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Reproduction

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Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual

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Myers, P. 2000. "Herpestidae" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Herpestidae.html
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Behavior

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Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

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Morphology

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Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Myers, P. 2000. "Herpestidae" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Herpestidae.html
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Comprehensive Description

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Mongooses (family Herpestidae) are relatively small mammals (around 35 to 150 cm in length, 0.2 to 5 kg) with long faces and bodies, short legs, small rounded years, and generally long tapered bushy tails. They are found widely in the Old World tropics throughout Africa and Asia, as well as in the Middle East and southern Europe. They occur in diverse habitats including both open areas (such as deserts, savannas, and grasslands) and closed forests, from lowlands into montane regions above 2000 m.Mongooses are essentially terrestrial, although some may occasionally climb trees or swim.

Gilchrist et al. (2009) recognized 34 species of mongooses, which they placed in 15 genera, although they noted that further taxonomic research may change the number of species recognized (see Gilchrist et al. for examples of possible changes) as well as modify generic assignments (see Patou et al. 2009 and references therein). Twenty-five species are found in Africa and nine in Asia. Like a number of other hard-to-place mammals, the mongooses were at one time included in the family Viverridae. Based on a range of evidence, however, they are now placed in their own family, Herpestidae. Herpestidae formerly also included the Malagasy "mongooses" (which were placed in the subfamily Galidiinae), but recent molecular studies have indicated that all the extant Malagasy carnivores form a monophyletic group that is the sister group to the extant mongooses and this group is now treated as a distinct family, the Eupleridae; the clade composed of (Eupleridae + Herpestidae) is, in turn, sister to the Hyaenidae (Agnarsson et al. 2010; Eizirik et al. 2010).

Within the Herpestidae, two subfamilies are now recognized based on morphological, molecular, and behavioral and ecological data: the Herpestinae (23 species of large, mostly solitary mongooses—habits are poorly known for many species, especially in Asia) and the Mungotinae (11 species of small, social mongooses). The subfamily Herpestinae includes the Yellow Mongoose (Cynictis penicillata), which exhibits some social but not "true" social behaviors (see Veron et al. 2004). At least three mongoose species are known to be fully social, regularly denning and foraging together as a group (although there are few, if any, examples of cooperative hunting among mongooses such as that seen in some other carnivores): the Meerkat (Suricata suricatta), the Banded Mongoose (Mungos mungo), and the Common Dwarf Mongoose (Helogale parvula). Several other species are believed to be fully social, but data are limited. Although many of the social mongooses live in open habitats, some are forest dwellers (the cusimanses (Crossarchus) and the Liberian Mongoose [Liberiictis kuhni]). The distinctive Meerkat was formerly placed in its own subfamily, but is now recognized as the sister taxon to all the other social mongooses and is included in the Mungotinae.

In some mongoose species, the male Y chromosome is attached to one of the autosomes. Thus, in these species females have one more chromosome than do males. Because such chromosomal translocations are rare, this may prove to be a useful character in inferring evolutionary relationships among mongoose species.

Mongooses swim well when they need to and several species, such as the Marsh Mongoose (Atilax paludinosus) in Africa and the Crab-eating Mongoose (Herpestes urva) in Asia, are semi-aquatic. Mongoose diets are varied (both between species and geographically within species, as well as seasonally), with some feeding largely on small vertebrate prey and others mainly on insects or even fruit; crustaceans and molluscs comprise a substantial part of the diet of the Marsh Mongoose. The social mongooses tend to feed more on insects and other invertebrates than do solitary species; at least in part, this is probably due to vertebrate prey densities being generally too low to support groups of mongooses. Mongooses are also known to feed on the eggs of ground-nesting birds, on carcasses, on human-generated garbage, and occasionally on domestic fowl.

The ability of mongooses to kill snakes was made famous in Europe and North America by Rudyard Kipling with the story of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi in the Jungle Book (much older tales involving snake-killing mongooses are known from India, such as that of The Brahmin and the Mongoose).Although snakes are not known to be a significant part of the diet of any mongoose species, the speed and agility of mongooses allows them to kill snakes and at least some species, such as the Egyptian Mongoose (Herpestes ichneumon), are highly resistant (though not immune to) to snake neurotoxins. Fights between a mongoose and a snake (often a cobra) are often staged for tourists in towns and villages in parts of Asia. In the West Indies, fights may be staged between a Small Indian Mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus) and a Bothrops viper (the viper often wins). In nature, mongooses, especially young ones, are probably more likely to be eaten themselves by large snakes such as African Rock Pythons (Python sebae) than to kill and eat snakes.

