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Sculptures by Phyllis Bone

Part of carnivore case


General features and members of the family Viverridae.

The civets and genets belong to one of the four families of terrestrial cat-like mammals descended from the Viverraines, which were civet/genet-like mammals. Viverrids are cat-like in many of their features and expressions. They have pointed faces, a wide variety of markings on their coats and long bushy tails. They are thought to have evolved more slowly than any other Carnivorans and to show the most primitive skeletal features of the Order Carnivora.

This diverse assemblage of thirty five species of cat-like creatures in twenty genera includes the civets (subfamilies Paradoxurinae, Nandinae, Hemigalinae) and genets (subfamily Viverrinae) plus such less well known creatures as the Asian binturong and the three Madagascan members of the family: the falanouc, fanaloka (subfamily Euplerinae) and the fossa (subfamily Cryptoprotinae).

Viverrids are found in diverse habitats - rain forests to woodland, brush, savanna and mountains - throughout the Old World including the Iberian peninsula, sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, Arabian peninsula, India and South East Asia to Borneo and the Philippines. They are primarily nocturnal foragers resting in rock crevices, empty burrows or hollow trees during the day. Usually solitary animals they only occasionally form small maternal family groups. Some are mainly arboreal, others forage on the ground and otter civets are equipped for an aquatic existence.

Skulls, dentition and diet

Viverrids are omnivorous with a diet that ranges from small mammals and birds to eggs and fruit. Otter civets hunt fish; fossas prey successfully on lemurs. The least omnivorous viverrids are the palm civets, which feed almost exclusively on fruit. The basic viverrid dental formula is I3/3; C1/1; PM 3-4/3-4; M 1-2/1-2 = 40.

Palm Civet Skull
Palm civet skull

Palm civets (e.g. the African palm civet (Nandinia binotata) or the common palm civet (Paradoxurur hermaphroditus)) feed mainly on fruit plus rodents, birds, snails and scorpions.

Genet skullGenet skull
Common genet skull

The common genet (Genetta genetta) has a diet that includes small mammals, eg. rodents, lizards, small birds, amphibians, insects and fruit.

Dog-like carnivorans Aquatic carnivorans Cat-like carnivorans