Salanoia durrelli

Salanoia durrelli, also known as Durrell's vontsira,[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.

Salanoia durrelli
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
Species:
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]

Taxonomy

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]

Description

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]

References

  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.
Brown-tailed mongoose

The brown-tailed mongoose, Malagasy brown-tailed mongoose, or salano (Salanoia concolor) is a species of mammal in the family Eupleridae. It is endemic to Madagascar. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical dry forests. It is threatened by habitat loss.

Eupleridae

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.

Galidiinae

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".

Gerald Durrell

Gerald Malcolm Durrell, OBE (7 January 1925 – 30 January 1995) was a British naturalist, zookeeper, conservationist, author, and television presenter. He founded the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Jersey Zoo on the Channel Island of Jersey in 1959. He wrote a number of books based on his life as an animal collector and enthusiast, the most famous being My Family and Other Animals. He was the youngest brother of novelist Lawrence Durrell.

List of mammals described in the 21st century

The following is the list of mammals which have been taxonomically described in the 21st century.

Salanoia

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 Salanoia durrelli. 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

The world's 100 most threatened species

The World's 100 most threatened species is a compilation of the most threatened animals, plants, and fungi in the world. It was the result of a collaboration between over 8,000 scientists from the International Union for Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC), along with the Zoological Society of London. The report was published by the Zoological Society of London in 2012 as the book, Priceless or Worthless?While all the species on the list are threatened with extinction, the scientists who chose them had another criterion: all the species have no obvious benefit for humans and therefore have no vested interests trying to save them. Iconic and charismatic species, such as tigers and pandas—along with economically important species—have many defenders, while these apparently "worthless" species had none. The title of the report, "Priceless or Worthless?", is based on that shared quality of the species. The report's co-author, Ellen Butcher, stated one of the guiding principles of the list, "If we take immediate action we can give them a fighting chance for survival. But this requires society to support the moral and ethical position that all species have an inherent right to exist."The report was released in Jeju, South Korea, on September 11, 2012, at the quadrennial meeting of IUCN, the World Conservation Congress. At the Congress, it was reported that scientists are finding it more and more common to have to justify funding for protection of species by showing what the human benefits would be. Jonathan Baillie, of the Zoological Society of London and co-author of the report, stated that, "The donor community and conservation movement are increasingly leaning towards a 'what can nature do for us?' approach, where species and wild habitats are valued and prioritised according to these services they provided for people. This has made it increasingly difficult for conservationists to protect the most threatened species on the planet."Some of the threatened species are down to only a handful of surviving members. Santa Catarina’s guinea pig, native to a single island in Brazil, is down to its last 40–60 individuals, reduced by hunting and habitat disturbance. The great Indian bustard is threatened by habitat loss resulting from agriculture and human development, and is down to the last 50–249 individuals. Elaeocarpus bojeri, a flowering plant found only on the island of Mauritius, has fewer than 10 surviving individuals, because of loss of habitat. The Baishan fir (Abies beshanzuensis), native to China, is down to five surviving mature individuals. Priceless or Worthless? describes the threats that each species is facing, along with measures that would aid their survival.

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