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Fossa from the Cameron Park Zoo, in Waco, Texas
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Eupleridae
Subfamily: Euplerinae
Genus: Cryptoprocta
Species: C. ferox
Binomial name
Cryptoprocta ferox
Bennett, 1833

The fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) (pronounced /ˈfuːsə/[2][3] or /ˈfɒsə/) is a mammal endemic to Madagascar. A member of family Eupleridae, it is closely related to the mongoose. It is the largest mammalian carnivore on the island of Madagascar, the largest carnivore there being the Nile crocodile.


Behavior and habitat

Recent observations indicate the fossa may not be as nocturnal as was once thought. Its rarity likely contributed to the belief that the fossa is entirely nocturnal, but recent scientific study has found that it is active both during the day and night. It also has a pattern of activity known as cathemerality, depending on season and prey availability.[4]

One of the biomes hosting the fossa is the Madagascar dry deciduous forests. The best place to see the fossa is in the Kirindy Forest, located about 70 kilometers north of the city of Morondava.


Fossa pups are born blind and toothless. They are dependent on their mother for about one year, and do not leave the nest until they are four months old. The fossa does not breed until it is about four years old. It has been known to live 20 years in captivity. The lifespan of the Fossa in the wild is currently unknown. [5]


Though most still classify and accept the fossa (along with its close relative the Falanouc) as part of the family of viverrids, some have recently reclassified it in a new family of Malagasy civets and mongooses: Eupleridae.

Fossa at Cincinnati Zoo


The fossa is a carnivore that hunts small to medium sized animals, from fish to birds. It is particularly adept at hunting lemurs, and is the predominant predator of many species, with only Madagascar's large snakes and Nile crocodiles being larger. The fossil record of Madagascar has yielded the remains of a giant, recently extinct fossa, Cryptoprocta spelea. It was about 6 feet (1.8 m) long, 20% longer than a big modern fossa, and weighed about 17 kg. This species is believed to have preyed upon the larger, ape-sized lemurs that inhabited Madagascar until humans settled on the island.

Fossas in captivity consume between 800 and 1000 g of meat a day. The diet of fossas in the wild has been studied by analysing their distinctive scats. The diet varies depending on location, but does not vary by sex. In most parts of their range mammals form the most important part of their diet. Of these lemurs are regular components of their diet.[6] One study found that vertebrates comprised 94% of the diet of fossas, with lemurs comprising over 50%, as well as tenrecs (9%) lizards (9%) birds (2%) and seeds (5%). The seeds may have been in the stomachs of the lemurs eaten, or may have been taken with fruit taken for water, as seeds were more common in the stomach in the dry season. Even other large prey items, with the average prey size being 40 g, in contrast to the average prey size of 480 g in humid forests and over 1000 g in dry deciduous forests.[6]

Prey may be obtained by hunting either on the ground or in the trees. During the non-breeding season fossas hunt individually, but during the breeding season hunting parties may be seen, and these may be pairs or later on mothers and young. One member of the group scales the tree and chases the lemurs from tree to tree, forcing them down to the ground where the other is easily able to capture them.[6]

The fossa has no natural predators, but may be consumed incidentally by the Nile crocodile.

Fossa illustration circa 1927

Conservation status

The fossa is endemic to the island of Madagascar (as is a large percentage of the country's native fauna). In 2000, Luke Dollar (Mustelid, Viverrid & Procyonid Specialist Group) certified there were fewer than 2,500 mature individuals in fragmented areas in continuing decline. This certification earned the fossa the status of vulnerable by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).[1] The fossa is listed as a Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) Appendix II animal, which puts restrictions on its export and trade.


  1. ^ a b Hawkins, A.F.A. & Dollar, L. (2008). Cryptoprocta ferox. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 11 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is vulnerable
  2. ^ Hartley, Karen. "Track the Fossa". Nova website. Retrieved 2006-11-20. 
  3. ^ Croke, Vicki. "The Deadliest Carnivore". Retrieved 2006-11-20. 
  4. ^ Pickrell, John (2004-06-02). "Tracking the Fossa, Africa's Elusive Island Predator". National Geographic News. Retrieved 2006-11-20. 
  5. ^ Lundrigan, B. and T. Zachariah. 2000. ""Cryptoprocta ferox" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web.". University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. Retrieved 2009-11-09. 
  6. ^ a b c Goodman, Stephen (2009), "Family Eupleridae (Madagascar Carnivores)", in Wilson, Don; Mittermeier, Russell, Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Volume 1: Carnivores, Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, ISBN 978-84-96553-49-1 
  • Enchanted Learning. Fossa. Retrieved May 30, 2005.
  • Koepfli et al., "Molecular systematics of the hyaenidae." Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution Mar. 2006: pgs. 603-620

See Also

External links

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