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The small-spotted genet

24 January 2017

 

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The genets developed from a common ancestor with the civets in Africa some 8.5 million years ago, and fossils are known from Morocco. As do the civets, palm civets, linsangs and the binburong, the genets are part of the family Viverridae. This family name has its origins in an Old English derivation of the Latin name furo for a ferret which is a type of polecat, and it means thief. It may refer to the propensity of members of this group of animals to raid poultry. Genets are some of the oldest known carnivores in the world. The name genet is of Middle-English origin and is derived from the Old-French name genete which in turn is probably a Catalan, Portugese or Spanish name that was derived from the Arab name jarnait.

Genets were originally regarded as types of civet by Linnaeus in 1758 and were originally described as Viverra genetta based on a specimen of a small-spotted genet Genetta genetta from Spain. However, a new genus Genetta was created in 1816 by Cuvier when he realized that genets were not civets. The name Genetta is of uncertain origin but it could be a combination of the Greek prefix gen for a bear and the New Latin word etta which means small, in other words a small bear-like animal. The small-spotted genet is one of 14 or 15 species of genet and was introduced from Africa to south-western Europe 1000 to 1500 years ago.

Three of the species of Genetta occur in South Africa, with the common large-spotted genet Genetta maculata only marginally occurring in the northern parts of South Africa and further north into Africa. Due to its wide, but interrupted distribution in Africa, Arabia and south-western Europe, there are five subspecies of the small-spotted genet. The subspecies Genetta genetta felina occurs in southern Africa, but some authors regard it as a separate species of genet Genetta felina. It was... (Become a subscriber for more)

 

References:

Skinner, J D & C T Chimimba (Eds) 2005. The mammals of the southern African subregion, third edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pages 417 - 420.

Wozencraft, W L 2005. Order Carnivora. In D E Wilson & D M Reeder (Eds) 2005. Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference, third edition. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, pages 554 - 559.

article by Prof J du P Bothma

 

 

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