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Title: Viverridae  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Carnivora, African civet, Feliformia, Poiana (genus), Viverra
Collection: Mammal Families, Mammals of Africa, Mammals of Asia, Viverrids, Ypresian First Appearances
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Temporal range: 50–0 Ma
Eocene to Recent
A mosaic of four small photos of viverrids in trees
Viverrids, including (top left to bottom right), species of Paradoxurus, Genetta, Paguma and Arctictis
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Viverridae
Gray, 1821


Viverridae is a family of small to medium-sized mammals, the viverrids (), comprising 15 genera, which are subdivided into 38 species.[1] This family was named and first described by John Edward Gray in 1821.[2] Members of this family are commonly called civets or genets. Viverrids are found in South and Southeast Asia, across the 'Wallace Line', all over Africa, and into southern Europe. Their occurrence in Celebes and in some of the adjoining islands shows them to be ancient inhabitants of the Old World tropics.[3]


  • Characteristics 1
  • Ecology and behaviour 2
  • Classification 3
  • Civet × genet hybrids 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Viverrids have four or five toes on each foot and half-retractile claws. They have six cutting teeth in each jaw and true grinders with two tubercular grinders behind in the upper jaw, and one in the lower jaw. The tongue is rough with sharp prickles. A pouch or gland occurs beneath the anus, but there is no coecum.[2]

Viverrids are the most primitive of all the families of aeluroid Carnivora and clearly less specialized than the Felidae. In external characters, they are distinguished from the Felidae by the hind foot being five-toed owing to the invariable presence of the first digit, by the retention of the interramal tuft of facial vibrissae, and typically by the longer muzzle and shorter limbs. The skull differs by the position of the postpalatine foramina on the maxilla, almost always well in advance of the maxillopalatine suture, and usually about the level of the second premolar; and by the distinct external division of the auditory bulla into its two elements either by a definite groove or, when rarely this is obliterated, by the depression of the tympanic bone in front of the swollen entotympanic. The typical dental formula is:, but the number may be reduced, although never to the same extent as in the Felidae.[3]

Their flesh-shearing carnassial teeth are relatively undeveloped.[4]

Most viverrid species have a baculum.[5]

Viverrids range in size from the African linsang with a body length of 33 cm (13 in) and a weight of 650 g (1.43 lb) to the African civet at 84 cm (33 in) and 18 kg (40 lb), although very large binturongs, which can weigh up to 25 kg (55 lb), attain the greatest mass. Their skeletons are similar to those of fossils dating back to the Eocene, up to 50 million years ago.

Ecology and behaviour

They are generally solitary and have excellent hearing and vision. Despite their placement in the order Carnivora, they are omnivorous, or, in the case of the palm civet, almost entirely herbivorous.[4]

Favoured habitats include woodland, savanna, mountains, and above all, tropical rainforest. Due to heavy deforestation, many are faced with severe loss of habitat; several species are considered vulnerable such as the rare Hose's palm civet, which is endemic to northern Borneo; the otter civet is classified as endangered.[1]


Hose's palm civet
Golden wet-zone palm civet
Asian palm civet
African civet
Common genets
Giant forest genet

In 1821, Gray defined this family as comprising the genera Hemigalinae, Paradoxurinae, Prionodontinae, and Viverrinae to the Viverridae.[3]

The Viverridae comprise:[1]

Some authorities are of the opinion that the subfamily Prionodontinae, which comprises two extant species of Asiatic linsangs in the genus Prionodon, should be regarded as a family in its own right.[7]

In 1833, Edward Turner Bennett described the Malagasy fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) and subordinated the Cryptoprocta to the Viverridae.[8] A molecular and morphological analysis based on DNA/DNA hybridization experiments suggests that Cryptoprocta does not belong within Viverridae, but is a member of the Eupleridae.[9]

The African palm civet (Nandinia binotata) resembles the civets of the Viverridae, but is genetically distinct and belongs in its own monotypic family, the Nandiniidae. There is little dispute that the Poiana species are viverrids.[1]

Civet × genet hybrids

Charles Darwin noted in his book titled The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication: "The Genetta has bred both here and in the Jardin des Plantes, and produced hybrids."[10]


  1. ^ a b c d e
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^ a b c Pocock, R. I. (1939). The Fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Mammalia. – Volume 1. Taylor and Francis, London. Pp. 330–332.
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^

External links

  • BBC: 'New mammal' seen in Borneo
  • University of Michigan's Animal Diversity Web page
  • ITIS page
  • The Straight Dope on Civet Cats
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