Overview

Distribution

Range Description

Restricted to the rainforests of south-west and south-east Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, and Ghana, and extending just east of R. Volta (Goldman and Dunham in press). Ranges to around 1,500 m asl on Mount Nimba in Guinea (Goldman and Dunham in press).
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Geographic Range

Crossarchus obscurus is native to West Africa. It is found in the high forest zone and the associated riparian forests of Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and possibly Guinea. (Goldman, 1987)

Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Cusimanses are small mongooses. They have a slender body with short legs and a short tail (146 to 210 mm) that tapers evenly from its base to its tip. The forelimbs are plantigrade, while it is uncertain whether the hindlimbs are plantigrade or semidigitgrade. Claws on the forefeet are longer than those on the hindfeet, but both have well developed digital, interdigital, thenar, and hypothenar pads. Also, the soles of the hindfeet are naked (without fur) except for the last one-third by the heel. The head of this animal has round, short ears, and a snout that extends well beyond the lower lip. The pupils of the eyes have the shape of elongated (horizontally) ovals. Females of this species have six mammae and both sexes have a pair of anal scent glands. (Goldmand, 1987).

The fur on these animals varies in texture and in color. Body fur color tends to be a mix of browns, greys, and yellows. The guard hairs are long and bristle-like and lighter in color at their tips. The dense underfur is lighter in color than the guard hairs. The fur on the legs is a darker blackish-brown. Facial fur tends to be lighter and shorter than that of the rest of the body. (Goldmand, 1987).

The skull of C. obscurus is characterized by a long, narrow, and elongated rostrum. Also, the posterior margin of the palatine is evenly emarginated. The dental formula is i3/3, c1/1, p3/3, m2/2, with a total of 36 teeth. (Goldmand, 1987).

Range mass: 454 to 1000 g.

Average mass: 790 g.

Range length: 440 to 560 mm.

Average length: 510 mm.

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Found primarily in dense undergrowth of rainforest, but also in farm bush, logged forest, and plantations. In Côte d’Ivoire, also found in humid savanna zone, and in gallery forests of savanna, and in Ghana found on the Accra Plain (observed foraging in a dry open area of grassland and thicket) (Goldman and Dunham in press).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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This mongoose differs from the other social mongooses (Helogale, Mungos, Suricata) in that it lives in the high forests of Western Africa and not in the open areas that these other species normally occupy. Other mongooses are typically found in savannas, woodlands, open grasslands, and semi-arid bush. Crossarchus obscurus is often found near water. It eats food found near and in the water's edge, along with the food it finds in the dense ground cover vegetation of the high forests. These animals also forage in old agricultural lands that are returning to forest. (Goldmand, 1987). Crossarchus obscurus occurs at elevations between sea level and 1,000 m.

Range elevation: 0 to 1000 m.

Habitat Regions: tropical

Terrestrial Biomes: forest

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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

This mammal kills it prey with one single bite to the back of the neck, but they do not shake their prey. Cusimanses forage at night, individually or in groups (up to 20 or more) (Goldman, 1987). Their foraging techniques include scratching and digging at leaf litter and soil with their claws and turning over woody debris and stones. Snouts are also used to push around material while foraging. They do this to find insects, larvae, small reptiles, crabs, tender fruits, and berries, all of which are the main components of their diets (Nowak, 1999). In their search for prey, C. obscurus has been observed climbing slanted trees and foraging in the water to find freshwater crabs (Goldman, 1987).

Animal Foods: mammals; reptiles; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods

Plant Foods: fruit

Primary Diet: omnivore

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Ecoparasites such as ticks, lice, and fleas are often found living on this species (Goldman, 1987).

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Predation

Crossarchus obscurus is often preyed upon by larger carnivores and birds of prey (Goldman, 1987).

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Known prey organisms

Crossarchus obscurus preys on:
non-insect arthropods
Arthropoda
Insecta
Reptilia

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Life History and Behavior

Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

In captivity, C. obscurus is known to live nine years (Goldman, 1987).

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
9 (high) hours.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
4.5 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 13.3 years (captivity) Observations: In captivity, these animals have been known to live up to 13.3 years (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Reproduction

Individuals of the species reach sexual maturity in nine months. Females are polyestrus, meaning they go into estrus more than one time per year. Goldman (1987) reported, "when not pregnant a captive repeatedly came into estrus on nine occasions in 13 months." The males initiate and terminate copulation. Young cusimanses are born following an eight week gestation period. Litter sizes can range from 2 to 4 individuals, but the usual size is four. It is possible for females to have 2 to 3 litters per year. At birth the young are 9 to 10 mm long (head and body length combined) and have a tail that is 3 mm long. These animals are born with closed eyes, fur on their bodies (including under fur), short rostrums, and large forelimbs. After 12 days the eyes are open and in captivity young are eating solid food within three weeks. By week five guard hairs appear.

Range number of offspring: 2 to 4.

Average number of offspring: 4.

Average gestation period: 8 weeks.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 9 months.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 9 months.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); fertilization ; viviparous

Average gestation period: 58 days.

Average number of offspring: 4.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)

Sex: male:
274 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)

Sex: female:
274 days.

Parental Investment: altricial

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Crossarchus obscurus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 10
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Dunham, A., Goldman, C. & Hoffmann, M.

Reviewer/s
Duckworth, J.W. (Small Carnivore Red List Authority) and Hoffmann, M. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern as they are relatively widely distributed in a variety of habitats, fairly common, and present in several protected areas.
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US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Population

Population
Common. Population density in riparian forest of Taï N.P. was estimated at 13.2 individuals/km² (Goldman and Dunham in press).

Population Trend
Unknown
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Threats

Major Threats
There are no major threats, but they may be vulnerable to hunting in some regions (e.g., Guinea, where they were one of the most commonly trapped small carnivores; Colyn et al. 2004).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
They are present in several protected areas across their range, including Mt. Sangbé, Maraouhé and Comoé National Parks in Côte d’Ivoire and Western Area Forest Reserve in Sierra Leone (Goldman and Dunham in press).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Since cusimanses are easily trained they are often kept as pets (Goldman, 1987).

Positive Impacts: pet trade

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