Galidia elegansring-tailed mongoose

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Geographic Range

Ring-tailed mongooses, Galidia elegans, are native to Madagascar, an island off the southeast coast of Africa. They inhabit the northern, eastern, and west central areas of the island. (Garbutt, 1999)

Habitat

Galidia elegans thrives in the humid forested areas of Madagascar. This species occupies an area of approximately 650,878 ha. The forest type is subtropical to tropical dry forest. (Garbutt, 1999; Nowak, 1997)

Physical Description

Ring-tailed mongooses are relatively small, ranging between 32 and 38 cm in length and weighing from 700 to 900 g. These animals have a long, thin body, a round head, a pointed snout, and small, round ears. They have short legs, webbing on their feet, short claws, and hair on the underside of the feet. Their pelage is a deep reddish-brown across the head and body, and black on the feet. As the name implies, their long, bushy, raccoon-like tail is colored with black and red rings. (Garbutt, 1999; Nowak, 1997)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    700 to 900 g
    24.67 to 31.72 oz
  • Range length
    32 to 38 cm
    12.60 to 14.96 in

Reproduction

The mating system of this species has not been reported. However, these animals are found often alone or in pairs, and are not as social as many other viverids. This implies that they may be monogamous, although there are no data to confirm this. (Nowak, 1997)

Ring-tailed mongooses mate from April to November. After a gestation period of from 72 to 91 days, females give birth to a single offspring. Births occur between July and February. The young reach adult size at about one year of age, and reproductive maturity is attained in their second year. (Garbutt, 1999; Nowak, 1997)

  • Breeding interval
    These animals are apparently capable of breeding annually.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs between April and November.
  • Average number of offspring
    1
  • Average number of offspring
    1
    AnAge
  • Range gestation period
    72 to 91 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    2 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    737 days
    AnAge
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    2 years

No information is available detailing parental care in this species. However, it is likely that, as is the case for most carnivores, the young are altricial, and do not open their eyes until they are a few weeks old. The mother probably gives birth to her young in a den or burrow, where the infant remains protected until it is able to move around well in its environment. Because this is a mammalian species, we know that the female provides milk to her offspring. The duration of nursing has not been reported, nor the length of association between the young and parents after birth. It is not known if the father participates in parental care.

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

There are records of ring-tailed mongooses living up to thirteen years in captivity, but their lifespan in the wild is likely half that. (Nowak, 1997)

Behavior

Information on the social behavior of ring-tailed mongooses is somewhat conflicting. Some reports indicate that these animals are gregarious, and live in groups of about 5. Others indicate that these are not very social animals, and are seen most often alone or in pairs. The groups which have been reported are centered around a main male and female couple, and so might represent a family unit. (Garbutt, 1999; Nowak, 1997)

Galidia elegans is an agile mammal, and a proficient climber. They are primarily terrestrial, but more arboreal than other viverids. They are active during the day, and are reported to be very playful. Overnight, they nest in burrows they dig or in tree cavities. (Nowak, 1997)

Home Range

The home range size for these animals has not been reported.

Communication and Perception

Communication via scent marking is important in ring-tailed mongooses. Only the males have anal sacs. Males rub on tree trunks, branches, and rocks. (Garbutt, 1999)

Because these animals are diurnal, they probably have some visual communications, through body postures, with conspecifics. Tactile communication is always important in mammals, especially between mates, parents and their offspring, and rivals for territory or mating partners. Although no vocalizations are reported in the sources summarized here, it is likely that these animals also use noises to communicate with one another.

Food Habits

Ring-tailed mongooses are carnivorous, but also consume insects and fruit. Their food includes small mammals, invertebrates, reptiles, fish, birds, eggs, and fruit. (Garbutt, 1999; Nowak, 1997)

  • Primary Diet
  • carnivore
    • eats terrestrial vertebrates
  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • reptiles
  • fish
  • eggs
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • fruit

Predation

No information regarding predators was found.

Ecosystem Roles

Galidia elegans is a predator of small mammals and birds in the forests of Madagascar. It is also a competitor of the small Indian civet, Viverricula indica. (Garbutt, 1999)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

It is unlikely that this species has any positive impact on human economies.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Galidia elegans is known to scavange in human occupied areas and may be considered a pest. (Garbutt, 1999)

  • Negative Impacts
  • household pest

Conservation Status

Ring-tailed mongooses are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. The population is believed to have decreased by 20% over the past ten years due to habitat reduction and degredation. This problem of habitat loss is compounded by competition with small Indian civets, as well as with feral dogs and cats. (Garbutt, 1999; "The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species", 2002)

Contributors

Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Kristen Nowicki (author), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Chris Yahnke (editor, instructor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Glossary

Ethiopian

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

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

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

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.

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

forest

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

island endemic

animals that live only on an island or set of islands.

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).

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.

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

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.

solitary

lives alone

tactile

uses touch to communicate

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

visual

uses sight to communicate

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

References

IUCN. 2002. "The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species" (On-line ). Accessed 11/22/02 at http://www.redlist.org/search/details.php?species=39426.

Garbutt, N. 1999. Mammals of Madagascar. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Nowak, R. 1997. "Walker's Mammals of the World Online" (On-line). Accessed November 02, 2002 at http://www.press.jhu.edu/books/walkers_mammals_of_the_world/carnivora/carnivora.viverridae.galidia.html.