Several mongoose species have been introduced to various parts of the world as biological control agents. The Egyptian Mongoose is found in Spain and Portugal, but is not considered native there and may have been intentionally introduced from North Africa in the Middle Ages. The Indian Gray Mongoose (Herpestes edwardsii) was introduced to Japan in 1910 to control vipers and may also have been introduced to Mauritius. The Small Indian Mongoose has been introduced widely (mainly to islands) to control snakes and rodents (Simberloff et al. 2000 and references therein; Veron et al. 2010 and references therein). It was first introduced to the West Indies in the 1870s to control rats on sugar plantations as well as venomous snakes. Further introductions brought this species to the Hawaiian Islands, Adriatic Islands, Mautitius, and Japan. Unfortunately, these introduced mongooses efficiently decimated much of the native bird, reptile, and amphibian fauna and also killed poultry. The Indian Brown Mongoose (Herpestes fuscus) was introduced to Fiji, probably in the late 20th century, but the source of this introduction is uncertain (Veron et al. 2010).

Although introduced mongooses are themselves a major threat to biodiversity in many areas, some mongooses face their own threats from humans. They are a source of bushmeat in many small communities in Africa and Southeast Asia and are taken for the international pet trade. Habitat loss and fragmentation have likely taken a toll on many mongoose populations. Although some mongoose species, such as the Banded Mongoose, have a broad geographic and ecological range and appear to do well in human-modified environments, little is known about most mongoose species (e.g., the Liberian Mongoose, which was not discovered by western scientists until 1958, and the Angolan Cusimanse [Crossarchus ansorgei]. whichwas known only from two specimens until 1984); most mongoose species have never been studied by scientists in the wild.

(Gilchrist et al. 2009 and references therein)

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Mongoose

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A mongoose is a small terrestrial carnivorous mammal belonging to the family Herpestidae. This family is currently split into two subfamilies, the Herpestinae and the Mungotinae. The Herpestinae comprises 23 living species that are native to southern Europe, Africa and Asia, whereas the Mungotinae comprises 11 species native to Africa.[2] The Herpestidae originated about 21.8 ± 3.6 million years ago in the Early Miocene and genetically diverged into two main genetic lineages between 19.1 and 18.5 ± 3.5 million years ago.[3]

Etymology

The English word "mongoose" used to be spelled "mungoose" in the 18th and 19th centuries. The name is derived from names used in India for Herpestes species:[4][5][6][7] muṅgūscode: hin promoted to code: hi or maṅgūscode: hin promoted to code: hi in classical Hindi;[8] muṅgūsa in Marathi;[9] mungicode: tel promoted to code: te in Telugu;[10] mungicode: kan promoted to code: kn , mungisicode: kan promoted to code: kn and mungulicode: kan promoted to code: kn in Kannada.[11]

The form of the English name (since 1698) was altered to its "-goose" ending by folk etymology.[12] The plural form is "mongooses".[13]

Characteristics

Mongooses have long faces and bodies, small, rounded ears, short legs, and long, tapering tails. Most are brindled or grizzly; a few have strongly marked coats which bear a striking resemblance to mustelids. Their nonretractile claws are used primarily for digging. Mongooses, much like goats, have narrow, ovular pupils. Most species have a large anal scent gland, used for territorial marking and signaling reproductive status. The dental formula of mongooses is 3.1.3–4.1–23.1.3–4.1–2. They range from 24 to 58 cm (9.4 to 22.8 in) in head-to-body length, excluding the tail. In weight, they range from 320 g (11 oz) to 5 kg (11 lb).[14]

Mongooses are one of four known mammalian taxa with mutations in the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor that protect against snake venom.[15] Their modified receptors prevent the snake venom α-neurotoxin from binding. These represent four separate, independent mutations. In the mongoose, this change is effected uniquely, by glycosylation.[16]

Taxonomy

Herpestina was a scientific name proposed by Charles Lucien Bonaparte in 1845 who considered the mongooses a subfamily of the Viverridae.[17] In 1864, John Edward Gray classified the mongooses into three subfamilies: Galiidinae, Herpestinae and Mungotinae.[18] This grouping was supported by Reginald Innes Pocock in 1919 who referred to the family as "Mungotidae".[19]

Genetic research based on nuclear and mitochondrial DNA analyses revealed that the galidiines are more closely related to Madagascar carnivores, including the fossa and Malagasy civet.[20][21] Galiidinae is presently considered a subfamily of Eupleridae.[22]

Phylogenetic relationships

In 1989, zoologist W. Christopher Wozencraft noted that while the phylogenetic relationships in Mungotinae were obscure, studies in the latter part of 20th century supported two monophyletic clades in Herpestinae: one consisting of Atilax and Herpestes, and the other comprising Bdeogale, Ichneumia and Rhynchogale.[37] Like other feliformian carnivorans, mongooses descended from the viverravines, which were civet- or genet-like mammals.

