Durrell's vontsira

Durrell's vontsira (Salanoia durrelli)[2] is a Madagascan mammal in the family Eupleridae of the order Carnivora. It is most closely related to the brown-tailed mongoose (Salanoia concolor), with which it forms the genus Salanoia. The two are genetically similar, but morphologically distinct, leading scientists to recognize them as separate species. After an individual was observed in 2004, the animal became known to science and S. durrelli was described as a new species in 2010. It is found only in the Lac Alaotra area.

A small, reddish-brown carnivore, Salanoia durrelli is characterized by broad feet with prominent pads, reddish-buff underparts, and broad, robust teeth, among other differences from the brown-tailed mongoose. In the only two weighed specimens, body mass was 600 and 675 g (21.2 and 23.8 oz). It is a marsh-dwelling animal that may feed on crustaceans and mollusks. The Lac Alaotra area is a threatened ecosystem, and S. durrelli may also be endangered by competition with introduced species.

Durrell's vontsira
The mongoose-like, brown small carnivoran is held by a man.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Eupleridae
Genus: Salanoia
S. durrelli
Binomial name
Salanoia durrelli
Durbin et al., 2010
Map of Madagascar off the African coast, showing one red dot slightly northeast of the middle of the island, representing the range of Salanoia durrelli.
Distribution of Salanoia durrelli[1]


An individual Salanoia durrelli was observed swimming in 2004 by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (DWCT) during a survey of bamboo lemurs (Hapalemur) in the Lac Alaotra area, the largest wetlands of Madagascar. The animal was captured, photographed, and then released, but examination of the photograph showed that it could not be identified with any known species of Malagasy carnivoran (family Eupleridae). Therefore, two specimens were caught in 2005 by the DWCT. One was killed to facilitate additional morphological comparisons.[3] In 2010, it was formally described as Salanoia durrelli in a paper by conservationist Joanna Durbin and a team of scientists from the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance, Nature Heritage, the Natural History Museum, Conservation International, and the DWCT.[4] The specific name, durrelli, honors Gerald Durrell, a noted conservationist and the founder of the DWCT.[5] Previously, local villagers had already reported the presence of a small carnivoran at Alaotra, and it was speculated that the animal was the closely related brown-tailed mongoose (Salanoia concolor).[6]

Salanoia durrelli was placed in the genus Salanoia, which previously included only the brown-tailed mongoose of eastern Madagascar. S. durrelli shows substantial morphological differences from the brown-tailed mongoose, but the mitochondrial DNA of the two species is very similar.[7] The discoverers chose to recognize the Lac Alaotra population as a separate species in view of its significant morphological differentiation. The observed morphological distinctiveness might be result of adaptations to life in the Alaotra wetlands, similar to the Alaotra bamboo lemur species, Hapalemur alaotrensis, which is also recognized as a distinct species despite being genetically close to the more widespread Hapalemur griseus.[8]


Salanoia durrelli most closely resembles the brown-tailed mongoose,[3] which is a small, gracile mongoose-like carnivoran.[9] It is reddish-brown overall, paler than the brown-tailed mongoose.[10] The head and nape are speckled.[5] The underparts are reddish-buff, not brownish as in the brown-tailed mongoose.[10] Most of the tail is similar in color to the body, but the tip is yellowish-brown. The inner side of the well-furred external ear (pinna) is reddish-buff. The broad feet are naked below, with the naked skin buff on the forefeet and dark brown on the hindfeet, and show prominent pads. Each of the five digits on the fore- and hindfeet bears a long, dark brown claw. There are rows of stiff hairs along the outer margins of the feet.[5] In contrast, the brown-tailed mongoose has narrower feet with more poorly developed pads.[10] In S. durrelli, the fur is long and soft.[5]

Galidia olivacea Geoffroy
The brown-tailed mongoose (Salanoia concolor), the closest relative of S. durrelli (the tail in this plate is incomplete)[11]

