|Common dwarf mongoose,
Mongooses are 33 living species of small carnivorans from southern Eurasia and mainland Africa of the family Herpestidae. Four additional species from Madagascar in the subfamily Galidiinae, which were previously classified in this family, are also referred to as "mongooses" or "mongoose-like". Genetic evidence indicates the Galidiinae are more closely related to other Madagascar carnivorans in the family Eupleridae, which is the closest living group to the true mongooses.
The word "mongoose" is derived from the Marathi name mungus (मुंगूस) (pronounced as [muŋɡuːs]), perhaps ultimately from Dravidian (cf. Telugu mungeesa (ముంగిస), Kannada mungisi (ಮುಂಗಿಸಿ)). The form of the English name (since 1698) was altered to its "-goose" ending by folk-etymology. It has no etymological connection with the word goose. The plural form is mongooses, or, rarely, mongeese. It has also been spelled "mungoose".
There are 33 species, ranging from 1 to 4 feet (0.30 to 1.2 m) in length. Mongooses range in weight from the common dwarf mongoose, at 10 oz (280 g), to the cat-sized white-tailed mongoose, at 9 lb (4.1 kg).
Some species lead predominantly solitary lives, seeking out food only for themselves, while others travel in groups, sharing food among group members.
Mongooses bear a striking resemblance to mustelids, having long faces and bodies, small, rounded ears, short legs, and long, tapering tails. Most are brindled or grizzly; few have strongly marked coats. 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 similar to that of viverrids: 3.1.3-4.1-2. Mongooses also have receptors for acetylcholine that, like the receptors in snakes, are shaped so it is impossible for snake neurotoxin venom to attach to them. Researchers are investigating whether similar mechanisms protect the mongoose from hemotoxic snake venoms.
The meerkat, or suricate (Suricata suricatta), a smaller species, lives in troops of 20 to 30 consisting of an alpha male and female, usually together with their siblings and offspring, in open country in Southern Africa (Angola, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa). The meerkat is a small, diurnal mammal that forages for invertebrates in open country. Its behavior and small size (it weighs less than 2 lb (0.91 kg)) make it vulnerable to larger carnivores and birds of prey. However, it eats small migrating birds.
To protect the foraging troops from predators, one meerkat serves as a lookout that climbs to a vantage point and watches for danger. If the sentinel detects a predator, it gives a loud alarm to warn the troop and indicate whether the threat comes from the air or the ground: if from the air, the meerkats rush to the nearest hole; if from the ground, the troop flees. They are more able to evade terrestrial predators than raptors.
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 acetylcholine receptors, which render them resistant or immune to snake venom. However, they typically avoid the cobra and have no particular affinity for consuming its meat.
Some species can learn simple tricks. They can be domesticated and are kept as pets to control vermin. However, they can be more destructive than desired; when imported into the West Indies to kill rats and snakes, 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, Australia, and other countries. Mongooses were introduced to Hawaii in 1883 and have had a significant negative effect on native species.
Relationship with humans
Mongooses are a common spectacle at roadside shows in Pakistan. Snake charmers keep mongooses for mock fights with snakes. In the past, in Okinawa (where mongooses were misguidedly brought in to control the local Habu snake), mongoose fights with the highly venomous habu 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. 
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.
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.
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 also a song by Donovan, among other references. A mongoose also features in Bram Stoker's novel, The Lair of the White Worm. The main character, Adam Salton, purchases one to independently hunt snakes.
Like other feliformian carnivorans, mongooses descended from the viverravines, which were civet- or genet-like mammals. Older classifications sometimes placed mongooses in the family Viverridae, but both morphological and molecular evidence speaks against the monophyly of this group, though they do have the same basic dental formula as the viverrids. Mongooses also have characteristic behavioral features that distinguish them from viverrids and other feliformian families. Less diverse than the viverrids, the mongoose family includes 14 genera and 33 species.
Mongooses are related to the other feliformian families, including Hyaenidae (hyenas), Viverridae (civets) and Felidae (cats). They are more distantly related to the caniformian carnivorans, including the family Mustelidae, which contains weasels, badgers and otters.
Genetic evidence from several nuclear and mitochondrial genes argues against placing Malagasy galidiines in the mongoose family; instead, these species are more closely related to other Madagascar carnivorans, including the fossa and Malagasy civet. As a result, this subfamily was moved from Herpestidae to Eupleridae.
- FAMILY HERPESTIDAE
- Genus Atilax
- Marsh mongoose, Atilax paludinosus
- Genus Bdeogale
- Genus Crossarchus
- Genus Cynictis
- Yellow mongoose, Cynictis penicillata
- Genus Dologale
- Pousargues' mongoose, Dologale dybowskii
- Genus Galerella
- Genus Helogale
- Genus Herpestes
- Short-tailed mongoose, Herpestes brachyurus
- Indian gray mongoose, Herpestes edwardsii
- Indian brown mongoose, Herpestes fuscus
- Egyptian mongoose, Herpestes ichneumon
- Small Asian mongoose, Herpestes javanicus
- Long-nosed mongoose, Herpestes naso
- Collared mongoose, Herpestes semitorquatus
- Ruddy mongoose, Herpestes smithii
- Crab-eating mongoose, Herpestes urva
- Stripe-necked mongoose, Herpestes vitticollis
- Genus Ichneumia
- White-tailed mongoose, Ichneumia albicauda
- Genus Liberiictus
- Liberian mongoose, Liberiictis kuhni
- Genus Mungos
- Genus Paracynictis
- Selous' mongoose, Paracynictis selousi
- Genus Rhynchogale
- Meller's mongoose, Rhynchogale melleri
- Genus Suricata
- Meerkat, Suricata suricatta
- Genus Atilax
Mongoose, or Mangouste as depicted in the 1851 Illustrated London Reading Book
Common kusimanse, Crossarchus obscurus
Banded mongoose, Mungos mungo
Baby mongooses, in Chennai, India
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