The phylogenetic relationships of Herpestidae are shown in the following cladogram:[38][3]

Herpestidae Mungotinae       Helogale

Helogale parvula (Common dwarf mongoose)

   

Helogale hirtula (Ethiopian dwarf mongoose)

    Dologale

Dologale dybowskii (Pousargues's mongoose)

    Crossarchus

Crossarchus alexandri (Alexander's kusimanse)

   

Crossarchus ansorgei (Angolan kusimanse)

   

Crossarchus platycephalus (Flat-headed kusimanse)

   

Crossarchus obscurus (Common kusimanse) Crossarchus obscurus.jpg

        Liberiictis

Liberiictis kuhni (Liberian mongoose)

Mungos

Mungos gambianus (Gambian mongoose)

   

Mungos mungo (Banded mongoose) Lydekker - Broad-banded Cusimanse (white background).JPG

        Suricata

Suricata suricatta (Meerkat) MeerkatAtHappyHollow white background.jpg

    Herpestinae         Bdeogale    

Bdeogale jacksoni (Jackson's mongoose)

   

Bdeogale nigripes (Black-footed mongoose)

     

Bdeogale crassicauda (Bushy-tailed mongoose)

    Rhynchogale

Rhynchogale melleri (Meller's mongoose) Smit.m.rhinogale.melleri.white.background.jpg

      Paracynictis

Paracynictis selousi (Selous's mongoose)

Cynictis

Cynictis penicillata (Yellow mongoose)

      Ichneumia

Ichneumia albicauda (White-tailed mongoose)

       

"Herpestes" ichneumon (Egyptian mongoose)[3]

Galerella

Galerella sanguinea (Slender mongoose)

   

Galerella pulverulenta (Cape gray mongoose)

   

Galerella ochracea (Somalian slender mongoose)

   

Galerella flavescens (Angolan slender mongoose)

   

Galerella nigrata (Black mongoose)

            Atilax

Atilax paludinosus (Marsh mongoose)

Xenogale [3]

Xenogale naso (Long-nosed mongoose)

    Herpestes

Herpestes lemanensis

       

Herpestes brachyurus (Short-tailed mongoose)

   

Herpestes semitorquatus (Collared mongoose)

     

Herpestes urva (Crab-eating mongoose)

         

Herpestes smithii (Ruddy mongoose)

   

Herpestes vitticollis (Stripe-necked mongoose)

       

Herpestes fuscus (Indian brown mongoose)

     

Herpestes edwardsi (Indian gray mongoose)

   

Herpestes javanicus (Small Asian mongoose) Small asian mongoose white background.jpg

               

Behaviour and ecology

 src=
Indian gray mongoose, Herpestes edwardsii

Mongooses are largely terrestrial. The Egyptian mongoose (Herpestes ichneumon) has been observed in pairs and groups of up to five individuals.[39]

Diet

Mongooses mostly feed on insects, crabs, earthworms, lizards, birds, and rodents. However, they also eat eggs and carrion.[40]

The Indian gray mongoose and others are well known for their ability to fight and kill venomous snakes, particularly cobras. They are adept at such tasks due to their agility, thick coats, and specialized acetylcholine receptors that render them resistant or immune to snake venom.[41] However, they typically avoid the cobra and have no particular affinity for consuming its meat.[42]

Some species can learn simple tricks. They can be semi-domesticated and are kept as pets to control vermin.[43] However, they can be more destructive than desired. When imported into the West Indies to kill rats, they destroyed most of the small, ground-based fauna. For this reason, it is illegal to import most species of mongooses into the United States,[44] Australia, and other countries. Mongooses were introduced to Hawaii in 1883 and have had a significant adverse effect on native species.[45]

Reproduction

 src=
Cynictis penicillata mating

The mongoose emits a high-pitched noise, commonly known as giggling, when it mates. Giggling is also heard during courtship.[46] Communities of female banded mongooses (Mungos mungo) synchronize their whelping to the same day to deter infanticide by dominant females.

