The fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox ; or ; Malagasy pronunciation: ;) is a carnivorous mammal that is endemic to Madagascar. It is a member of the Eupleridae, a family of carnivorans closely related to the mongoose family Herpestidae.Show More
The fossa is the largest mammalian carnivore on Madagascar and has been compared to a small cougar, as it has convergently evolved many cat-like features. 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. A larger relative of the species, Cryptoprocta spelea, probably became extinct before 1400.
The species is widespread, although population densities are usually low. It is found solely in forested habitat, and actively hunts both by day and night. Over 50% of its diet consists of lemurs, the endemic primates found on the island; tenrecs, rodents, lizards, birds, and other animals are also documented as prey. Mating usually occurs in trees on horizontal limbs and can last for several hours. Litters range from one to six pups, which are born blind and toothless (altricial). Infants wean after 4.5 months and are independent after a year. Sexual maturity occurs around three to four years of age, and life expectancy in captivity is 20 years. The fossa is listed as a vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List. It is generally feared by the Malagasy people and is often protected by their fady taboo. The greatest threat to the fossa is habitat destruction.
Its classification has been controversial because its physical traits resemble those of cats, yet other traits suggest a close relationship with viverrids. 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 18–20 million years ago.Show Less
Cathemerality, sometimes called metaturnality, is the behavior in which an organism has sporadic and random intervals of activity during the day or...
A carnivore meaning 'meat eater' is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of a...
Arboreal locomotion is the locomotion of animals in trees. In habitats in which trees are present, animals have evolved to move in them. Some anima...
Terrestrial animals are animals that live predominantly or entirely on land (e.g., cats, ants, snails), as compared with aquatic animals, which liv...
A cursorial organism is one that is adapted specifically to run. An animal can be considered cursorial if it has the ability to run fast (e.g. chee...
Altricial animals are those species whose newly hatched or born young are relatively immobile. They lack hair or down, are not able to obtain food ...
Island endemic animals are found in a single defined geographic location, such as an island. Animals or organisms that are indigenous to a place ar...
Scansorial animals are those that are adapted to or specialized for climbing. Many animals climb not only in tress but also in other habitats, such...
A territory is a sociographical area that which an animal consistently defends against the conspecific competition (or, occasionally, against anima...
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Predators are animals that kill and eat other organisms, their prey. Predators may actively search for or pursue prey or wait for it, often conceal...
Polygyny is a mating system in which one female lives and mates with multiple males but each male only mates with a single female.
NoNot a migrant
Animals that do not make seasonal movements and stay in their native home ranges all year round are called not migrants or residents.
The unusual-looking fossa from Madagascar looks like a puma and has both canine and feline features. It is the largest mammalian carnivore on the island, and preys mainly on lemurs, pursuing them through the trees with remarkable speed and agility. The fossa is renowned for its appearance, its strength, and its peculiar mating rituals. It is declining due to habitat loss and fragmentation. The reserves where it currently lives are not large enough to support a manageable population, and urgent measures are necessary to secure the future of this unique mammal.
Endemic to Madagascar, fossas are found throughout the island, though in the Central Highlands, it is only in certain areas, like the Andringitra Massif. This species inhabits all forested areas on Madagascar, from mountainous areas down to the coastal lowlands.
The fossa is a solitary mammal that patrols territory as extensive as four square kilometers, marking its presence with scent from its anal gland. It is active during both the day and the night and is considered cathemeral; activity peaks may occur early in the morning, late in the afternoon, and late in the night. The fossa spends most of its time high in the trees but does move about and hunt down on the ground too. During the day they usually rest in a cave, hollow tree, or abandoned termite mound. These animals are remarkably agile at both leaping and climbing, with great help from their long, slender tail. Because they move from place to place on their flat soles, this gives them more stability and balance when making precarious landings on branches. Fossas communicate using sounds, scents, and visual signals. Vocalizations include purring, a threatening call, and a call of fear, consisting of "repeated loud, coarse inhalations and gasps of breath". A long, high yelp may function to attract other fossas.
Fossas are carnivores, they eat small mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and insects. They will also prey on lemurs.
Fossas have a most unusual mating system. Mating takes place from September to October. A female will occupy a site on her own, high in a tree, and a number of males will congregate below, and compete for mating rights. Over the period of a week, the female mates with several of the males. Once she has left the site, another female takes it over the site and also mates with several of the males. This means fossas may have a polyandrous mating system. Such ‘mating trees’ are used over many years. 2 to 4 young are born about three months later, are blind and helpless when born, and weigh about 100 g. Weaning takes place at about 4-5 months, but young remain with their mothers until the age of 15-20 months. Observations of captive individuals indicate that sexual maturity is reached at the age of 4 years.
Habitat loss is amongst the main reasons for the decline in the fossa population, fragmented populations becoming isolated in the forest patches that remain. However, the most important threat to their survival is probably local farmers, who see fossas as significant predators of poultry.
The fossa is widely distributed in Madagascar but it is very scarce and rare in most areas. According to the IUCN Red List, the total fossa population size is between 2,635 and 8,626 adults. Currently, this species is classified as Vulnerable (VU) and its numbers continue to decrease.
A fossa is the top mammalian predator on Madagascar, impacting the numbers of many species of small birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians that they eat.