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The fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) (pronounced /ˈfɒsə/ or /ˈfuːsə/,[4] Malagasy [ˈfusə̥]) is a cat-like, carnivorous mammal that is endemic to Madagascar. It is a member of the Eupleridae, a family of carnivorans closely related

Fossa
Fossa

Origin

Madagascar

Habitat

Forest

Diet

Vertebrates consumed ranged from reptiles to a wide variety of birds, including both understory and ground birds, and mammals, including insectivores, rodents, and lemurs

Combat Status

Defeated by the Ocelot

to the mongoose family (Herpestidae). Its classification has been controversial because its physical traits resemble those of cats, yet other traits suggest a close relationship with viverrids (most civets and their relatives). Its classification, along with that of the other Malagasy carnivores, influenced hypotheses about how many times mammalian carnivores have colonized the island. With genetic studies demonstrating that the fossa and all other Malagasy carnivores are most closely related to each other (forming a clade, recognized as the family Eupleridae), carnivorans are now thought to have colonized the island once around 18 to 20 million years ago.

The fossa is the largest mammalian carnivore on the island of Madagascar and has been compared to a small cougar. Adults have a head-body length of 70–80 cm (28–31 in) and weigh between 5.5–8.6 kg (12–19 lb), with the males larger than the females. It has semi-retractable claws and flexible ankles that allow it to climb up and down trees head-first, and also support jumping from tree to tree. The fossa is unique within its family for the shape of its genitalia, which share traits with those of cats and hyenas.

The species is widespread, although population densities are usually low. It is found solely in forested habitat, and actively hunts both by day and night. Over 50% of its diet consists of lemurs, the endemic primates found on the island; tenrecs, rodents, lizards, birds, and other animals are also documented as prey. Mating usually occurs in trees on horizontal limbs and can last for several hours. Litters range from one to six pups, which are born blind and toothless (altricial). Infants wean after 4.5 months and are independent after a year. Sexual maturity occurs around three to four years of age, and life expectancy in captivity is 20 years. The fossa is listed as "Vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is generally feared by the Malagasy people and is often protected by their taboo, known as fady. The greatest threat to the species is habitat destruction.

DescriptionEdit

The fossa appears as a diminutive form of a large felid, such as a cougar,[14] but with a slender body and muscular limbs,[8] and a tail nearly as long as the rest of the body.[14] It has a mongoose-like head,[8] relatively longer than that of a cat,[14] although with a muzzle that is broad[8] and short,[14] and with large but rounded ears.[5][14] It has medium brown eyes set relatively wide apart with pupils that contract to slits. Like many carnivorans that hunt at night, its eyes reflect light; the reflected light is orange in hue.[8] Its head-body length is 70–80 cm (28–31 in) and its tail is 65–70 cm (26–28 in) long. There is some sexual dimorphism, with adult males (weighing 6.2–8.6 kg; 14–19 lb) being larger than females (5.5–6.8 kg; 12–15 lb).[14] Smaller individuals are typically found north and east on Madagascar, while larger ones to the south and west.[5] Unusually large individuals weighing up to 20 kg (44 lb) have been reported, but there is some doubt as to the reliability of the measurements.[14] The fossa can smell, hear, and see well. It is a robust animal and illnesses are rare in captive fossas

Both males and females have short, straight fur that is relatively dense and without spots or patterns. Both sexes are generally a reddish-brown dorsally and colored a dirty cream ventrally. When in rut, they may have an orange coloration to their abdomen from a reddish substance secreted by a chest gland secretions, but this has not been consistently observed by all researchers. The tail tends to be lighter in coloration than the sides. Juveniles are either gray or nearly white.[5][14]

Several of the animal's physical features are adaptions to climbing through trees.[8] It uses its tail to aid in balance and has semi-retractable claws that it uses to climb trees in its search for prey.[14] It has semiplantigrade feet,[5] switching between a plantigrade-like gait (when arboreal) and a digitigrade-like one (when terrestrial).[16] The soles of its paws are nearly bare and covered with strong pads.[5] The fossa has very flexible ankles that allow it to readily grasp tree trunks so as to climb up or down trees head first or to leap to another tree.[8] Captive juveniles have been known to swing upside down by their hindfeet from knotted ropes.[8]

The fossa has several scent glands, although the glands are less developed in females. Like herpestids it has a perianal skin gland inside an anal sac which surrounds the anus like a pocket. The pocket opens to the exterior with a horizontal slit below the tail. Other glands are located near the penis or vagina, with the penile glands emitting a strong odor. Like the herpestids, it has no prescrotal glands

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