The Marsh Mongoose is widely distributed over all the better-watered parts of Africa.
Mongooses range from sea level up to 2,500 meters, but they prefer swampy vegetation bordering rivers and lakes. There are records of mongooses inhabiting hilly regions where there is little water and no aquatic fauna to feed on. Marsh mongooses are an important member of the small community of animals specially adapted to Papyrus swamps. Due to the deoxygenated water of the Papyrus swamp, only air breathing fish, frogs, insect larvae, snails, and mongooses inhabit the region.
This medium-sized dark-brown animal is one of the more highly specialized mongooses. The neck, body and tail are covered with thick, shaggy fur while the fur on the hands and feet is short and sleek. The hand are extremely soft and sensitive and the thumb functions as a passive prop, enhancing the animal's purchase on a slippery surface. The premolar teeth are stout and used for crushing hard foods and the lower canines are particularly well-developed.
Little is known about their sexual behavior, but it is known that they breed twice a year, once in the middle of the dry season and once in the rains. The female prepares a nest of dry grass in a hole. If there are no holes available in swampy areas, the young are raised on a nest of reeds, grass, and sticks . Up to three young per litter have been recorded. Sometimes a second adult also accompanies the family. The young usually are weaned and depart from their birthplace in a few months.
Marsh mongooses are regular in their habits and follow pathways that are smooth and well-defined. The pathways tend to follow rivers or shorelines, often hidden by tall grass and reed clumps. To catch a bird, the mongoose lies on its back and looks as if it's sunbathing. In this position, the pale, pink anal area assumes a startling prominence against the surrounding dark fur. This display is claimed to induce birds to approach and peck at the anus, whereupon the mongoose seizes the bird. When approached by a threating presence, the mongoose makes a low growl, which may be reinforced by sudden explosive barking growls in a deeper tone. When the mongoose is cornered or distressed, it ejects jets of foul brown fluid from its anal sacs. Mongooses make a high-pitched cry and an open-mouthed bleat when excited. They are frequently seen singly. They are highly territorial, and their territories are spaced along their linear habitat.
This versatile, omnivorous mongoose exploits a wide range of swampy conditions where many kinds of food are found. Freshwater crabs, mussels and snails are major foods; reptiles and birds and their eggs, large insects and their larvae, millipedes and various fruits also constitute part of the diet. These mongooses investigate every hole or crevice along river banks often finding hidden crabs or frogs. When they are looking for food in ponds they patiently and systematically work their hands through the mud and water. While foraging, the mongoose often holds its head out of the water. The sifting motion of the hands is rapid and continous until food is located. Once an item is found, it is pulled out of the water and may be taken relatively slowly into the mouth. If the prey strugggles, it is killed with a bite. Any hard objects such as mussels, crabs and eggs are hurled down with considerable force to break open the shell.
They become very tame when caught young and are clean and easy to keep.
With a fairly wide distribution and large populations, these animals seem unlikely to become endangered soon.
Wojtek Nocon (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.
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.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
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.
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.
scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
uses touch to communicate
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.
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.
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.
Kingdom, Jonathan. East African Mammals. The University of Chicago Press, 1989.
Nowak, Ronald. Walker's Mammals of the World. John Hopkins University Press, 1983.