In the holotype specimen, a female, the head and body length was 310 mm (12 in), the tail length was 210 mm (8.3 in), the hindfoot length was 66.8 mm (2.63 in), the ear length was 17.5 mm (0.69 in), and the body mass was 675 g (23.8 oz). In another specimen, a male which was captured and released, the head and body length was about 330 mm (13 in), the tail length was about 175 mm (6.9 in), and the body mass was 600 g (21 oz).[5] Based on these limited data, S. durrelli may be slightly smaller than the brown-tailed mongoose.[10]

The skull generally resembles that of the brown-tailed mongoose, but the rostrum (front part) is broad and deep, the nasal bones are broad and short, and the region of the palate is broad. The mandible (lower jaw) is robust and shows a high, steeply rising coronoid process (a projection at the back of the bone).[10] Statistical analysis of measurements of the skulls and teeth strongly separates S. durrelli from specimens of the brown-tailed mongoose.[12]

Salanoia durrelli has a more robust dentition than the brown-tailed mongoose; the teeth have larger surface areas.[10] The first and second upper incisors are smaller than the third, which is separated by a pronounced diastema (gap) from the canine tooth.[13] The canine is more robust than in the brown-tailed mongoose. The first upper premolar is small, but the second and third are larger; these two teeth are shorter and broader than in the brown-tailed mongoose.[14] The fourth premolar is large, as is the first molar.[13] The second upper molar is less than one-third the size of the first, and is more highly reduced than that of the brown-tailed mongoose, which is about two-thirds the size of the first molar.[14] The first lower incisor is smaller than the other two. The lower canine, premolars, and first molar are well-developed. The second molar is broad,[13] but smaller than in the brown-tailed mongoose.[14]

Distribution, habitat, and behavior

Salanoia durrelli has been recorded at Andreba, a marshy area at 750 m (2,460 ft) above sea level on the eastern coast of Lac Alaotra.[5] The nearest occurrence of the brown-tailed mongoose is about 55 km (34 mi) from Alaotra. The first observed specimen was swimming; it may have fled from human activity on the shore. The two others were caught on mats of floating vegetation. Thus, S. durrelli occurs in a marsh habitat—quite different from the forest-dwelling brown-tailed mongoose. S. durrelli may use its robust dentition to feed on prey with hard parts, such as crustaceans and molluscs, in addition to small vertebrates, rather than the insects that the more gracile-toothed brown-tailed mongoose eats. Indeed, the two specimens of S. durrelli were captured using traps baited with fish and meat. S. durrelli is similar in many respects to the larger mainland African marsh mongoose (Atilax paludinosa), a carnivorous wetland-dweller that also uses mats of vegetation to eat and sleep on.[15]

Conservation status

The unique habitat of Lac Alaotra is threatened by pollution, destruction of marshes for the construction of rice fields, overfishing, and introduced species such as exotic fish, plants, the black rat (Rattus rattus), and the small Indian civet (Viverricula indica), another small carnivoran.[16] A bird restricted to the area, the Alaotra grebe (Tachybaptus rufolavatus), was declared extinct in 2010[17] and the population of the bamboo lemur fell by about 30% from 1994 to 1999.[18] As a narrowly distributed species with a small population, S. durrelli is likely to be threatened by degradation of its habitat and perhaps competition with the small Indian civet and the black rat, but its conservation status has not yet been formally assessed. The DWCT is working to conserve the Lac Alaotra area and the region has been designated as a protected area.[16]


  1. ^ Durbin et al., 2010, figure 1
  2. ^ Gill, 2010
  3. ^ a b Durbin et al., 2010, p. 342
  4. ^ Durbin et al., 2010, p. 341
  5. ^ a b c d e f Durbin et al., 2010, p. 346
  6. ^ Garbutt, 1999, p. 140
  7. ^ Durbin et al., 2010, pp. 345–346
  8. ^ Durbin et al., 2010, pp. 351–352
  9. ^ Garbutt, 2007, p. 219
  10. ^ a b c d e f Durbin et al., 2010, p. 348
  11. ^ Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1839; cf. Garbutt, 2007, pp. 219–220
  12. ^ Durbin et al., 2010, p. 344
  13. ^ a b c Durbin et al., 2010, p. 347
  14. ^ a b c Durbin et al., 2010, p. 349
  15. ^ Durbin et al., 2010, p. 350
  16. ^ a b Durbin et al., 2010, p. 352
  17. ^ BirdLife International, 2010
  18. ^ Mutschler et al., 2001

