Skull and dentition, as illustrated in Gervais' Histoire naturelle des mammifères
Classification and etymology
There is much disagreement about the placement of Madagascar's carnivores, including the ring-tailed vontsira, within the phylogenetic tree. A 2003 study reported evidence that the Malagasy Carnivora evolved from a single herpestid ancestor.
The ring-tailed vontsira is relatively small but is the largest member of the subfamily Galidiinae. It is usually 32 to 38 cm (12.5 to 15 in) long and weighs only 700 to 900 g (25 to 32 oz). Its body is long and slender, and the rounded head has a pointed snout. The body is a dark red color and the feet are black. As the name implies, its bushy tail is covered with black and red rings and is similar to the red panda.
Ring-tailed vontsira are very agile, and good climbers. They are quite playful and are active during the day. Their habitat consists of humid forests. Their diet is mostly of small mammals, invertebrates, fish, reptiles and eggs, but they occasionally eat insects and fruit.
The population of ring-tailed vontsira has decreased by 20% during the period 1989-1999 due to habitat loss. Another problem is competition with the small Indian civet (Viverricula indica).
There are currently 1258 genera, 156 families, 28 orders, and around 5937 recognized living species of mammal. Mammalian taxonomy is in constant flux as many new species are described and recategorized within their respective genera and families. The taxonomy represented here is a compilation of the most logical and up-to-date information on mammalian taxonomy from many sources, the main ones being the HMW series and the Mammals Species of the World by Wilson and Reeder.
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