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Fossa - Cryptoprocta ferox

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Fossa - Cryptoprocta ferox

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The fossa (/ˈfɒsə/ or /ˈfuːsə/;[3] Malagasy Malagasy pronunciation: [ˈfusə̥]Cryptoprocta ferox) is a cat-like, carnivorous mammalendemic to Madagascar. It is a member of the Eupleridae, a family of carnivorans closely related to the mongoose family (Herpestidae). Its classification has been controversial because its physical traits resemble those of cats, yet other traits suggest a close relationship with viverrids (most civets and their relatives). Its classification, along with that of the other Malagasy carnivores, influenced hypotheses about how many times mammalian carnivores have colonized Madagascar. With genetic studies demonstrating that the fossa and all other Malagasy carnivores are most closely related to each other (forming a clade, recognized as the family Eupleridae), carnivorans are now thought to have colonized the island once, around 18 to 20 million years ago.

The fossa is the largest mammalian carnivoreon the island of Madagascar and has been compared to a small cougar. Adults have a head-body length of 70–80 cm (28–31 in) and weigh between 5.5 and 8.6 kg (12 and 19 lb), with the males larger than the females. It has semi-retractable claws (meaning it can extend but not retract its claws fully) and flexible ankles that allow it to climb up and down trees head-first, and also support jumping from tree to tree. The fossa is unique within its family for the shape of its genitalia, which share traits with those of cats and hyenas.


The fossa was formally described by Edward Turner Bennett on the basis of a specimen from Madagascar sent by Charles Telfair in 1833.[8] The common name is the same as the generic name of the Malagasy civet(Fossa fossana), but they are different species. Because of shared physical traits with civetsmongooses, and cats (Felidae), its classification has been controversial. Bennett originally placed the fossa as a type of civet in the family Viverridae, a classification that long remained popular among taxonomists. Its compact braincase, large eye sockets, retractable claws, and specialized carnivorous dentition have also led some taxonomists to associate it with the felids.[9] In 1939, William King Gregory and Milo Hellman placed the fossa in its own subfamily within Felidae, the Cryptoproctinae. George Gaylord Simpsonplaced it back in Viverridae in 1945, still within its own subfamily, yet conceded it had many cat-like characteristics.[4][10]

An extinct relative of the fossa was described in 1902 from subfossil remains and recognized as a separate species, Cryptoprocta spelea, in 1935. This species was larger than the living fossa (with a body mass estimate roughly twice as great), but otherwise similar.[4][14] Across Madagascar, people distinguish two kinds of fossa—a large fosa mainty ("black fossa") and the smaller fosa mena ("reddish fossa")—and a white form has been reported in the southwest. It is unclear whether this is purely folklore or individual variation—related to sex, age or instances of melanism and leucism—or whether there is indeed more than one species of living fossa.


*This image is copyright of its original author


Overall, the fossa has features in common with three different carnivoran families, leading researchers to place it and other members of Eupleridae alternatively in Herpestidae, Viverridae, and Felidae. Felid features are primarily those associated with eating and digestion, including tooth shape and facial portions of the skull, the tongue, and the digestive tract,[4] typical of its exclusively carnivorous diet.[9] The remainder of the skull most closely resembles skulls of genus Viverra, while the general body structure is most similar to that of various members of Herpestidae. The permanent dentition is 3.1.3-4.13.1.3-4.1 (three incisors, one canine, three or four premolars, and one molaron each side of both the upper and lower jaws), with the deciduous formula being similar but lacking the fourth premolar and the molar. The fossa has a large, prominent rhinarium similar to that of viverrids, but has comparatively larger, round ears, almost as large as those of a similarly sized felid. Its facial vibrissae (whiskers) are long, with the longest being longer than its head. Like some mongoose genera, particularly Galidia (which is now in the fossa's own family, Eupleridae) and Herpestes (of Herpestidae), it has carpalvibrissae as well. Its claws are retractile, but unlike those of Felidae species, they are not hidden in skin sheaths. 
The fossa is a carnivore that hunts small to medium-sized animals. One of eight carnivorous species endemic to Madagascar, the fossa is the island's largest surviving endemic terrestrial mammal and the only predator capable of preying upon adults of all extant lemur species,[26][29] the largest of which can weigh as much as 90 percent of the weight of the average fossa.[9][29]Although it is the predominant predator of lemurs,[29][30] reports of its dietary habits demonstrate a wide variety of prey selectivity and specialization depending on habitat and season; diet does not vary by sex. While the fossa is thought to be a lemur specialist in Ranomafana National Park,[31] its diet is more variable in other rain forest habitats.
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