Mungos gambianusGambian mongoose

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Geographic Range

Mungos gambianus or Gambian mongooses, are endemic carnivores of West Africa, restricted from Gambia to Senegal in the northern range. Gambian mongooses also occur east to west, as far as Nigeria, limited by the natural eastern barrier formed by the Niger River. Records of Gambian mongooses exist for Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo. (Van Rompaey, et al., 2012)

Habitat

Gambian mongooses primarily inhabit dry to semi-moist habitats in both woodlands and savannahs and have been documented in grasslands, coastal scrub and natural areas interspersed with cultivated forests. (Hunter, 2011; Sillero-Zubiri and Bassignani, 2001; Stuart and Stuart, 2006)

Physical Description

Gambian mongooses are small carnivores in the family Herpestidae. They are stocky compared to other mongooses, with a typical weight of 1.0 to 2.2 kg. Their body length averages 43 cm (ranging from 30 to 45 cm), with an average tail length of 24 cm (ranging from 23 to 29 cm). (Hunter, 2011; Ogilby, 1834)

Gambian mongooses' pelage varies in color and uniformity, but their fur is typically grey and brown on the head, neck and shoulders. Their fur color transitions caudally, from grey-brown on their upper back to red on their thighs. Their grey-brown fur mixes with red fur below their shoulders, down their back, and onto their hips and thighs. Their tail fur is grey and brown, interspersed with black. Their tail ends with a small, distal tuft of black fur. Gambian mongooses have unique markings. A patch of yellow to pale silver-brown fur covers their throat. Red fur covers their body ventrally on their breast, belly and their inner limbs. Their feet are covered in black fur. They also have bilateral dark fur bands on their neck. Their neck bands are black or dark brown and extend horizontally, from their ear to their shoulder. (Hunter, 2011; Ogilby, 1834)

Gambian mongooses do not exhibit any obvious sexual dimorphism, but research is limited and Gambian mongooses are not well-represented in collections. Gambian mongooses are similar in appearance to banded mongooses (Mungos mungo), but Gambian mongooses have smaller skulls and teeth. Banded mongooses have 10 to 15 dark dorsal stripes that are absent in Gambian mongooses, a clear distinction between the two species. (Colyn, et al., 2000; Hunter, 2011)

  • Range mass
    1 to 2.2 kg
    2.20 to 4.85 lb
  • Range length
    30 to 45 cm
    11.81 to 17.72 in
  • Average length
    43 cm
    16.93 in

Reproduction

Mating systems have not been well-studied in Gambian mongooses, but males of the closely-related banded mongooses exhibit aggressive mate-guarding behaviors that include following females during foraging, remaining nearby and displaying aggression toward other approaching males with snapping, lunging and pouncing behaviors. Female banded mongooses may mate with non-mate guarding males if separated and may commit infanticide. Gambian mongooses may also exhibit these behaviors. (Cant, 2000)

Gambian mongooses have not been studied as extensively as their close relative, banded mongooses, so information is limited on their reproductive behavior. Reports indicate that juveniles emerge from their dens in January, February, June and September, depending on their geographic location. Banded mongooses exhibit synchronous estrus and parturition; this may be similar in Gambian mongooses. The reproduction of Gambian mongooses has been poorly described, with no information available on their breeding interval, season, number of offspring, gestation period, time to independence or average age at reproductive maturity. (Cant, 2000; Hunter, 2011)

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • iteroparous
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual

Gambian mongooses are social creatures, who may exhibit cooperative breeding as seen in congenerics. In other species of the genus Mungos, cooperative breeding and alloparental care of young, including den babysitters, grooming, playing and food provisioning are common behaviors. (Hunter, 2011)

Lifespan/Longevity

Lifespan data for Gambian mongooses is unavailable in the literature, but congenerics have reportedly lived up to 17 years in captivity. Large contributors to mortality in the genus Mungos are predation and infanticide, with 72% mortality reported from birth to independence in banded mongooses. (Hunter, 2011)

Behavior

Gambian mongooses are gregarious, social carnivores, typically observed in groups of 5 to 7 individuals while foraging. However, groups of 10 to 40 mongooses have been reported foraging together. Gambian mongooses flee to thickets and run behind termite mounds when startled. Troops in overlapping territories are assumed to be reciprocally intolerant, as observed in other territorial mongoose species. Gambian mongooses are diurnal and are not arboreal. (Adeyemi, et al., 2009; Sillero-Zubiri and Bassignani, 2001)

A cooperative breeding strategy that occurs in several mongoose species, is the use of helper mongooses in pup rearing. The helper mongooses are known as escorts, and they assist pups in many aspects of daily life, even though they are not the genetic parents. Escorts are responsible for food provisioning, playing, grooming and other pup care in banded mongooses and likely serve the same role in Gambian mongooses. (Gilchrist, 2004)

Home Range

No information is available on the home range sizes of Gambian mongooses.

