Temporal range: Oligocene to present
|Top left: Suricata suricatta |
Top right: Cynictis penicillata
Bottom left: Galerella sanguinea
Bottom right: Herpestes edwardsii
Mongoose is the popular English name for 29 of the 34 species in the 14 genera of the family Herpestidae, which are small feliform carnivorans native to southern Eurasia and mainland Africa. The other five species (all African) in the family are the four kusimanses in the genus Crossarchus, and the species Suricata suricatta, commonly called meerkat in English.
Six species in the family Eupleridae are endemic to the island of Madagascar. These are called "mongoose" and were originally classified as a genus within the family Herpestidae, but genetic evidence has since shown that they are more closely related to other Madagascar carnivorans in the family Eupleridae; they have been classified in the subfamily Galidiinae within Eupleridae since 2006.
The name "mongoose" is likely derived from the Marathi name muṅgūs (मुंगूस) (pronounced as [ˈmʊŋɡuːs]) and ultimately from the Telugu name muṅgisa or Kannada muṅgisi. The form of the English name (since 1698) was altered to its "-goose" ending by folk-etymology. The plural form is "mongooses".
Historically, it has also been spelled "mungoose".
The 34 mongoose species range from 24 to 58 cm (9.4 to 22.8 in) in head to body length, excluding the tail. They range in weight from 320 g (11 oz) to 5 kg (11 lb). They 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; a 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 3.1.3–4.1–2.
Mongooses also have receptors for acetylcholine that, like the receptors in snakes, are shaped so that it is impossible for snake neurotoxin venom to attach to them. Mongooses are one of four known mammalian taxa with mutations in the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor that protect against snake venom. Pigs, honey badgers, hedgehogs, and mongooses all have modifications to the receptor pocket that prevents the snake venom α-neurotoxin from binding. These represent four separate, independent mutations. In the mongoose, this change is effected uniquely, by glycosylation. Researchers are investigating whether similar mechanisms protect the mongoose from hemotoxic snake venoms.
The family Herpestidae was first described by French biologist Charles Lucien Bonaparte in 1845. In her 1973 book The Carnivores, mammalogist R. F. Ewer included all mongooses in the family Viverridae, though subsequent publications considered them a separate family. In 1864, British zoologist John Edward Gray classified the herpestids into three subfamilies: Galiidinae, Herpestinae and Mungotinae. This grouping was supported by British zoologist Reginald Innes Pocock in his 1919 publication, in which he referred to the family as "Mungotidae". However, in the 2000s, genetic evidence from nuclear and mitochondrial analyses argued against placing the galidiines in the mongoose family; these species have been found to be more closely related to other Madagascar carnivores, including the fossa and Malagasy civet. Galiidinae is presently considered a subfamily of Eupleridae. A fossil species, Kichecia zamanae is known from Miocene fossils from Uganda and Kenya.
|Herpestinae||Atilax Frédéric Cuvier, 1826||
|Bdeogale Peters, 1850|
|Cynictis Ogilby, 1833||
|Galerella Gray, 1864|
|Herpestes Illiger, 1811|
|Ichneumia I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1837||
|Paracynictis Pocock, 1916||
|Rhynchogale Thomas, 1894||
|Mungotinae||Crossarchus Cuvier, 1825|
|Dologale Thomas, 1920||
|Helogale Gray, 1861|
|Liberiictis Hayman, 1958||
|Mungos E. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire & F. Cuvier, 1795|
|Suricata Desmarest, 1804||
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. Like other feliformian carnivorans, mongooses descended from the viverravines, which were civet- or genet-like mammals.
Behaviour and ecology
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. However, they typically avoid the cobra and have no particular affinity for consuming its meat.
Some species can learn simple tricks. They can be semi-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, 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 adverse effect on native species.[better source needed]
The mongoose emits a high-pitched noise, commonly known as giggling, when it mates. Giggling is also heard during courtship.[better source needed] Communities of female banded mongooses (Mungos mungo) synchronize their whelping to the same day to deter infanticide by dominant females.
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.
For pictures of mongooses on Madagascar, see Galidiinae
Common kusimanse, Crossarchus obscurus
Meller's mongoose, Rhynchogale melleri
Stripe-necked mongoose, Herpestes vitticollis
Small Asian mongoose, Herpestes javanicus
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
In popular culture
This section does not cite any sources. (June 2019) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
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 (although it is found in Hawaii in the wild as an introduced species). However, the 1962 case of "Mr. Magoo" became an exception in the continental U.S. Magoo was a mongoose brought to the Minnesota port of Duluth by a merchant seaman and faced being euthanized due to the U.S. prohibition. A public campaign to save him resulted in the intervention of Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, who exempted Magoo from the regulations. Magoo lived out his days on display as the most popular attraction of the Duluth Zoo, dying of old age in 1968.
In 1970, the American rock band Elephant's Memory had a minor hit single with the song "Mongoose". The song tells the story of a mongoose that kills a cobra to avenge the death of a little girl's father.
- Wozencraft, W.C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 562–571. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Vaughan, Terry A.; James M. Ryan; Nicholas J. Czaplewski (2010). Mammalogy. Jones & Bartlett Learning. p. 300. ISBN 0-7637-6299-7
- "mongoose, n.". OED Online. January 2018. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
- Forsyth, M. (2012). The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language. Penguin Books. ISBN 9781101611760.
- "Dictionary.com: mongoose". Retrieved 2008-08-22.
