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The slightly rounded ears are also bordered by white fur.
Raccoons are assumed to recognize the facial expression and posture of other members of their species more quickly because of the conspicuous facial coloration and the alternating light and dark rings on the tail.
The two most widespread subspecies are the eastern raccoon (Procyon lotor lotor) and the Upper Mississippi Valley raccoon (Procyon lotor hirtus). states and Canadian provinces to the north of South Carolina and Tennessee.
Both share a comparatively dark coat with long hairs, but the Upper Mississippi Valley raccoon is larger than the eastern raccoon. The adjacent range of the Upper Mississippi Valley raccoon covers all U. states and Canadian provinces to the north of Louisiana, Texas and New Mexico.
These are the Bahamian raccoon and Guadeloupe raccoon, which are very similar to each other; the Tres Marias raccoon, which is larger than average and has an angular skull; and the extinct Barbados raccoon.
Studies of their morphological and genetic traits in 1999, 20 led all these island raccoons to be listed as subspecies of the common raccoon in Mammal Species of the World's third edition.
Unlike other procyonids, such as the crab-eating raccoon (Procyon cancrivorus), the ancestors of the common raccoon left tropical and subtropical areas and migrated farther north about 2.5 million years ago, in a migration that has been confirmed by the discovery of fossils in the Great Plains dating back to the middle of the Pliocene.
The four smallest raccoon subspecies, with a typical weight of 1.8 to 2.7 kg (4.0 to 6.0 lb), live along the southern coast of Florida and on the adjacent islands; an example is the Ten Thousand Island raccoon (Procyon lotor marinus).
It was recorded on John Smith's list of Powhatan words as aroughcun, and on that of William Strachey as arathkone.
In the 1830s, the United States Whig Party used the raccoon as an emblem, causing them to be pejoratively known as 'coons' by their political opponents, who saw them as too sympathetic to African-Americans.
It can range from 5 to 26 kilograms (10 to 60 lb), but is usually between 5 and 12 kilograms (10 and 30 lb).
The smallest specimens live in southern Florida, while those near the northern limits of the raccoon's range tend to be the largest (see Bergmann's rule).