Mydaus marcheiPalawan stink badger

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Geographic Range

Mydaus marchei is restricted to only 2 of the Philippine Islands. It is found on Palawan (hence one of its common names )and Busuanga, both located north and east of Borneo. (Nowak, 1999)

Habitat

The preferred habitat of Palawan stink badgers appears to be cultivated areas and grassland thickets. These habitats occur on the western and eastern portions of the island of Palawan. No other information regarding typical stink badger habitat is currently available. (Nowak, 1999)

Physical Description

Palawan stink badgers have many of the same fossorial adaptations as other members of its family (Mustelidae): short, muscular limbs and forepaws equipped with long claws. It is small and stocky with a short tail and pointed snout. Its fur is dark brown overall, with a light yellow patch on the top of the head that fades down to the shoulders in a stripe. There is evidence that paler brown morphs of M. marchei may also occur.

It does not appear that Palawan stink badgers are sexually dimorphic. These animals are from 320 to 460 mm in length, and average 2.5 kg.(Nowak, 1999)

  • Average mass
    2.5 kg
    5.51 lb
  • Range length
    320 to 460 mm
    12.60 to 18.11 in

Reproduction

The mating system and behavior of M. marchei is not known.

No research on reproductive habits has been conducted for either M. marchei or M. javanensis. Other badgers (Meles meles and Arctonyx collaris) breed annually. They produce litters of two to six young after implantation, pregnancy lasts no more than eight weeks. However, both M. meles and A. collaris can undergo a period of delayed implantation and arrested embryonic development lasting up to 10 months, giving an overall pregnancy length nearing a year (Nowak, 1999)

  • Breeding season
    The breeding season of this species is unknown.

Details of parental care in this species have not been reported. However, in M. meles and A. collaris~, females provide care for the young in dens or burrows. Lactation may last up to four months, and the period of maternal care may extend beyond this period as the young learn foraging behavior from their mother. No male parental care has been reported in badgers. (Nowak, 1999)

Lifespan/Longevity

No studies regarding the lifespan of either species of stink badger have been conducted. M. meles and A. collaris have lived in captivity 16 and 13 years, respectively. (Nowak, 1999)

Behavior

Unlike many badgers,Palawan stink badgers are primarily diurnal, and appears to have a solitary lifestyle. It is not known whether tthese animals are territorial, although they do use their scent glands to mark their path as they move around their habitat. The large "projectile" scent glands are an important line of defense, because the movement of M. marchei has been described as "ponderous", and the animal can only run for short distances. Also, stink badgers likely have poor eyesight, good hearing, and an excellent sense of smell, like most badgers. (Nowak, 1999; Neal and Cheeseman ,1996)

Communication and Perception

Most badgers have a highly developed sense of smell, and Palawan stink badgers are no exception. M. marchei uses the secretions from its anal glands to leave scent marks on the surrounding environment. These marks probably serve as reservoirs of information for conspecifics and help define territories. (Nowak, 1999)

Food Habits

Little is known of the feeding habits of M. marchei. It is believed to feed mainly on invertebrates, especially earthworms and insects, which it reaches by digging with its long claws. Stink badgers may consume plant material as well. (Nowak,1999)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • terrestrial worms

Predation

As the common name suggests, Palawan stink badgers have the ability to secrete a pungent-smelling, oily fluid. The fluid is squirted from anal glands, much like skunks. The Indonesian stink badger (M. javanensis) has an extremely harsh secretion that is described as "nauseating" and is greenish in color. In comparison, the yellowish secretion of M. marchei is relatively mild.

The use of these anal glands seems to be a secondary line of defense. When first threatened, Palawan stink badgers will "play dead" and even allow themselves to be picked up and moved. (Nowak 1999; Neal and Cheeseman 1996)

As is the case with many mustelids bearing white stripes and other markings, the pelage coloration may be aposematic--a warning to other animals to leave this creature alone.

Ecosystem Roles

It is difficult to speculate on the role this animals plays in local ecosystems because so little is known about its lifestyle and dietary habits. It likely plays some role in regulating populations of the invertebrates upon which it feeds. This species may aid in aeration of the soil through its foraging behavior, which almost certainly entails rooting and some digging.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The island of Palawan is well-known for its wide variety of flora and fauna. Ecotourists may be attracted by endemic species such as Palawan stink badgers

Local peoples have been known to use the stink badger as an occasional food source.

(Neal and Cheeseman, 1996)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

The secretion from the anal glands of M. marchei probably causes mild irritation when it contacts human skin. Otherwise, there are no known reports of adverse interactions between Palawan stink badgers and humans. (Nowak, 1999; Neal and Cheeseman, 1996)

Conservation Status

Although the Palawan stink badger was described as "surprisingly common" in the 1970's, it is now considered a vulnerable species by the IUCN . It is unclear whether loss of habitat is adversely affecting M. marchei populations, but as an endemic species on only two islands with restricted habitat, its conservation is definitely a concern. There does not appear to be any Philippine law protecting the badger, nor is there any conservation work concerning this species being conducted at this time. (Neal and Cheeseman, 1996)

Other Comments

Very little is known about the life history of Mydaus marchei. It has been poorly studied, unlike other members of its family, and remains "shrouded in mystery." In fact, there is a dispute concerning the basic phylogeny of this species, and the other stink badger M javanensis. Due to dental characteristics, similar primitive conditions of the brain, and a similar mode of defense, some researchers believe stink badgers may be more closley related to the skunks, rather than other badgers.

As it stands, the classification for the stink badgers is a bit unusual.They are placed in their own subgenus, which is very rare. The Indonesian stink badger, M. javanensis belongs to the subgenus Mydaus. In contrast, the Palawan stink badger belongs to the subgenus Suillotaxus (Suillotaxus is the former generic name for M. marchei).(Radinsky 1973; Parker 1990)

Contributors

Valerie Eurs (author), Humboldt State University, Brian Arbogast (editor), Humboldt State University.

Glossary

agricultural

living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

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

ecotourism

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.

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

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

food

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

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body

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.

oriental

found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map

scent marks

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

sexual

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

solitary

lives alone

tactile

uses touch to communicate

tropical

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

viviparous

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

References

Neal, E., C. Cheeseman. 1996. Badgers. United Kingdom: T & AD Poyser.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Parker, S. 1990. Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York, USA: McGraw Hill Publishing Company.

Radinsky, L. 1973. Are Stink Badgers Skunks? Implications of Neuroanatomy for Mustelid Phylogeny. Journal of Mammalogy, 54(3): 585-593.