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Tanukagg

At the boundary of Holocene and Neocene the mass extinction took place. It had influence at plenty of animals and was caused by human activity and reduction of territories, suitable for existence of normal populations of large animals. Bears also had died out. In Neocene animals of other families started to occupy an ecological niche of bears. In Southern Asia their place was occupied by viverrid descendants and in Central and East Europe by bearaccoons, descendants of raccoons. At the north of Holarctic niche of bears was occupied by large mustelids, berls, and also by animals of new Neocene family of carnivores – bear-like dogs (Prolesnyctereuteidae) separated from true canids. An ancestor of this family was a raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides), medium-sized unpretentious omnivorous canid. Eventually descendants of raccoon dogs had grown larger. Similarly to their ancestors, raccoon dogs (and also similarly to bears), the majority of bear-like dogs run into hibernation; this feature has allowed them to settle at the north of Eurasia remarkable in severe snowy winter. The family includes one genus (Tanuka) and two species. The largest species is giant tanooka. The weight of females usually reaches 500 kg, males – up to 600 kg; some individuals in northern part of area can grow to 800 kg. Thus, giant tanooka can compete to South African awfulest marafil for the right to be named as “the largest representative of carnivores order in Neocene”. By appearance giant tanooka resembles a hybrid between bear and fossil predator Amphicyon. Because of rather short fingers and toes animal looks almost plantigrade. Fur of tanooka is brownish, spotted with numerous albesent and black spots on sides, shoulders and hips. Animal has very big claws, but, similarly to the ancestors, raccoon dogs, tanooka can not climb up trees. This animal runs slowly, but can make far passages for food within the borders of its territory. Similarly to Holocene bears, giant tanooka is an omnivore actively consuming both vegetative and animal food. In spite of the fact that giant tanooka is a predator nevertheless, it prefers not to hunt itself, but to play a role of scavenger or to take off prey of other predators. Giant tanookas very often track down Siberian sabertoothes, but not as prey, but as original “suppliers” of food. After their successful hunting tanooka eats up numerous uneaten rests of their prey. Frequently (especially in autumn, right before hibernation) giant tanookas attack waheela packs, taking off their prey. If the autumn was poor in food, tanooka trying to take prey may risk and attack even the lonely berl. As against the berl, giant tanooka is active only in rather warm season. In winter, similarly to its ancestor, raccoon dog, giant tanooka runs into hibernation. In spite of the fact that giant tanooka is heavier than berl, it is not a dominant predator because of three factors: first, its population is extremely rarefied (the average territory controlled by one individual is about 2 – 3 thousand square kilometers), second, in winter it runs into hibernation, and, thirdly, tanooka is more omnivorous scavenger, rather than active predator. Besides in summer and in autumn more than 60 % of its diet the vegetable food makes. The main contender of giant tanooka is berl. Tanooka does not bear the presence of berl in its territory and relates to it agressively: it will try to banish berl, using the size and force, and also to kill it if the opportunity will appear. In a case if tanooka meets berl female with cubs, it will try to kill cubs by all means, despite of all attempts of berl female to protect them. In such situation tanooka will attack berl cubs and female protecting them, despite of repulse which large predator can render it. In winter the situation frequently changes to opposite one. From time to time berls attack tanookas in hibernation condition right in their dens. To tell the truth, it finishes with berl victory not always. Winter sleeping of tanooka is not too deep, more similar to bear ibernation. If tanooka will have time to wake up during such attack, it will kill or will seriously cripple the attacking berl most likely.  Because of great rarefaction of populations at giant tanooka the original courtship behaviour had evolved. Closer to approach of courtship season tanooka males actively mark borders of their territory with extremely odorous labels. To breeding season urine of tanooka males gets very proof and pungent smell which is gradually spreaded to many tens kilometers, and the marks left in winter continue intensive smelling even at the beginning of summer. Females find males using smell due to very keen sense of smell. Heat proceeds intensively at the female, and the female stays ready to pairing within several days in succession. It is enough to her to find a male ready to pairing. Heat at any individual tanooka female happens alternate years, at the end of winter. Pregnancy lasts within about three months. The female gives rise up to five cubs, but usually it happens three or four of them. From the big litter only two cubs may survive to approach of independence, and per lean years only one may stay alive. To autumn young animals reach weight 90 – 100 kg. They will spend the first winter of their life with mother, and young females sometimes remain with her for the second winter and leave mother when new heat starts at her. Life expectancy of giant tanooka is about 45 – 50 years. At the Far East and in mountains of Central Asia this species is replaced by mountain tanooka (Tanuka monticola). It differs in smaller size (weight of adult individual does not exceed 350 kg), richer winter fur, which is colored lighter, rather then summer one, and annual breeding. This species is more herbivorous (the vegetative food makes up to 70% of a diet), and prefers small vertebrates, insects and carrion from food of animal origin. Mountain tanooka is more mobile, easily swarms up abrupt slopes and walks on narrow mountain tracks.

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