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The fosa (Cryptoprocta ferox) ( or ) is a mammal endemic to Madagascarmarker. A member of family Eupleridae, it is closely related to the mongoose. It is the largest mammalian carnivore on the island of Madagascar. (The largest carnivore on Madagascar is the Nile crocodile.)

Anatomy

Fosa males are 75–80 centimeters (29–31in.) long, plus a tail which is 70–90 centimeters (27–35in.) long; they weigh 6–10 kilograms (13–22 lb). Females are 65–70 centimeters (25–27 in.) with a similar-sized tail; they weigh 5–7 kilograms (11–15lb.).

The fosa is a very agile animal. It can leap from tree to tree and displays a squirrel-like agility. The fossa is extremely catlike in appearance and behavior; it is often likened to the clouded leopard, a feline native to southeast Asia. The Fosa has cat-like retractable claws, its rear ankles can twist 180 degrees to face rearward which helps them climb trees. Their noses protrude out and on the front the nose is broad and wide and hairless. They have 5 digits on each of their pads and when they walk all of their pads touch the ground.

Behavior and habitat

Recent observations indicate the fosa may not be as nocturnal as was once thought. The rarity of this animal likely contributed to the belief that the fosa is entirely nocturnal, but recent scientific study has found that it is active both during the day and night, a pattern of activity known as cathemerality, depending on season and prey availability.

One of the biomes hosting the fosa is the Madagascar dry deciduous forests. The best place to see the fossa is in the Kirindy Forest, located about 70 kilometers north of the city of Morondavamarker.

Lifespan

Fosa pups are born blind and toothless. They are dependent on their mother for about one year, and do not leave the nest until they are four months old. The fossa does not breed until it is about four years old. It has been known to live 20 years in captivity. The lifespan of the Fossa in the wild is currently unknown.

Phylogeny

Though most still classify and accept the fosa (along with its close relative the Falanouc) as part of the family of viverrids, some have recently reclassified it in a new family of Malagasy civets and mongooses: Eupleridae.

Diet

The fosa is a carnivore that hunts small to medium sized animals, from fish to birds. It is particularly adept at hunting lemurs, and is the predominant predator of many species, with only Madagascar's large snakes, and Nile crocodiles being larger. The fossil record of Madagascar has yielded the remains of a giant, recently extinct fosa, Cryptoprocta spelea. It was about long, 20% longer than a big modern fosa, and weighed about 17 kg. This species is believed to have preyed upon the larger, ape-sized lemurs that inhabited Madagascar until humans settled on the island.

Fosas in captivity consume between 800-1000 g of meat a day. The diet of fosas in the wild has been studied by analysing their distinctive scats. The diet varies depending on location, but does not vary by sex. In most parts of their range mammals form the most important part of their diet. Of these lemurs are regular components of their diet. One study found that vertebrates comprised 94% of the diet of fosas, with lemurs comprising over 50%, as well as tenrecs (9%) lizards (9%) birds (2%) and seeds (5%). The seeds may have been in the stomachs of the lemurs eaten, or may have been taken with fruit taken for water, as seeds were more common in the stomach in the dry season. Even other large predators, such as the Narrow-striped Mongoose, were found in the scats. In another site larger lemurs in the genus Eulemur and the Verreaux's Sifaka were represented in the diet in disproportionately larger numbers compared to their incidences the wild, suggesting that they are preferred prey. In contrast studies conducted high above the tree-line found the diet dominated by smaller prey items, with the average prey size being 40 g, in contrast to the average prey size of 480 g in humid forests and over a 1000 g in dry deciduous forests.

Prey may be obtained by hunting either on the ground or in the trees. During the non-breeding season fosas hunt individually, but during the breeding season hunting parties may be seen, and these may be pairs or later on mothers and young. One member of the group scales the tree and chases the lemurs from tree to tree, forcing them down to the ground where the other is easily able to capture them.

The fosa has no natural predators, but may be consumed incidentally by the Nile crocodile.
Fosa illustration circa 1927


Conservation status

The fosa is endemic to the island of Madagascar (as is a large percentage of the country's native fauna). In 2000, Luke Dollar (Mustelid, Viverrid & Procyonid Specialist Group) certified there were fewer than 2,500 mature individuals in fragmented areas in continuing decline. This certification earned the fosa the status of vulnerable by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). The fosa is listed as a Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) Appendix II animal, which puts restrictions on its export and trade.

References

  • Enchanted Learning. Fosa. Retrieved May 30, 2005.
  • Koepfli et al., "Molecular systematics of the hyaenidae." Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution Mar. 2006: pgs. 603-620


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