Combretaceae), made up 48% of the White-lipped Peccary's diet, but only 7% of the Collared Peccary's diet. In addition, 53% of  foods eaten by the Collared Peccary were roots and tubers of plant species that the White-lipped Peccary did not eat (i.e. Boerhaavia coccinea Nyctaginaceae, Swarzia flammengii Caesalpinoideae and Pentalostelma sp. Asclepiadaceae).

Finish reading this review on Page 2.

Photograph at top of page:  A herd of White-lipped Peccaries (Tayassu pecari) at Parque Nacional das Emas, Brazil.  Photo by Miha Krofel (Slovenia).

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