Covid-19 could have come from raccoon dogs: What are they?

5 days ago 26

WUHAN - On Thursday, scientists unveiled new data on the possible origins of the Covid-19 pandemic – and put a strange, squat creature squarely in the spotlight.

Meet the raccoon dog. It earns its name from its black facial markings, which give the animal a masked appearance and a more-than-passing resemblance to those infamous raiders of urban trash cans.

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

Scientists had previously announced that swabs from the market had tested positive for the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. The new data revealed that some of these same swabs also contained substantial genetic material from raccoon dogs.

The findings did not prove that raccoon dogs were infected with the virus or that they had passed it on to humans. But they are consistent with the possibility that wild animals at the market may have set off the Covid-19 pandemic.

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

What are raccoon dogs?

Despite their name, raccoon dogs are not close relatives of raccoons. They are members of the canid family, a group that also includes domestic dogs, and are most closely related to foxes.

Raccoon dogs are omnivores, dining on food sources such as rodents and berries. Although they appear svelte in the summer, they pack on the pounds for winter, when their fur also becomes thicker. They are the only canid species known to hibernate and are monogamous, often living in pairs.

Where do they live?

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. They are sometimes hunted as pests.

Why are they farmed and sold?


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