Communication and Perception

Communication and perception are not reported in the literature for Gambian mongooses.

Food Habits

Gambian mongooses are insectivorous, social foragers, but their feeding ecology is poorly studied. They are described as strictly diurnal foragers. Available reports suggest they have a very similar diet to banded mongooses, including some soil arthropods and a variety of small mammalian and reptilian vertebrates. (Adeyemi, et al., 2009; Hunter, 2011)

  • Animal Foods
  • mammals
  • reptiles
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods

Predation

There is little information about predation of Gambian mongooses, but large raptors may be their main predators. Crowned eagles (Stephanoaetus coronatus) are a known predator of the sympatric Liberian mongooses (Liberiictis kuhni). (Hunter, 2011)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Gambian mongooses prey upon small vertebrates and arthropods, but not much is known about their ecosystem roles. (Hunter, 2011)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

There is little information on the economic importance of Gambian mongooses to humans, but closely related species can be raised as tame pets. Sometimes Gambian mongooses are sold as bush meat. (Ladd, 2000; Ziegler, et al., 2002)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

As with other mongoose species, Gambian mongooses could potentially be vectors for parasites and infectious diseases, but no conclusive information is currently available. (Ladd, 2000)

Conservation Status

Gambian mongooses are a species of Least Concern according to the IUCN. They have populations in many parks in Africa and there are no major threats to the species at this time. (Van Rompaey, et al., 2012)

Contributors

Kristin Denryter (author), Northern Michigan University, John Bruggink (editor), Northern Michigan University, Leila Siciliano Martina (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.

Glossary

Ethiopian

living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

arboreal

Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

cooperative breeder

helpers provide assistance in raising young that are not their own

cryptic

having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

food

A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

omnivore

an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

References

Adeyemi, C., M. Djagoun, P. Gaubert. 2009. Small carnivores from southern Benin: a preliminary assessment of diversity and hunting pressure. Small Carnivore Conservation, 40: 1-10.

Cant, M. 2000. Social control of reproduction in banded mongooses. Animal Behaviour, 59: 147-158.

Colyn, M., S. Dufour, H. Van Rompaey. 2000. First observation of the Gambian mongoose, Mungos gambianus, in Guinea (Conakry). Small Carnivore Conservation, 23: 10-12. Accessed February 16, 2013 at http://www.smallcarnivoreconservation.org/sccwiki/images/7/7e/SCC_23.pdf.

Gilchrist, J. 2004. Pup escorting in the communal breeding banded mongoose: behavior, benefits, and maintenance. Behavioral Ecology, 15: 952-960.

Hunter, L. 2011. Carnivores of the World. Princeton, NJ, USA: Princeton University Press.

Ladd, R. 2000. "Mungos mungo banded mongoose" (On-line). Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 08, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Mungos_mungo/.

Ogilby, W. 1834. Genus Herpestes Ill. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 2: 102-3.

Sillero-Zubiri, C., F. Bassignani. 2001. Observation of large groups of Gambian mongoose (Mungos gambiani, Ogilby 1835) in southeastern Senegal. Hystrix the Italian Journal of Mammalogy, 12(1): 7-9. Accessed February 16, 2013 at http://www.italian-journal-of-mammalogy.it/article/view/4165.

Stuart, C., T. Stuart. 2006. Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Africa. Cape Town, South Africa: Struik Nature.

Van Rompaey, H., C. Sillero-Zubiri, M. Hoffmann. 2012. "Mungos gambianus" (On-line). IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed April 08, 2013 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/full/13922/0.

Ziegler, S., G. Nikolaus, R. Hutterer. 2002. High mammalian diversity in the newly established National Park of Upper Niger, Republic of Guinea. Oryx, 36(1): 73-80. Accessed February 16, 2013 at http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayFulltext?type=1&fid=96882&jid=ORX&volumeId=36&issueId=01&aid=96881.