Durrell's vontsira

Last updated

Durrell's vontsira
Alaotra carnivore credit Fidimalala Bruno Ralainasolo.jpg
Status iucn3.1 VU.svg
Vulnerable  (IUCN 3.1) [1] (under Salanoia concolor)
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Eupleridae
Genus: Salanoia
S. durrelli
Binomial name
Salanoia durrelli
Durbin et al., 2010
Salanoia durrelli range map.svg
Distribution of Salanoia durrelli [2]

Durrell's vontsira (Salanoia durrelli) [3] 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.


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. [4] 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. [5] The specific name, durrelli, honors Gerald Durrell, a noted conservationist and the founder of the DWCT. [6] 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). [7]

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. [8] 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 . [9]


Salanoia durrelli most closely resembles the brown-tailed mongoose, [4] which is a small, gracile mongoose-like carnivoran. [10] It is reddish-brown overall, paler than the brown-tailed mongoose. [11] The head and nape are speckled. [6] The underparts are reddish-buff, not brownish as in the brown-tailed mongoose. [11] 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. [6] In contrast, the brown-tailed mongoose has narrower feet with more poorly developed pads. [11] In S. durrelli, the fur is long and soft. [6]

The brown-tailed mongoose (Salanoia concolor), the closest relative of S. durrelli (the tail in this plate is incomplete) Galidia olivacea Geoffroy.png
The brown-tailed mongoose (Salanoia concolor), the closest relative of S. durrelli (the tail in this plate is incomplete)

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). [6] Based on these limited data, S. durrelli may be slightly smaller than the brown-tailed mongoose. [11]

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). [11] Statistical analysis of measurements of the skulls and teeth strongly separates S. durrelli from specimens of the brown-tailed mongoose. [13]

Salanoia durrelli has a more robust dentition than the brown-tailed mongoose; the teeth have larger surface areas. [11] The first and second upper incisors are smaller than the third, which is separated by a pronounced diastema (gap) from the canine tooth. [14] 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. [15] The fourth premolar is large, as is the first molar. [14] 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. [15] 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, [14] but smaller than in the brown-tailed mongoose. [15]

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. [6] 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 insects, which 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. [16]

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. [17] A bird restricted to the area, the Alaotra grebe (Tachybaptus rufolavatus), was declared extinct in 2010 [18] and the population of the bamboo lemur fell by about 30% from 1994 to 1999. [19] 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. [17]

Related Research Articles

Lemuridae family of mammals

Lemuridae is a family of strepsirrhine primates native to Madagascar, and the Comoros Islands. They are represented by the Lemuriformes in Madagascar with one of the highest concentration of the lemurs. One of five families commonly known as lemurs. These animals were once thought to be the evolutionary predecessors of monkeys and apes, but this is no longer considered correct.

Ring-tailed lemur A large lemur from Madagascar

The ring-tailed lemur is a large strepsirrhine primate and the most recognized lemur due to its long, black and white ringed tail. It belongs to Lemuridae, one of five lemur families, and is the only member of the Lemur genus. Like all lemurs it is endemic to the island of Madagascar. Known locally in Malagasy as maky or hira, it inhabits gallery forests to spiny scrub in the southern regions of the island. It is omnivorous and the most terrestrial of extant lemurs. The animal is diurnal, being active exclusively in daylight hours.

Madagascar lowland forests Global 200 ecoregion

The Madagascar lowland forests or Madagascar humid forests are a tropical moist broadleaf forest ecoregion found on the eastern coast of the island of Madagascar, home to a plant and animal mix that is 80 to 90% endemic, with the forests of the eastern plain being a particularly important location of this endemism. They are included in the Global 200 list of outstanding ecoregions.

Lake Alaotra lake in Madagascar

Lake Alaotra is the largest lake in Madagascar, located in Toamasina Province, in the northern central plateau. Its basin is composed of shallow freshwater lakes and marshes surrounded by areas of dense vegetation. It forms the center of the island's most important rice-growing region. It is a rich habitat for wildlife, including some rare and endangered species, as well as an important fishing ground. Lake Alaotra and its surrounding wetlands cover 7,223 square kilometres (2,789 sq mi), and include a range of habitats, including open water, reedbeds, marshes, and rice paddies. The lake itself covers 900 km2 (350 sq mi). Lake Alaotra was declared a wetland of international importance under the international Ramsar Convention on February 2, 2003.

Bamboo lemur genus of mammals

The bamboo or gentle lemurs are the lemurs in genus Hapalemur. These medium-sized primates live exclusively on Madagascar. The greater bamboo lemur, formerly known as Hapalemur simus, was considered part of this genus, but is now classified as belonging to the genus Prolemur.

Mongoose lemur species of mammal

The mongoose lemur is a small primate in the family Lemuridae, native to Madagascar and the Comoros Islands. These arboreal animals have pointed faces, long, bushy tails, dark-brown upper parts, pale bellies, and beards, which are reddish in males and white in females. They live in family groups and feed primarily on fruit, but also eat leaves, flowers, and nectar, with nectar from the kapok tree making up a large part of their diet during the dry season. They have declined sharply in numbers because of habitat destruction and hunting, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature has rated their conservation status as "critically endangered".

Fossa (animal) Cat-like, carnivorous mammal endemic to Madagascar

The fossa is a cat-like, carnivorous mammal endemic to Madagascar. It is a member of the Eupleridae, a family of carnivorans closely related to the mongoose family (Herpestidae). Its classification has been controversial because its physical traits resemble those of cats, yet other traits suggest a close relationship with viverrids. Its classification, along with that of the other Malagasy carnivores, influenced hypotheses about how many times mammalian carnivores have colonized Madagascar. With genetic studies demonstrating that the fossa and all other Malagasy carnivores are most closely related to each other, carnivorans are now thought to have colonized the island once, around 18 to 20 million years ago.

