Fossa Facts

Fossa Profile

The Fossa is a cat-like carnivorous mammal that is native to Madagascar. It belongs to a family of carnivorans that are closely related to the mongoose family.

Due to the physical traits of the Fossa, the classification of this animal has been controversial. Not only does it resemble a cat, there are other characteristics that suggest a close relationship with viverrids.

The Fossa

Fossa Facts Overview

Habitat: Forests
Location: Madagascar
Lifespan: 20 Years
Size: 70–80 cm (28–31 in)
Weight:  5.5 – 8.6 kg (12 – 19 lb)
Color: Brown
Diet: Carnivore – Lemurs, rodents, reptiles, birds
Predators: Humans
Top Speed: 35 mph (55 kph)
No. of Species:
1
Conservation Status:
Vulnerable

The resemblance to a small cougar is how Fossa is usually described. Adults have a head-body length of 70-80 centimeters and can weigh between 12 and 19 pounds. Males are typically slightly larger than females.

The Fossa is widespread throughout Madagascar but they live solely in forested areas. They can hunt in both daytime and nighttime with more than half of their diet consisting of lemurs, which are primates native to the region. Other food sources include tenrecs, lizards, rodents, birds and other small animals that would be considered prey.

The IUCN status for Fossa is vulnerable as of 2016 with several threats to their survival. Deforestation where forested areas are being converted to agricultural land and pastures has resulted in habitat loss and fragmentation. Logging has also contributed to this.

The Fossa population has declined partly due to hunting. Farmers will kill them if they are becoming a threat to livestock. Fossa meat is also consumed in many villages on the island. The main harvest of Fossa takes place in the Makira Forest but the rate of harvest is unsustainable.

Interesting Fossa Facts

1. Fossa mating rituals are often above ground.

Mating, which can last for several hours, will take place mostly on horizontal limbs in trees high above the forest floor.

2. Fossa litters can be large or small with maturity happening quickly.

The average litter ranges from one to six pups and all of them will be born toothless and blind. After 4.5 months they are weaned and after a year are independent. Fossa will reach sexual maturity between three and four years of age and can live up to 20 years in captivity.

3. The unusual placement of the anus of the Fossa led to the generic name of the species.

Crytoprocta is the combination of two ancient Greek words – crypto (hidden) and procta (anus) and makes reference to the manner in which the animal’s anus is hidden by something called an anal pouch.

4. The species name has a completely different meaning to it.

The Latin word ferox, which is the actual species name for Fossa, is an adjective that translates to mean either ‘fierce’ or ‘wild.’

5. The Fossa has an extremely peculiar physical feature.

The animal has external genitalia. The male penis is long and can extend past the forelegs when erect. The female has an enlarged, spiny clitoris that resembles the male’s penis visually.

6. The Fossa diet focuses on an inhabitant that is almost the same size as the animal.

Lemurs, which are native to Madagascar just as Fossa are, happen to be the main Fossa food source. What makes this particularly interesting is that the average Lemur can weigh up to 90 percent of the average Fossa.

7. Habitat and season can impact the Fossa diet.

Although diet does not vary between male or female Fossa, the conditions they live in do. The dietary habits of Fossa suggest that a wide variety of prey selectivity and specialization stems from location and time of year.

8. Although the Fossa has characteristics of a cat, one happens to be very unusual.

The Fossa has semi-retractable claws. This means that they can be extended but not fully retracted.

9. The climbing style of Fossa is also unusual.

The animal has flexible ankles. This permits it to climb up and down trees head-first. The flexible ankles also assist when jumping from one tree to another.

10. The Fossa is essentially the ‘king of the jungle’ on Madagascar.

The Fossa is without a doubt the largest mammalian carnivore found anywhere on the island nation.

11. It is not just ‘fossa’ but ‘fosa’ as well.

The name of the animal is spelled ‘fossa’ in English. The Austronesian language of Malagasy, where the word originated, spells it with a single ‘s.’

12. Although they are described as being cat-like, Fossa also resembles another domesticated animal.

The coat of the Fossa is reddish brown in color and is has a muzzle that is similar to that of a dog.

Fossa Facts

13. The distance covered by a single animal is vast.

The average Fossa can travel up to 25-kilometers in a single day searching for food or seeking a mate.

14. A Fossa territory is also quite large.

A single animal with patrol and defend a territory that can measure up to 4 square kilometers in size.

15. The hunting style of the Fossa is quick and efficient.

Known as an ambush hunter, the Fossa will jump prey and hold onto it with their powerful claws and then bite it to kill.

16. Scent is an important communication tool used by Fossa.

With two prominent scent glands – one on the chest and the other at the base of the tail – Fossa can track others through the marking of various items they encounter ranging from trees to rocks and all other objects they come in contact with.

17. There is a short breeding season.

Fossa males and females only come together to mate in September and October.

18. There once was a Giant Fossa.

Scientists have uncovered fossils on Madagascar of an extinct animal named the Giant Fossa. It measured close to 20 feet in length.

19. Fossa howl, yowl and roar as additional forms of communication.

Typically, females will howl or yowl when seeking a mate during mating season. When territory is being defended, Fossa males may roar.

20. Dens are made from various different forms of landscape.

A Fossa mother will convert an abandoned termite mound, a hollow of a tree, a rock crevice or an underground den into a nursery to prepare for the arrival of her young.

Fossa Fact-File Summary

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Eupleridae
Genus: Cryptoprocta
Species Name:
Cryptoprocta Ferox