more weird and magnificent mustelids
August 25, 2019 10:26 AM   Subscribe

The greater grison is Central America's answer to the honey badger. (It is largely greater in relation to the lesser grison, which lives a ways further south.) Grisons have been difficult to study on account of small heads and thick necks, making radio-collars especially difficult. Unusually for a mammal, the grison seems to be mostly diurnal. They are said to be relatively tameable as pets, and are undeniably adorable when young.

While the grison is often compared to the honey badger it closely resembles in both appearance and behavior, honey badgers are actually not close relatives within the weasel family: grisons are more closely related to true weasels and to otters.
posted by sciatrix (20 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Awww the little web-footed chinchilla hunters.
posted by jessamyn at 10:58 AM on August 25 [4 favorites]

The fact that there are... idk dozens if not hundreds of genuses of animals i've never even heard of is a great reason as any to keep on living.
posted by FirstMateKate at 11:01 AM on August 25 [19 favorites]

Awesome! I particularly liked the lesser grison. It would be fun to use one for chinchilla hunting, except that chinchillas are also extremely cute.
posted by Redstart at 11:33 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]

Fun fact : the greater grison is one of surprisingly few species that might hunt singing mice, who are also diurnal, by listening for their songs. They don't overlap as much in habitat as some of my other contenders, preferring slightly lower elevations and slightly damper habitats than the mice, but they're right up there on my list. The mice sing at frequencies that are just above the upper limit for birds that specialize in hearing (like owls) to pick up, and well above the upper limit for most diurnal birds and all snakes to hear. Because most mammalian predators are nocturnal, singing mice can get away with making really really loud vocalizations with comparatively minimal predation risk. Minimal, however, doesn't mean none... and weasels do pretty well in Central America.

Mammals are btw really, really good at high frequency hearing. Humans are about average with an upper bound of about 20kHz, but there are lots of rodents and several small predators that can get up into frequencies of around 100kHz.
posted by sciatrix at 12:06 PM on August 25 [17 favorites]

So it's a weasel that lied down on its back in some flour. It could probably be worked into a Pepe Le Pew cartoon.
posted by Bee'sWing at 12:30 PM on August 25

Mustelidae is the greatest family of mammals.
posted by slkinsey at 1:15 PM on August 25 [5 favorites]

Otters have long been my favorite mustalid, partly because of otter-colonies located close to my Coastal Central California location, but the grisons, greater and lesser, are winning me over. And "Greater Grison" sounds like an excellent sock puppet name to register here (could it be the basis for a reverse #postyouranimal?). Then I realized why the name appealed to me: the similarity to Gus Grissom, one of the Original Mercury Program Astronauts. Fy high, Gus Grison!
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:20 PM on August 25 [2 favorites]

Huh! So that's who Edward Gorey was drawing!
posted by Don Pepino at 2:21 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]

Okay so the lesser grison is pretty fucking cute. Look at that snoooooot! Also thank you for introducing me to the "Monday Mustelid" series, I want to collect them all
posted by en forme de poire at 3:37 PM on August 25 [3 favorites]

They are said to be relatively tameable as pets

For anyone else who immediately googled this: they have a skunk spray situation going on, which is probably for the best, or I would add them to my crazy rich person fantasy pet list.

Still cute.
posted by schadenfrau at 4:11 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]

I think this may be a job for the radio tracking belt vs. the collar. Sheesh--scientists.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 5:23 PM on August 25

Spoken as someone who's never tried to fasten a belt around an inquisitive, bendy creature prone to putting everything in its mouth.

There's a reason that collars are popular, and it's not really much to do with cats and dogs. It's that wild animals tend to respond to sudden nonconsensual attire by trying to immediately remove it, and putting radiotags somewhere where it's relatively hard for teeth to get purchase greatly increases the odds of letting whatever it is be left in place long enough to learn something.
posted by sciatrix at 5:45 PM on August 25 [6 favorites]

I would occasionally see the Lessers in La Pampa in Argentina....then we had a influx of wild guinea pigs for some reason...the next year one could sit in the garden and watch the grisons catching one every half hour or so. Hard to know who to root for, both very cute.
posted by conifer at 11:13 PM on August 25 [2 favorites]

Thank you!! I saw a greater grison once in Costa Rica and had no idea what it was. I've always wondered, and now I know!
posted by carmicha at 8:23 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]

Hah yes, carmicha, I also saw one of these in Costa Rica. I'm now racking my brains trying to remember what it was called in local Spanish. Google thinks it's just called a grisón but that isn't ringing a bell.
posted by librarylis at 9:56 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]

fffck--hurón is popular, as is grisón. IUCN also lists perro de agua, which seems unlikely but might be what you heard?

I actually went looking for Spanish-language information for this post, but found them nigh impossible to Google with my very rusty Spanish. Huron in particular kept bringing me to Canada and telling me about fishers, which... while I like fishers, they weren't very germane to this post.
posted by sciatrix at 10:07 AM on August 26

> The fact that there are... idk dozens if not hundreds of genuses of animals i've never even heard of is a great reason as any to keep on living.
I adore this sentiment. But the analytical part of me believed this might be a vast underestimate of the number of animal genera you don't know, so I looked it up. The total number of animal genera seems to be probably between 100,000 and 200,000. A couple of very different sources:
  • Wikipedia cites the Interim Register of Marine and Nonmarine Genera as including 188,158 "accepted" animal genera, including both extant and fossil animals.
  • Figure 1 of this PLOS paper shows how the number of known animal genera has grown over time, approaching a number upwards of 100,000. Most animal species are probably unknown to science today (that is, there are believed to be many more undiscovered than discovered animal species), but most animal genera are probably known already.
In a thread earlier this week, I learned about the existence of "book scorpions", or pseudoscorpions. There are 430 genera of pseudoscorpion. So your surmise is precisely true, if you simply replace "animals" with "pseudoscorpions".
posted by Syllepsis at 10:34 PM on August 27

I actually went looking for Spanish-language information for this post, but found them nigh impossible to Google with my very rusty Spanish. Huron in particular kept bringing me to Canada and telling me about fishers

It looks like the the Spanish Wikipedia article used huroncito rather than huron, so lots of the results reflect that or the scientific name (Galictis vittata).

There's a hilarious YT video of an Animal Planet Latinoamérica host getting way too close to one.
There's also a really interesting, slightly dramatized story from a UNAM journal of a US adventurer who asked a Mexican governor for his pet grisón in 1901.
posted by librarylis at 2:52 PM on August 28 [2 favorites]

I assume that grison in the Animal Planet is someone's semi-pet? I can't imagine a truly wild grison would be so friendly with a human.
posted by tavella at 3:27 PM on August 28

So very cool to learn about these guys!
posted by mixedmetaphors at 8:35 AM on August 30

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