Not everyone knows such a small exotic animal as the tupaya. Many people hear the name of this unusual animal for the first time. When looking at a tupaya, some compare it with a squirrel, others with a rat. Undoubtedly, one thing is a very active and nimble creature. Let's try to understand its way of life, describe its external features, characterize its temper, food preferences and places of permanent residence.
Origin of the species and description
Tupaya is a mammal animal belonging to the tupai family of the same name and the tupai order. The confusion regarding the belonging of the tupaya to one or another class of animals lasted for more than one decade. At first, the tupaya was classified as an insectivore, then as a primate. For half a century, this mammal was classified as a primate until new detailed studies were carried out. As a result, it turned out that the tupaya is a separate evolutionary branch that has features characteristic only for this species, so the animal was assigned to the order tupai or Scandentia.
A documentary mention of tupai was recorded in 1780 by Dr. William Ellis, who accompanied Cook on a journey to the Malay Archipelago. The name of the animal comes from the Malay language, or rather from the specific word “tupei”, which translates as “squirrel”. The Tupai family is divided into two subfamilies, 6 genera and 18 varieties. Scientists have studied the common tupaya in more detail, the appearance of which we will describe a little later, and now we will characterize other species of these mammals.
The large tupaya has a grayish-brown color, the length of its body reaches 20 cm, the tail of a golden-red hue is the same length. The animal settled on the Malaysian Islands (Sumatra, Kalimantan, Borneo). This tupaya is distinguished by large rounded ears, a sharp muzzle and deep expressive eyes.
The Malayan tupaya in length, together with the tail, can reach from 12 to 18 cm. Against the general dark brown background of the animal, a lighter yellowish abdomen is clearly visible, the whole body is quite graceful and refined. The animal has chosen Thailand and the Indonesian islands. Malay representatives of the Tupai are monogamous and form a family union for life.
The Indian tupaya is similar to the common one, its muzzle is also shortened. The difference is noticeable in the ears, covered with wool, it is also distinguished by the structure of the teeth. The predominant background of the ridge is brown with red, yellowish and black patches. Light stripes are visible on the shoulders. The length of the body of the animal is about 20 cm, the tail has the same length. Tupaya lives on the Hindustan Peninsula in its northern part.
Feather-tailed tupaya is poorly studied, it is distinguished by small dimensions (length 10 cm), impressive and pointed ears and a nocturnal lifestyle. Its main feature is a tail covered with dark scales with a rare white tassel at the end. The coat of the animal is gray with brownish and black patches. The length of the tail varies from 11 to 16 cm, these tupai live in Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula.
The smooth-tailed tupaya is considered a rare species living in Borneo. On its muzzle, dark stripes with a reddish tint are visible, the ridge of the animal is almost black, and the abdomen is light. The Philippine tupaya has bright brown fur on the back, and the belly and chest are a lighter shade. The length of the body is 20 cm, and the weight is about 350 grams. The animal is distinguished by a short tail.
Appearance and features
We will describe the characteristic features of the animal and its distinctive external features using the example of common tupaya, which is most studied by zoologists. This is a small animal that looks like a squirrel. The length of the body of the tupaya ranges from 15 to 22 cm, the weight of the animal varies from 140 to 260 grams.
Interesting fact: Zoologists have noticed that the further south the common tupaya lives, the lighter the color her fur.
The muzzle of the tupaya is elongated and pointed. The eyes of the animal are medium in size and dark in color. On a sharp muzzle, short and thin vibrissae are noticeable. The ears of the tupaya are neat, rounded in shape. Compared to other varieties of these animals, the common tupaya has a less dense fur coat. The dorsal part of the animal has a dark brown color scheme, and in the region of the breast and abdomen, the color is lighter, reddish. On the shoulders you can see lighter, but very faded stripes.
As for the obvious differences between a male and a female, there are practically none, so only a competent specialist can distinguish the sex of an animal purely visually. The paws of the tupaya are five-fingered, each finger is equipped with a rather long and sharp claw, which helps with movement in the crown of trees. In terms of the structure of the teeth, the tupaya is similar to insectivorous mammals. Also, in the throat area there is a skin gland, the presence of which is characteristic of some insectivores. It should be noted that the female can have from one to three pairs of nipples. In general, scientists distinguish about 49 subspecies of the common tupaya.
Where does the tupaya live?