Lifespan

It is not yet known how long a mongoose lives in its natural habitat; however, it is known that the average lifespan in captivity is twenty years.[47]

Gallery

For pictures of mongooses on Madagascar, see Galidiinae

Relationship with humans

In ancient Mesopotamia, mongooses were sacred to the deity Ningilin, who was conflated with Ningirima, a deity of magic who was invoked for protection against serpents. According to a Babylonian popular saying, when a mouse fled from a mongoose into a serpent's hole, it announced, "I bring you greetings from the snake-charmer!" A creature resembling a mongoose also appears in Old Babylonian glyptic art, but its significance is not known.[48]

According to Greek historian Diodorus Siculus (1.35 & 1.87), Egyptians venerated native mongooses (Herpestes ichneumon) for their ability to handle venomous snakes and for their occasional diet of crocodile eggs. The Buddhist god of wealth Vaiśravaṇa, or Dzambala for Tibetans, is frequently depicted holding a mongoose that is spitting jewels from its mouth.[49] The Hindu god of wealth, Kubera (being the son of Vishrava ("Fame"), Kubera is also called Vaisravana), is often portrayed holding a mongoose in his left hand, hence the sight of a mongoose is considered lucky by some.[50]

All mongoose species, except for Suricata suricatta, are classed as a "prohibited new organism" under New Zealand's Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996, preventing them from being imported into the country.[51]

Mongooses are a common spectacle at roadside shows in Pakistan. Snake charmers keep mongooses for mock fights with snakes. This practice is looked at as unethical and cruel across the rest of the world.

On Okinawa (where mongooses were misguidedly brought in to control the local habu snake), mongoose fights with these highly venomous snakes (Ovophis okinavensis and Trimeresurus flavoviridis) in a closed perimeter were presented as spectator events at such parks as Okinawa World; however, due to pressure from animal rights activists, the spectacle is less common today.[52]

In popular culture

A well-known fictional mongoose is Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, who appears in a short story of the same title in The Jungle Book (1894) by Rudyard Kipling. In this tale set in India, the young mongoose saves his family from a krait and from Nag and Nagaina, two cobras. The story was later made into several films and a song by Donovan, among other references. A mongoose is also featured in Bram Stoker's novel The Lair of the White Worm. The main character, Adam Salton, purchases one to independently hunt snakes. Another mongoose features in the denouement of the Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Crooked Man", by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The Indian Tamil devotional film Padai Veetu Amman shows Tamil actor Vinu Chakravarthy changing himself into a mongoose by using his evil tantric mantra, to fight with goddess Amman. However, the mongoose finally dies in the hands of the goddess.

The mongoose is a prohibited animal in the United States. However, the 1962 case of "Mr. Magoo" became an exception. It was brought to Duluth, Minnesota by a merchant seaman and faced being euthanized. A public campaign to save it resulted in the intervention of Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, who exempted Magoo from the regulations. Magoo lived on display as the most popular attraction of the Lake Superior Zoo, dying of old age in 1968.[53]

Pablo Neruda had a pet mongoose named Kiria while he lived in Colombo. Kiria had the habit of following the poet everywhere. However, after Neruda moved to Batavia, Kiria disappeared and was never seen again.[54]

References

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  2. ^ Gilchrist, J.S.; Jennings, A.P.; Veron, G. & Cavallini, P. (2009). "Family Herpestidae (Mongooses)". In Wilson, D.E. & Mittermeier, R. A. (eds.). Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Volume 1. Carnivores. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. p. 311. ISBN 978-84-96553-49-1.
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  31. ^ a b c Cuvier, G. (1829). "Les Mangoustes. Cuv. (Herpestes, Illiger)". Le règne animal distribué d'après son organisation, pour servir de base à l'histoire naturelle des animaux et d'introduction à l'anatomie comparée. Paris: Chez Déterville. pp. 157–158.
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Mongoose: Brief Summary

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A mongoose is a small terrestrial carnivorous mammal belonging to the family Herpestidae. This family is currently split into two subfamilies, the Herpestinae and the Mungotinae. The Herpestinae comprises 23 living species that are native to southern Europe, Africa and Asia, whereas the Mungotinae comprises 11 species native to Africa. The Herpestidae originated about 21.8 ± 3.6 million years ago in the Early Miocene and genetically diverged into two main genetic lineages between 19.1 and 18.5 ± 3.5 million years ago.

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