Have you ever heard of a fossa? This little creature is totally different and even scientists struggled to categorise the him. Let’s find out what is so cool about a fossa.
1. Malagasy mammal
Lemurs aren’t the only cute furry things to come out of Madagascar – fossas also call this African island home. They are one of Madagascar’s many strange endemic species, completely unique to the island.
2. Big kahuna
The fossa has a body length of about 70cm, and a tail almost as long, making him the biggest carnivore in Madagascar and giving him the top spot in the food chain.
3. What’s for dinner, Maurice?
Fossas aren’t particularly picky eaters, but their meal of choice is lemur, and they will hunt animals almost as big as themselves. The fact that the lemurs hang around in trees all day isn’t a problem either – fossas are remarkably agile climbers, and forest is their preferred habitat. Fossas also prey on animals like lizards, rodents and birds.
4. Mix ‘n match
Fossas are members of the Eupleridae, a family of carnivorans closely related to the mongoose family, and all endemic to Madagascar. Historically, scientists have had some difficulty classifying fossas, because they seem to fit into a lot of categories – they have weasel-like bodies;cat-like heads,with semi-retractable claws and flexible ankles to climb trees; monkey-like tails that they use for balance in the tree tops; and to add to that, they have muzzles that look like those of dogs.
5. Shame, what a name!
The scientific name for the fossa is Cryptoproctaferox. Cryptoprocta means ‘hidden anus’, and ferox means ‘fierce’.
6. All by myself
Fossas like to keep to themselves and will only pair up to mate, although males are occasionally observed together. Recently, a group of three male fossas were seen hunting a sifaka (a type of lemur). Scientists speculate that this co-operative hunting behaviour is instinct from days past, when fossas hunted together to take down larger prey.
7. Little ones
Baby fossas are born blind, toothless and weighing only about 100g. They leave the den when they are about four months old, and are completely independent at about one year old.
8. Big ones
It is thought that a much bigger species of fossa, called Cryptoproctaspelea, roamed the island not too long ago. They preyed on the now-extinct giant lemurs, some of whom were the size of gorillas.
9. Under pressure
Fossas are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Even though they are widely distributed throughout Madagascar, they don’t have very dense populations. Their greatest threat is deforestation, which is also affecting lemur populations – their natural prey.The other nine members of the Eupleridae family are also considered threatened.
10. Listen here
Fossas have a range of different vocalisations to communicate with one another, including purring and yelping. They also use scent to communicate, by marking objects in their territories and so letting other fossas know to tread lightly.