In general, the Tupayev family is quite exotic, its representatives inhabit the humid, tropical forests in southeast Asia. As already noted, different species occupy different regions and landscapes. Common tupaya was registered in the Indonesian Islands, in China, northern India, its range covered both southern and eastern parts of Asia.
Tupaya has taken root perfectly on various islands of the Malay Archipelago, among which are:
Tupai have chosen the spaces of Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, the Hindustan Peninsula. Animals adore and feel great in areas of wet, tropical, forested areas. Tupai live both in the crown of trees and on the ground. The animals do not bypass the mountainous terrain, meeting at altitudes from two to three kilometers. Tupai equip their lairs in the hollows of fallen trees, between powerful tree roots, in bamboo cavities. Each animal has its own separate allotment.
If we talk about common tupaya, then the vastness of its range can be represented by the area it occupies, which is more than 273,000 square kilometers. The density of animal settlement can vary from 2 to 12 animals per hectare.
Interesting fact: Tupai do not shy away from people at all and often live next door to them, settling on cultivated plantations, where there are many food.
What does the tupaya eat?
The diet of the tupaya consists of various fruits and insects, but sometimes these animals can also eat small vertebrates (mice, chicks, lizards). Tupai eat various seeds, grains and berries. During the meal, the animals hold their food with their front tenacious paws. The reaction of animals is very well developed, so they can catch insects on the fly with the help of their forelimbs.
The search for larvae, all kinds of bugs, ants, is usually carried out on the surface of the earth in fallen leaves or in cracks in the tree bark. The surface of the tupaya teeth can be compared to a grater that easily grinds the hard peel of various fruits or the chitinous shells of insects. Tupai seek out their prey with the help of excellent vision and a keen sense of smell, it is not for nothing that the nostrils of the animal are similar to those of a dog.
Tupai, settling on cultivated plantations, cause damage to crops by eating ripe fruits and berries. Sometimes these animals make predatory raids on bird nests, from where they can steal eggs and newborn chicks. In search of edible tupai, they twitch their long tail and interestingly move their elongated nose, sniffing out a snack. Tupai love to feast on nuts and palm juice.
Interesting fact: Clever and thieving tupai have been seen in predatory raids on human dwellings, from where they stole food, penetrating houses through open windows and vents.
Now you know how to feed the tupaya. Let's see how the animal lives in the wild.
Character and lifestyle features
Most members of the Tupayev family are active, namely, during the day. Animals spend approximately equal periods of time both in the tree crown and on the surface of the earth, where they carefully rummage through dry foliage, looking for something tasty. At night, the animals rest in their shelters. Each mature animal has at its disposal its own land plot, which is jealously and tirelessly guarded.
If it is difficult to distinguish male from female outwardly, then by the size of the plot you can immediately understand who it belongs to. Males have more extensive land holdings than females. Domain boundaries are marked with scent glands, feces and urine.
Interesting fact: The specific aroma of the marks is so concentrated and strong that it does not immediately disappear, lasting for several days. After this period, the tags are updated.
Noticing a stranger on their territory, tuppies immediately begin to aggress, so fights and all kinds of skirmishes often occur between them.
The animals communicate with each other using various sound signals that resemble:
When the animal is set up aggressively, it emits a characteristic screech. Although the blunts are small, they are very scary in anger, so in a fierce fight one of the opponents may die, which often happens.
Scientists are very interested in the feather-tailed stupa's addiction to drinking fermented palm sap, which contains alcohol. The indigenous population knows about this property of the drink and successfully uses it, like the tupai, but the effect of intoxication in the animals was not noticed, their coordination does not suffer from drinking, which is simply amazing.
Interesting fact: Feather-tailed tupaya breaks down alcohol in the body in a different way than humans, so even large doses of drunk palm nectar do not start the process of intoxication of animals.
Social structure and reproduction
Tupai prefer loneliness, but some live in family groups consisting of parents and their offspring, matured young males leave the family, and females often live in their parental home. Animals love to eat alone. Tupai become sexually mature at the age of three months. For the most part, these animals are monogamous, creating strong family unions.
Interesting fact: Polygamy among tupai is inherent in individuals living in the open spaces of Singapore, where the territory of one male overlaps with the territories of several females at once.
