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Temporal range: 34–0 Ma Eocene to Recent[1]
A mosaic of four small photos of viverrids in trees
Viverrids, including (top left to bottom right), species of Paradoxurus, Genetta, Paguma and Arctictis
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Infraorder: Aeluroidea
Parvorder: Viverroidea
Family: Viverridae
Gray, 1821
Type genus
Linnaeus, 1758
Distribution of living viverrid species

Viverridae is a family of small to medium-sized, feliform mammals. The viverrids (/vˈvɛrɪdz/) comprise 33 species placed in 14 genera. This family was named and first described by John Edward Gray in 1821.[3] Viverrids occur all over Africa, southern Europe, and South and Southeast Asia, across the Wallace Line.[4]

Almost all viverrids outside the subfamily Genettinae are commonly called civets, but some civets are not viverrids. Animals of the subfamily Genettinae are known as genets and oyans. The word viverridae comes from the Latin viverra 'ferret', but ferrets are in a different family, the Mustelidae.


Binturong (Arctictis binturong) on display at the Museum of Osteology

Viverrids have four or five toes on each foot and half-retractile claws. They have six incisors in each jaw and molars with two tubercular grinders behind in the upper jaw, and one in the lower jaw. The tongue is rough with sharp prickles. A pouch or gland occurs beneath the anus, but there is no cecum.[3]

Viverrids are the most primitive of all the families of feliform Carnivora and clearly less specialized than the Felidae. In external characteristics, they are distinguished from the Felidae by the longer muzzle and tuft of facial vibrissae between the lower jaw bones, and by the shorter limbs and the five-toed hind foot with the first digit present. The skull differs by the position of the postpalatine foramina on the maxilla, almost always well in advance of the maxillopalatine suture, and usually about the level of the second premolar; and by the distinct external division of the auditory bulla into its two elements either by a definite groove or, when rarely this is obliterated, by the depression of the tympanic bone in front of the swollen entotympanic. The typical dental formula is:, but the number may be reduced, although never to the same extent as in the Felidae.[4]

Their flesh-shearing carnassial teeth are relatively undeveloped compared to those of other feliform carnivorans.[5] Most viverrid species have a penis bone (a baculum).[6]



Living species


In 1821, Gray defined this family as consisting of the genera Viverra, Genetta, Herpestes, and Suricata.[3] Reginald Innes Pocock later redefined the family as containing a great number of highly diversified genera, and being susceptible of division into several subfamilies, based mainly on the structure of the feet and of some highly specialized scent glands, derived from the skin, which are present in most of the species and are situated in the region of the external generative organs. He subordinated the subfamilies Hemigalinae, Paradoxurinae, Prionodontinae, and Viverrinae to the Viverridae.[4]

In 1833, Edward Turner Bennett described the Malagasy fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) and subordinated the Cryptoprocta to the Viverridae.[7] A molecular and morphological analysis based on DNA/DNA hybridization experiments suggests that Cryptoprocta does not belong within Viverridae, but is a member of the Eupleridae.[8]

The African palm civet (Nandinia binotata) resembles the civets of the Viverridae, but is genetically distinct and belongs in its own monotypic family, the Nandiniidae. There is little dispute that the Poiana species are viverrids.[2]

DNA analysis based on 29 Carnivora species, comprising 13 Viverrinae species and three species representing Paradoxurus, Paguma and Hemigalinae, confirmed Pocock's assumption that the African linsang Poiana represents the sister group of the genus Genetta. The placement of Prionodon as the sister group of the family Felidae is strongly supported, and it was proposed that the Asiatic linsangs be placed in the monogeneric family Prionodontidae.[9]

