The American badger, Taxidea taxus, is a mustelid carnivoran with a boldly patterned face and a reputation for ferocity. Its scientific name means "like a badger," in reference to its similarity of appearance with the Eurasian badger, Meles meles. The name "badger" probably refers to the "badges" or brownish-black patches of fur on its cheeks. The snout and crown of the head are also black. The facial markings also include a white throat and base of the ears, and a white stripe that extends from behind the nose, over the head, and onto the shoulders. The stripe often extends down to the rump in southwestern Taxidea.
Taxidea is a relatively large mustelid, weighing up to 12 kg (26.5 lbs), with a head and body length range of 42-72 cm (16.5 -28 in). Its tail is relatively short, only 10-15 cm (4-6 in). It is equipped with long foreclaws and powerful front legs for a fossorial (digging) lifestyle. Taxidea excavates burrows for dens and to capture prey. The primary prey of Taxidea are rodents and other small vertebrates. The sense of hearing is acute in Taxidea, as indicated by the inflated and septate tympanic bullae of the skull.
The skull of Taxidea is wedge-shaped, the occiput triangular in outline. The rostrum is short and equipped with large upper and lower canines. The powerful jaws and complex teeth of Taxidea are well-suited for processing prey. Taxidea's dental formula is: I 3/3; C 1/1; P 3/3; M 1/2. The P4 has a medial shelf and a hypocone. Transverse rows of cusps on the M1 are distinctive, yet exhibit some variation within the genus. The m1 has a well-developed trigonid and a talonid with a central hypoconid and entoconid.
The genus Taxidea first appeared in North America about 6 million years ago. The fossil remains of at least two individual Taxidea were recovered from Yepómera, Chihuahua, Mexico, and are the oldest known to date. During the Pleistocene, the range of Taxidea extended north into Alaska and as far east as Maryland and Pennsylvania. Today Taxidea ranges from the western United States, southern British Columbia and northern Alberta, eastward into Ohio. Its southern distribution includes Baja California and northern and central Mexico.
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Long, C. A. 1975. Growth and development of the teeth and skull of the wild North American badger, Taxidea taxus. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 77(2):106-120.
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Owen, P. R. 2000. Phylogenetic relationships among American badgers (Taxidiinae) and the evolution of the badger ecomorph. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, The University of Texas at Austin, 322 pp. + CD-ROM.
Owen, P. R. 2001. Description of a new genus and species of American badger (Taxidiinae) utilizing high-resolution X-ray computed tomography. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 21(Suppl.3):86A.
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Pocock, R. I. 1920. On the external and cranial characters of the European badger (Meles) and of the American badger (Taxidea). Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1920(29):423-435.
Pocock, R. I. 1925. The external characters of an American badger (Taxidea taxus) and an American mink (Mustela vison), recently exhibited in the Society's Gardens. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1921:473-486.
Quaife, L. R. 1978. The form and function of the North American badger (Taxidea taxus) in relation to its fossorial way of life. M.Sc. thesis, University of Calgary, 197 pp.
Shufeldt, R. W. 1922. Remarkable changes in the skull of an American badger (Taxidea taxus) due to advanced age. Journal of Mammalogy 3:173-175.
Stock, C. 1948. Restos de tejón (Taxidea), Pliocénico del occidente de Chihuahua. Boletín de la Sociedad Geológica Mexicana 13:69-76.
Waterhouse, G. R. 1838. On the skull and dentition of the American badger (Meles labradoria). Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1838(6):153-154.
The brain of Taxidea taxus (Comparative Mammalian Brain Collections website)
Taxidea taxus on The Animal Diversity Web (The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology)
Steve Jackson's Brockwatch Badger Pages (Information on the world's extant badgers)