The animals do not have a special wedding period, they are capable of breeding all year round, but they show the greatest zeal in this regard from early February to June. The female's pregnancy lasts for seven weeks. In the litter, there can be from one to three cubs, the weight of which does not exceed 10 grams. Babies are completely blind and helpless at birth, they do not have wool and their ear canals are closed. At the age of ten, they begin to hear, and begin to see clearly closer to the three-week period.
Tupai are not very caring parents, or rather, they can be called indifferent towards children. The mother lives separately from the babies, and treats them with her milk only once in two days, allocating only five to ten minutes for feeding, so the poor babies have a hard time. The children do not leave their nest until they are a month old, then they begin to make active sorties, soon they move to the parental nesting place, and a little later they gain complete independence, arranging their own life.
It should be added that common tupai live in natural conditions for only about three years. In favorable conditions of captivity, their life span increases several times, reaching up to nine and ten years. There are cases when domesticated tupai have overcome the twelve-year life limit.
Natural enemies of the tupai
Small-sized tupaevs have many enemies in natural harsh conditions. Terrestrial predators attack animals, attacks are made on animals and attacks from the air, some poisonous snake persons are of great danger. The natural enemies of the tupaya include: various feathered predators, the harza or the yellow-breasted marten, especially snakes, the Kramov Kufiya and the Green Snake.
Of course, inexperienced and therefore highly vulnerable young animals are most at risk. Tupaya is often saved by her nimbleness, dexterity and briskness, the ability to navigate perfectly in the tree crown and move quickly in it.
A person purposefully does not destroy these unusual animals, people do not eat tupaya meat for food, they consider it inedible, but animal fur is also of no value, therefore, as a subject of hunting, tupaya is not interesting. If we talk about the harm that animals cause to cultivated plantations, then it can be called insignificant, because of this, a person does not pursue tupay either.
Still, a person can be ranked among the enemies of the tupaya, because through his vigorous economic activity he has an indirect influence on many animals, including these. Invading the places of constant deployment of animals, cutting down forests, expanding and building cities, laying new highways, worsening the ecological situation in general, people are pushing the tupai from their usual favorable habitats, which negatively affects its life.
Population and species status
Such a variety of tupaya, like common tupaya, is considered not only the most studied, but also the most numerous. Although its habitat is very limited, the number of this animal remains at the proper level, not experiencing sharp jumps in the direction of decline or increase in livestock, but there are slight gradual shifts aimed at reducing the number of these animals. The density of common tupaya in different areas of habitat varies from 2 to 12 individuals per hectare.
Indian tupaya cannot be called numerous, because. it is endemic to India, its distribution area is too limited. The smooth-tailed tupai living in the north of the island of Borneo are considered a rather rare species of these animals, their population is small. Most of the tupai can be called little studied, so there is no clear information on the number of their populations.
Interesting fact: The tail of the common tupai is comparable in length to the length of its body, and sometimes it can even slightly exceed .
If we talk about the Tupaev family as a whole, then the number of its representatives is gradually decreasing. This happens as a result of human impact on the environment, people destroy the places of permanent residence of animals, which leads to their death, and, consequently, increases the risk of extinction of the species. Some species of tupaya are of concern to conservation organizations.
As previously reported, the tupaya population is slowly but declining. And some species are generally very few in number, so they require certain protection measures. There is evidence that of all the varieties of tupaevs, 2 are in danger, because. their population has been greatly reduced. These include smooth-tailed tupaya and mountain. The first is considered a rare species inhabiting Borneo. The second one lives on the island of Kalimantan and is listed in the international IUCN Red List and is in Appendix II of the CITES Convention on Trade in Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
This situation with the number of these two species has developed due to human economic activity. A person does not directly exterminate the tupaya, its meat and fur are of no value to him, but he affects animals indirectly, cutting down forests and changing the natural landscapes that the tupai have inhabited. All this leads to the fact that defenseless animals die. Do not forget that their life expectancy in natural difficult conditions is not at all long.
As for the most common common tupaya, this species causes the least concern among environmental organizations, therefore, special protective measures are not needs, but its numbers, anyway, are slowly declining, which is very sad and makes you think about all kinds of actions in advance in order to avoid tragic consequences in the future.
In conclusion, it remains to add that miniature, unusual, exotic, nimble Tupayas are of considerable interest to scientists, because disputes about their species affiliation still do not subside, many do not agree that they have been identified as a separate family. These discussions do not bother the animals at all, the tupai continue their peaceful tropical existence, which largely depends on tireless human activity, so you should think more often about its consequences.