Literature cited

  • BirdLife International. 2010. Species factsheet: Tachybaptus rufolavatus. BirdLife International website. Downloaded on August 3, 2010.
  • Durbin, J., Funk, S.M., Hawkins, F., Hills, D.M., Jenkins, P.D., Moncrieff, C.B. and Ralainasolo, F.B. 2010. Investigations into the status of a new taxon of Salanoia (Mammalia: Carnivora: Eupleridae) from the marshes of Lac Alaotra, Madagascar (subscription required). Systematics and Biodiversity 8(3):341–355.
  • Garbutt, N. 1999. Mammals of Madagascar. Pica Press, 320 pp. ISBN 1-873403-52-6
  • Garbutt, N. 2007. Mammals of Madagascar: A Complete Guide. A & C Black, 304 pp. ISBN 978-0-7136-7043-1
  • Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, I. 1839. Notice sur deux nouveaux genres de mammifères carnassiers, les Ichneumies, du continent African, et les Galidies, de Madagascar. Magasin de Zoologie (2)1:1–39 (in French).
  • Gill, V. 2010. New carnivorous mammal species found in Madagascar. BBC News. Downloaded on October 16, 2010.
  • Mutschler, T., Randrianarisoa, A.J. and Peistner, A.T.C. 2001. Population status of the Alaotran gentle lemur Hapalemur griseus alaotrensis (subscription required). Oryx 35(2):152–157.

The genus Arctocephalus consists of fur seals. Arctocephalus translates to "bear head."

Asiatic linsang

The Asiatic linsang (Prionodon) is a genus comprising two species native to Southeast Asia: the banded linsang (Prionodon linsang) and the spotted linsang (Prionodon pardicolor). Prionodon is considered a sister taxon of the Felidae.


Bdeogale is a genus of three species of mongoose native to the rainforests of central and western Africa. They are primarily terrestrial and insectivorous.


Crossarchus is a genus of mongoose, commonly referred to as kusimanse (often cusimanse), mangue, or dwarf mongoose. Of three subfamilies of Herpestidae (Herpestinae, Mungotinae and Galidiinae), dwarf mongooses belong to Herpestinae or Mungotinae, which are small, highly social mongooses.


Eupleridae is a family of carnivorans endemic to Madagascar and comprising 10 known living species in seven genera, commonly known as euplerids, or Malagasy mongooses. The best known species is the fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox), in the subfamily Euplerinae. All species of Euplerinae were formerly classified as viverrids, while all species in the subfamily Galidiinae were classified as herpestids.

Recent molecular studies indicate that the 10 living species of Madagascar carnivorans evolved from one ancestor that is thought to have rafted over from mainland Africa 18-24 million years ago. This makes Malagasy carnivorans a clade. They are closely allied with the true herpestid mongooses, their closest living relatives. The fossa and the Malagasy civet (Fossa fossana) are each evolutionarily quite distinct from each other and from the rest of the clade.

All Eupleridae are considered threatened species due to habitat destruction, as well as predation and competition from non-native species.


Ferret-badgers are the five species of the genus Melogale, which is the only genus of the monotypic mustelid subfamily Helictidinae.

Bornean ferret-badger (Melogale everetti)

Chinese ferret-badger (Melogale moschata)

Javan ferret-badger (Melogale orientalis)

Burmese ferret-badger (Melogale personata)

Vietnam ferret-badger (Melogale cucphuongensis)


Galidiinae is a subfamily of carnivorans that is restricted to Madagascar and includes six species classified into four genera. Together with the three other species of indigenous Malagasy carnivorans, including the fossa, they are currently classified in the family Eupleridae within the suborder Feliformia. Galidiinae are the smallest of the Malagasy carnivorans, generally weighing about 600 to 900 g. They are agile, short-legged animals with long, bushy tails.In some of these characters, they resemble the mongooses (family Herpestidae) of continental Africa and southern Eurasia, with which they were classified until 2006, and accordingly they are said to be "mongoose-like" or even described as "Malagasy mongooses".