- Lydekker, R. (1894). "XIII. The Mungooses. Genus Herpestes". A hand-book to the Carnivora. Part 1: Cats, civets, and mungooses. London: Edward Lloyd Limited. pp. 244−269.
- Macdonald, D., ed. (2009). The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 660. ISBN 978-0-19-956799-7.
- Hedges, S. "Science: Mongoose's secret is to copy its prey"; New Scientist; 11 January 1997. Retrieved 16 November 2007.
- Drabeck, D. H.; Dean, A. M.; Jansa, S. A. (2015). "Why the honey badger don't care: Convergent evolution of venom-targeted nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in mammals that survive venomous snake bites". Toxicon. 99: 68–72. doi:10.1016/j.toxicon.2015.03.007. PMID 25796346.
- Bonaparte, C.L. (1845). Catalogo Methodico dei Mammiferi Europei. Milan, Italy: L. di Giacomo Pirola. p. 1.
- Gittleman, J.L., ed. (1989). Carnivore Behavior, Ecology, and Evolution. Boston, USA: Springer. pp. 569–72. ISBN 978-1-4613-0855-3.
- Gray, J.E. (1865). "A revision of the genera and species of viverrine animals (Viverridae) founded on the collection in the British Museum". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London: 502–579.
- Pocock, R.I. (1919). "The classification of mongooses (Mungotidae)". The Annals and Magazine of Natural History. 9 (3): 515–524.
- Yoder, A.D.; Burns, M.M.; Zehr, S.; Delefosse, T.; Veron, G.; Goodman, S.M.; Flynn, J.J. (2003). "Single origin of Malagasy carnivora from an African ancestor". Nature. 421 (6924): 434–437. doi:10.1038/nature01303. PMID 12610623.
- Flynn, J.J.; Finarelli, J.; Zehr, S.; Hsu, J.; Nedbal, M. (2005). "Molecular phylogeny of the Carnivora (Mammalia): Assessing the Impact of Increased sampling on resolving enigmatic relationships". Systematic Biology. 54 (2): 317–337. doi:10.1080/10635150590923326. PMID 16012099.
- Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M., eds. (2005). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- W. W. Bishop and J. D. Clark. 1965. Background to Evolution in Africa. [A. Behrensmeyer/A. Behrensmeyer/M. Kosnik]. University of Chicago Press.
- Patou, M.; Mclenachan, P.A.; Morley, C.G.; Couloux, A.; Jennings, A.P.; Veron, G. (2009). "Molecular phylogeny of the Herpestidae (Mammalia, Carnivora) with a special emphasis on the Asian Herpestes". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 53 (1): 69–80. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2009.05.038. PMID 19520178.
- Veron, G.; Colyn, M.; Dunham, A.E.; Taylor, P.; Gaubert, P. (2004). "Molecular systematics and origin of sociality in mongooses (Herpestidae, Carnivora)". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 30 (3): 582–598. doi:10.1016/S1055-7903(03)00229-X. PMID 15012940.
- Barycka, Ewa (2005). "Evolution and systematics of the feliform Carnivora". Mammalian Biology. 72 (5): 257–282. doi:10.1016/j.mambio.2006.10.011.
- Palomares, F.; Delibes, M. (1993). "Social organization in the Egyptian mongoose: group size, spatial behaviour and inter-individual contacts in adults". Animal Behaviour. 45 (5): 917–925. doi:10.1006/anbe.1993.1111.
- Cronk, N. E.; Pillay, N. (2018). "Food choice and feeding on carrion in two African mongoose species in an urban environment". Acta Ethologica. 21: 127–136. doi:10.1007/s10211-018-0291-x.
- Barchan, D.; Kachalsky, S.; Neumann, D.; Vogel, Z.; Ovadia, M.; Kochva, E.; Fuchs, S. (1992). "How the Mongoose Defeats the Snake". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 89 (16): 7717–7721. doi:10.1073/pnas.89.16.7717. PMC 49782. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
- Mondadori, A., ed. (1988). Great Book of the Animal Kingdom. New York: Arch Cape Press. p. 301.
- Sherman, D. M. (2007). Tending Animals in the Global Village: A Guide to International Veterinary Medicine. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9780470292105.
- "Animals whose importation is banned under the Lacey Act". Archived from the original on 2006-06-25. Retrieved 2006-04-12.
- "Star Bulletin: Traps set to catch mongoose on Kauai". Retrieved 2006-04-12.
- Poushali Ganguly. "Mongoose Facts". Buzzle.
- "Mongoose – Herpestidae". National Geographic. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
- Black, J.; Green, A. (1992). Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia: An Illustrated Dictionary. The British Museum Press. p. 132. ISBN 0-7141-1705-6.
- "Symbolism of Mongoose in Art". indology list indology.info.
- "Kuber Golden Temple". kubergoldentemple.org.
- "Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 2003 - Schedule 2 Prohibited new organisms". New Zealand Government. Retrieved 26 January 2012.
- Charles, Bill. "Okinawa World Presents Midsummer Thrills." Japan Update. 24 August 2012. http://www.japanupdate.com/archive/index.php?id=12558.
- Krueger, A. 2010. Remembering Duluth's famous mongoose, Mr. Magoo at the Duluth News Tribune (via archive.org); retrieved July 27, 2014.
- Rasa, Anne (1986). Mongoose Watch: A Family Observed. Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday & Co. ISBN 9780385231756. OCLC 12664019.
- Hinton, H. E. & Dunn, A. M. S. (1967). Mongooses: Their Natural History and Behaviour. Berkeley: University of California Press. OCLC 1975837.
|Wikispecies has information related to Herpestidae|