The Living Desert
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Cryptoprocta ferox


Eupleridae, Malagasy carnivores

Conservation Status:

Vulnerable, IUCN






The fossa walks on the soles of its feet; a method of locomotion known as ‘plantigrade’.

Fossa are top predators on Madagascar. They have a cat-like, appearance, with blunt noses and large, forward-facing eyes. They have rounded ears.  The tail is almost as long as the slender, muscular body, and the fossa’s coat is short and reddish-brown in color. The head is fairly small, with a short muzzle. While the life span of fossa has not been studied in the wild, one specimen lived twenty years in captivity.

Their diet consists of small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. Fossa also prey on lemurs. They are excellent climbers and will pursue lemurs through the trees. The fossa’s long tail provides balance for pursing prey through the trees and pairs may work together to catch larger prey. The short, retractable claws also enable efficient tree climbing. Fossa have keen vision, hearing, and smell.

Fossa are active during the day and night and, with the exception of the breeding season, they are generally solitary. Both males and females occupy territories, which are scent marked with anal gland secretions, and vary in size depending on the abundance of prey species. Fossa have an extremely unusual mating system. A receptive female will occupy a tree below which males congregate, fighting and calling to the female. Over the period of a week the female will mate with a number of different males, and copulation bouts can sometimes last for over 2.5 hours. A new female then arrives and replaces the original one, mating with the gathered males in her turn.

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