The fossa looks more like a pint-sized panther than the animal it’s more closely related to: the mongoose. (Photo: belizar73 /iStockPhoto). Cryptoprocta ferox, pictured above, is a type of civet that looks a bit like a small panther. A long tail, glossy coat and a cat-like body — right down to semi-retractible claws — belie that the fossa is more closely related to mongoose than to felines. It’s the largest of the island’s carnivores, and also one of the oldest to have arrived and evolved on Madagascar.
But the fossa isn’t the only carnivore found on Madagascar. Somewhere around 18 or 20 million years ago, a mongoose-like ancestor rafted over to Madagascar and settled in. The common ancestor eventually branched off into species adapted for certain niches of the island’s ecosystems.
There are 10 species of carnivore. This includes the fossa, the fanaloka, the falanouc, six species of mongoose. Also found on Madagascar is the small Indian civet, but that’s an introduced species. Madagascar’s carnivores make up the clade of Eupleridae, better known as malagasy mongooses.
Considering it took them millions of years to evolve into the special species they are today, and considering each of them are considered threatened due to habitat loss and fragmentation, it’s about time we get to know these strange and beautiful carnivores that didn’t getting a starring role in a movie.