The family Eupleridae, the Malagasy carnivores, consists of eight species and seven genera in two subfamilies. The diversity of form and function in this family is such that some have suggested it be split into several families. (Gaubert, et al., 2005; Wilson and Reeder, 2005)
Species in the family Eupleridae are restricted to the island of Madagascar. (Nowak, 1999)
Aside from molecular synapomorphies, euplerids have few traits in common. They tend to have slender bodies with relatively small heads and pointed rostra, although fossas (Cryptoprocta ferox) are more cat-like in appearance, with blunt snouts. Head and body length ranges from 250 mm in Mungotictis and Salanoia to 800 mm in adult male Cryptoprocta. The thick, soft pelage is gray or brown, and spotted or striped in all but Eupleres and Cryptoprocta. The foot posture is plantigrade or digitigrade. (Nowak, 1999)
Mating systems in Eupleridae vary, as social structure varies from species to species. Fossas form monogamous pairs, while species in the genera Galidia, Mungotictis, and Salanoia are either found alone or in pairs, suggesting that they are monogamous within, but not across, breeding seasons. Species in the genera Eupleres and Galidictis live alone, in pairs, or in small family groups, which also might indicate monogamy. Mungotictis individuals live in small groups with several adults of each sex, but it is not known whether all of the adults within a group breed. Cryptoprocta individuals are strictly solitary, suggesting a polygynous or polygynandrous mating system. (Nowak, 1999)
Euplerids have definite breeding seasons, which vary by species and last anywhere from two to eight months. Gestation lasts around three months. Usually there are just one or two young per litter, though Cryptoprocta can have up to four. Weaning takes place between two and four and a half months. (Nowak, 1999)
Like all eutherian mammals, euplerid females nuture their young through a placenta until the young are born. They then provide their offspring with milk for two to four and a half months. Females of some genera, such as Cryptoprocta, select dens in which to bear and nurse their young. Mungotictis individuals live in family groups of several adults, juveniles, and young; thus, offspring have an association with their parents beyond weaning. (Nowak, 1999)
Euplerids exhibit a range of lifestyles, from diurnal to nocturnal, and from arboreal to terrestrial. When they are not active, they shelter in protected spots, such as tree hollows, crevices, burrows, or caves. Locomotion is plantigrade or digitigrade. Mungotictis decemlineata have partially webbed toes and are good swimmers. As mentioned above, social habits range from strictly solitary to group living. Some species (Fossa and Cryptoprocta) vigorously defend territories against other pairs or individuals. (Nowak, 1999)
Like other carnivores, euplerids can perceive visual, acoustic, chemical, and tactile signals. Communication is through scent in the form of glandular secretions and through a variety of cries, groans, and other vocalizations. (Nowak, 1999)
Euplerids are primarily carnivorous, consuming small mammals, birds, reptiles, frogs, insects, crustaceans, and other invertebrates. Eupleres goudotii is specialized for eating intertebrates such as earthworms. Fossa fossana and Galidia elegans may include some fruit in their diets in addition to animal matter. (Nowak, 1999)
No information is available on the specific predators of euplerids, besides humans and domestic dogs, both of which are not native to Madagascar. Cryptic coloration in the form of spots and stripes on neutral backgrounds probably conceals most species well. Eupleres goudotii is known to either run or freeze when disturbed, and Cryptoprocta ferox releases a foul-smelling substance from its anal glands when it is alarmed. Large birds of prey or large snakes are potential predators. (Nowak, 1999; Schreiber, et al., 1989)
Euplerids that eat fruit are primary consumers, and all euplerids are secondary and higher-level consumers, because they eat a variety of animal matter. They, in turn, are eaten by humans and domestic dogs, and possibly other predators as well. Cryptoprocta ferox is the largest native predator on Madagascar and, except for humans, is at the top of the food chain. (Nowak, 1999; Schreiber, et al., 1989)
All species in this family are threatened. Fossa fossana, Galidia elegans, Galidictis fasciata, and Salanoia concolor are considered vulnerable by the IUCN, and Cryptoprocta ferox, Eupleres goudotii, Galidictis grandidieri, and Mungotictis decemlineata are considered endangered. Cryptoprocta ferox, Eupleres goudotii, and Fossa fossana are on Appendix II of CITES. Habitat destruction in the form of deforestation is the main cause of their decline, though hunting by humans and predation by dogs also impact populations. (IUCN, 2006; Nowak, 1999; Schreiber, et al., 1989)
Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.
Allison Poor (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.
uses sound to communicate
Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.
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.
a wetland area rich in accumulated plant material and with acidic soils surrounding a body of open water. Bogs have a flora dominated by sedges, heaths, and sphagnum.
an animal that mainly eats meat
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
active at dawn and dusk
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.
in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.
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.
union of egg and spermatozoan
A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
an animal that mainly eats fruit
An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.
An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.
animals that live only on an island or set of islands.
marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.
Having one mate at a time.
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.
active during the night
an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals
the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.
having more than one female as a mate at one time
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.
communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them
scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.
breeding is confined to a particular season
remains in the same area
offspring are all produced in a single group (litter, clutch, etc.), after which the parent usually dies. Semelparous organisms often only live through a single season/year (or other periodic change in conditions) but may live for many seasons. In both cases reproduction occurs as a single investment of energy in offspring, with no future chance for investment in reproduction.
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
associates with others of its species; forms social groups.
a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.
uses touch to communicate
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
Living on the ground.
defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement
the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.
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.
uses sight to communicate
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
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