Family Viverridae[1][2][10]
Subfamily Genus Species Image of type species
Viverrinae Viverra Linnaeus, 1758[11]
Viverricula Hodgson, 1838[14] Small Indian civet (V. indica) (Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1803)[15]
Civettictis Pocock, 1915[16] African civet (C. civetta) (Schreber, 1776)[17]
Hemigalinae Gray, 1864[18]
Hemigalus Jourdan, 1837[19] Banded palm civet (H. derbyanus) Jourdan, 1837[19]
Cynogale Gray, 1836[20] Otter civet (C. bennettii) Gray, 1836[20]
Diplogale Thomas, 1912[21] Hose's palm civet (D. hosei) (Thomas, 1892)[22]
Macrogalidia Schwarz, 1910[23] Sulawesi palm civet (M. musschenbroekii) (Schlegel, 1877)[24]
Chrotogale Thomas, 1912[21] Owston's palm civet (C. owstoni) Thomas, 1912[21]
Paradoxurinae Gray, 1864[18] Paradoxurus Cuvier, 1822[25]
Arctictis Temminck, 1824[29] Binturong (A. binturong) (Raffles, 1822)[30]
Paguma Gray, 1831[31] Masked palm civet (P. larvata) (Smith, 1827)[32]
Arctogalidia Merriam, 1897[33] Small-toothed palm civet (A. trivirgata) (Gray, 1832)[34]
Genettinae Genetta Cuvier, 1816[35]
Poiana Gray, 1864[18]



The phylogenetic relationships of Viverridae are shown in the following cladogram:[1][10]


Golden palm civet P. zeylonensis

Jerdon's palm civet P. jerdoni

Asian palm civet P. hermaphroditus


Sulawesi palm civet M. musschenbroekii


Masked palm civet P. larvata


Binturong A. binturong


Small-toothed palm civet A. trivirgata


Otter civet C. bennettii


Owston's palm civet C. owstoni


Hose's palm civet D. hosei


Banded palm civet H. derbyanus


Malabar large-spotted civet V. civettina

Large-spotted civet V. megaspila

Large Indian civet V. zibetha

Malayan civet V. tangalunga


African civet C. civetta


Small Indian civet V. indica

 sensu stricto 

West African oyan P. leightoni

Central African oyan P. richardsonii


Abyssinian genet G. abyssinica

Haussa genet G. thierryi

Giant forest genet G. victoriae

Johnston's genet G. johnstoni

Aquatic genet G. piscivora

Servaline genet G. servalina

Crested servaline genet G. cristata

South African small-spotted genet G. felina

Common genet G. genetta

Cape genet G. tigrina

Letaba genet G. letabae

Schouteden’s genet G. schoutedeni

Rusty-spotted genet G. maculata

Angolan genet G. angolensis

Pardine genet G. pardina

Bourlon's genet G. bourloni

King genet G. poensis

 sensu lato 

Extinct species

Subfamily Genus Species
Viverrinae Viverra Linnaeus, 1758 Leakey's civet (V. leakeyi) Leakey, 1982
Semigenetta Helbing 1927
  • S. cadeoti Roman and Viret 1934
  • S. elegans Dehm, 1950
  • S. grandis Crusafont & Golpe, 1981
  • S. laugnacensis De Bonis, 1973
  • S. ripolli Petter, 1976
  • S. sansaniensis Lartet, 1851
Paradoxurinae Kichechia Savage, 1965[50]
Tugenictis Morales & Pickford, 2005[52][53] T. ngororaensis[52] Morales & Pickford, 2005
Kanuites Dehghani & Werdelin, 2008[54] K. lewisae[54] Dehghani & Werdelin, 2008
Siamictis Grohé et al., 2020[55] S. carbonensis[55] Grohé et al., 2020

See also



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  2. ^ a b c Wozencraft, W. C. (2005). "Family Viverridae". 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. 548–559. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
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  5. ^ Wozencraft, W. C. (1984). Macdonald, D. (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File. pp. 134–135. ISBN 0-87196-871-1.
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  8. ^ Veron, G.; Catzeflis, F. M. (1993). "Phylogenetic relationships of the endemic Malagasy carnivore Cryptoprocta ferox (Aeluroideae): DNA/DNA hybridization experiments". Journal of Mammalian Evolution. 1 (3): 169–185. doi:10.1007/bf01024706. S2CID 21555307.
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