Who are raccoon dogs? – New York Times



On Thursday, scientists released new data on the possible origin of the Covid-19 pandemic and drew attention to the strange squat creature.

Meet the raccoon dog; it gets its name from its black muzzle markings, which give the animal a camouflaged appearance and more than a passing resemblance to those infamous city dumpster raiders.

The animals were at least sometimes sold at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, where many virologists suspect that the Covid-19 pandemic may have started.

Scientists previously announced that swabs from the market have tested positive for the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. The new data showed that some of the same swabs also contained significant raccoon dog genetic material.

The findings do not prove that raccoon dogs were infected with the virus or that they transmitted it to humans. But they are consistent with the possibility that wild animals in the market may have triggered the Covid-19 pandemic.

Here’s what you need to know about the animal in the news.

Despite their name, raccoon dogs are not closely related to raccoons. They are members of the canine family, a group that also includes domestic dogs, and are most closely related to foxes. Unlike other canids, they can hibernate in winter.

Raccoon dogs are omnivores, feeding on food sources such as rodents and berries. Although they appear slender in the summer, they gain weight towards the winter when their fur also becomes thicker. They are monogamous, often living in pairs.

Raccoon dogs are native to East Asia, including parts of China, Korea, and Japan, where they are known as tanuki.

They have also become widespread in parts of Europe, where they are considered an invasive species. Sometimes they are hunted as pests.

Raccoon dogs have long been bred for their fur. China is the leading producer of raccoon dog skins; in 2014, more than 14 million skins were produced in the country, which is 100 times more than in Europe, one report.

They are also sold for meat in live animal markets. They were sold at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market at least in November 2019, the researchers said. reported.

Not necessary. Laboratory experiments have shown that raccoon dogs are susceptible and capable of transmitting the new coronavirus. But this does not mean that they are a natural reservoir of the virus. Even if the raccoon dogs in the market were infected, they could have been an intermediate host, picking up the virus from bats or another species.

The scientists noted that raccoon dogs and bats were common on and around some of the farms that supplied the market.

A similar scenario could have unfolded two decades ago, after the emergence of SARS, which is also caused by the coronavirus. In 2003 scientists found evidence infected palm civets and raccoon dogs at a live animal market in Shenzhen, China. But subsequent research eventually pointed to bats as the natural reservoir of the virus that causes SARS; Raccoon dogs turned out to be intermediate hosts.

This is probably not a good idea, no matter how tempting it may be. In addition to Covid-19, animals are known to carry other diseases, including rabies. Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals does not recommend keeping raccoon dogs as pets.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Exit mobile version