The Hemigalinae are a subfamily of the viverrids denominated and first described by John Edward Gray in 1864. This subfamily comprises the four monospecific genera:






Lutrogale is a genus of otters, with only one extant species—the smooth-coated otter.

Mephitis (genus)

The genus Mephitis is one of several genera of skunks, which has two species and a North American distribution.


Mustelinae is a subfamily of family Mustelidae, which includes weasels, ferrets amd minks.It was formerly defined in a paraphyletic manner to also include wolverines, martens, and many other mustelids, to the exclusion of the otters (Lutrinae).


Nyctereutes is an Old World genus of the family Canidae, consisting of just one living species, the raccoon dog of East Asia. Nyctereutes appeared about 9.0 million years ago (Mya), with all but one species becoming extinct before the Pleistocene.

Native to East Asia, the raccoon dog has been intensively bred for fur in Europe and especially in Russia during the twentieth century. Specimens have escaped or have been introduced to increase production and formed populations in Eastern Europe. It is currently expanding rapidly in the rest of Europe, where its presence is undesirable because it is considered to be a harmful and invasive species.


Paradoxurus is a genus within the viverrid family that was denominated and first described by Frédéric Cuvier in 1822. As of 2005, this genus was defined as comprising three species native to Southeast Asia:

the Asian palm civet (P. hermaphroditus)

the golden palm civet (P. zeylonensis)

the brown palm civet (P. jerdoni)In 2009, it was proposed to also include the golden wet-zone palm civet (P. aureus), the Sri Lankan brown palm civet (P. montanus) and the golden dry-zone palm civet (P. stenocephalus), which are endemic to Sri Lanka.

Patagonian weasel

The Patagonian weasel (Lyncodon patagonicus) is a small mustelid that is the only member of the genus Lyncodon. Its geographic range is the Pampas of western Argentina and sections of Chile. An early mention of the animal is in the Journal of Syms Covington, who sailed with Charles Darwin on his epic voyage aboard HMS Beagle.


Pusa is a genus of the earless seals, within the family Phocidae. The three species of this genus were split from the genus Phoca, and some sources still give Phoca as an acceptable synonym for Pusa.

The three species in this genus are found in Arctic and subarctic regions, as well as around the Caspian Sea. This includes these countries and regions: Russia, Scandinavia, Britain, Greenland, Canada, the United States, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Japan. Due to changing local environmental conditions, the ringed seals found in the Canadian region has varied patterns of growth. The northern Canadian ringed seals grow slowly to a larger size, while the southern seals grow quickly to a smaller size.

Only the Caspian seal is endangered.


Salanoia is a genus of euplerid carnivoran with two currently described species found in Madagascar. They are mongoose-like, which is reflected in the older versions of their English names, for example brown-tailed mongoose which is now called brown-tailed vontsira. The name Salanoia is derived from one of the vernacular names for Salanoia concolor: Salano.In 2010, the two described members of the genus were referred to by the common name vontsira in announcements of the discovery of Durrell's vontsira. Vontsira is a Malagasy vernacular name that seems to apply to a few local species of local mongoose-like carnivores in the related genera Salanoia, Galidia, and Galidictis


Speothos is a genus of canid found in Central and South America. The genus includes the living bush dog, Speothos venaticus, and an extinct Pleistocene species, Speothos pacivorus. Unusually, the fossil species was identified and named before the extant species was discovered, with the result that the type species of Speothos is S. pacivorus.


Viverra is a mammalian genus that was first nominated and described by Carl Linnaeus in 1758 as comprising several species including the large Indian civet (V. zibetha). The genus was subordinated to the viverrid family by John Edward Gray in 1821.

Extant Carnivora species

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.