Grandidiers mongoose species of mammal

Grandidier's mongoose, also known as the giant-striped mongoose or Grandidier's vontsira, is a small carnivoran that lives only in a very small area of southwestern Madagascar, in areas of spiny forest vegetation. It is pale brown or grayish coloured, with eight wide, dark stripes on its back and sides. Grandidier's mongoose is larger than the related broad-striped Malagasy mongoose, G. fasciata, and its stripes are not as wide. The species is named after Alfred Grandidier.

Eastern falanouc species of mammal

The eastern falanouc is a rare mongoose-like mammal in the carnivoran family Eupleridae endemic to Madagascar.

Madagascar dry deciduous forests Global 200 ecoregion

The Madagascar dry deciduous forests represent a tropical dry forest ecoregion situated in the western and northern part of Madagascar. The area has high numbers of endemic plant and animal species but has suffered large-scale clearance for agriculture. They are among the world's richest and most distinctive dry forests and included in the Global 200 ecoregions by the World Wide Fund. The area is also home to distinctive limestone karst formations known as tsingy, including the World Heritage Site of Bemaraha.

Eastern lesser bamboo lemur species of mammal

The eastern lesser bamboo lemur, also known as the gray bamboo lemur, the gray gentle lemur, and the Mahajanga lemur is a small lemur endemic to Madagascar, with three known subspecies. As its name suggests, the eastern lesser bamboo lemur feeds mainly on bamboo. The lemurs of the genus Hapalemur have more manual dexterity and hand–eye coordination than most lemurs. They are vertical climbers and jump from stalk to stalk in thick bamboo forests.

Galidiinae subfamily of carnivorans

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.

Claires mouse lemur species of mammal

Claire's mouse lemur, or the Nosy Be mouse lemur, is a newly described species of lemur from the genus of the mouse lemurs (Microcebus). It lives on the island Nosy Bé in the Antsiranana province of Madagascar, and on the mainland near the village of Manehoka, including Lokobe Reserve. The scientific type name, mamiratra, comes from Malagasy and means "clear and bright"; this refers the Theodore F. and Claire M. Hubbard Family Foundation, which has contributed to genetic research on Madagascar. This species is closely related to another new species, "M. species nova # 5"; which is related to the Sambirano mouse lemur, Microcebus sambiranensis, and the northern rufous mouse lemur, Microcebus tavaratra.

Reddish-gray mouse lemur species of mammal

The reddish-gray mouse lemur also known as the gray-brown mouse lemur or rufous-gray mouse lemur, is found in Western Madagascar in the region around Beza Mahafaly Reserve, north to Lamboharana.

Lac Alaotra bamboo lemur species of mammal

The Lac Alaotra bamboo lemur, also known as the Lac Alaotra gentle lemur, Alaotran bamboo lemur, Alaotran gentle lemur, Alaotra reed lemur, or locally as the bandro, is a bamboo lemur. It is endemic to the reed beds in and around Lac Alaotra, in northeast Madagascar. It is about 40 cm (16 in) long, with a similar length tail, and is a brownish-gray colour. It is the only bamboo lemur to live in and feed on papyrus reeds, and other reeds and grasses, and some authorities argue that it should be regarded as a subspecies of the eastern lesser bamboo lemur. The population of this lemur has been declining because of habitat destruction and the International Union for Conservation of Nature has rated it as being "critically endangered".

<i>Cryptoprocta spelea</i> Extinct species of carnivoran from Madagascar

Cryptoprocta spelea, also known as the giant fossa, is an extinct species of carnivore from Madagascar in the family Eupleridae, which is most closely related to the mongooses and includes all Malagasy carnivorans. It was first described in 1902, and in 1935 was recognized as a separate species from its closest relative, the living fossa. C. spelea is larger than the fossa, but otherwise similar. The two have not always been accepted as distinct species. When and how the larger form became extinct is unknown; there is some anecdotal evidence, including reports of very large fossas, that there is more than one surviving species.

Common brown lemur species of mammal

The common brown lemur is a species of lemur in the family Lemuridae. It is found in Madagascar and Mayotte.

Brown-tailed mongoose species of mammal

The brown-tailed mongoose, Malagasy brown-tailed mongoose, or salano 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.

<i>Salanoia</i> monotypic taxon

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.


  1. https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/19852/45202205
  2. Durbin et al., 2010, figure 1
  3. Gill, 2010
  4. 1 2 Durbin et al., 2010, p. 342
  5. Durbin et al., 2010, p. 341
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Durbin et al., 2010, p. 346
  7. Garbutt, 1999, p. 140
  8. Durbin et al., 2010, pp. 345–346
  9. Durbin et al., 2010, pp. 351–352
  10. Garbutt, 2007, p. 219
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Durbin et al., 2010, p. 348
  12. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1839; cf. Garbutt, 2007, pp. 219–220
  13. Durbin et al., 2010, p. 344
  14. 1 2 3 Durbin et al., 2010, p. 347
  15. 1 2 3 Durbin et al., 2010, p. 349
  16. Durbin et al., 2010, p. 350
  17. 1 2 Durbin et al., 2010, p. 352
  18. BirdLife International, 2010
  19. Mutschler et al., 2001

Literature cited