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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 e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Infraorder: Viverroidea
Family: Viverridae
Gray, 1821

Viverridae is a family of small to medium-sized mammals, the viverrids (/vˈvɛrɪdz/), comprising 15 genera, which are subdivided into 38 species.[2] This family was named and first described by John Edward Gray in 1821.[3] Viverrids are found in South and Southeast Asia, across the Wallace Line, all over Africa, and into southern Europe. Their occurrence in Sulawesi and in some of the adjoining islands shows them to be ancient inhabitants of the Old World tropics.[4]


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 carnivores. [5] Most viverrid species have a penis bone (a baculum).[6]


Living species[edit]

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 species of Carnivora, comprising 13 species of Viverrinae 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 Large Indian Civet, Viverra zibetha in Kaeng Krachan national park.jpg
Viverricula Hodgson, 1838 Small Indian civet (V. indica) Hodgson, 1838 Small Indian Civet, Silchar, Assam, India.jpg
Civettictis Pocock, 1915 African civet (C. civetta) (Schreber, 1776) Civettictis civetta 11.jpg
Hemigalus Jourdan, 1837 Banded palm civet (H. derbyanus) Jourdan, 1837 Banded palm civet 10.jpg
Cynogale Gray, 1837 Otter civet (C. bennettii) Gray, 1837 Mampalon.jpg
Diplogale Thomas, 1912 Hose's palm civet (D. hosei) (Thomas, 1892) HemigaleHoseiSmit.jpg
Chrotogale Thomas, 1912 Owston's palm civet (C. owstoni) Thomas, 1912 Chrotogale owstoni PWP.jpg
Paradoxurinae Paradoxurus Cuvier, 1822 Asian or Common Palm Civet Paradoxurus hermaphroditus Chambal by Dr. Raju Kasambe (6).JPG
Arctictis Temminck, 1824 Binturong (A. binturong) (Raffles, 1822) Binturong in Overloon.jpg
Paguma Gray, 1831 Masked palm civet (P. larvata) Gray, 1831 Palm civet on tree (detail).jpg
Macrogalidia Schwarz, 1910 Sulawesi palm civet (M. musschenbroekii) (Schlegel, 1877) Macrogalidia musschenbroekii.jpg
Arctogalidia Merriam, 1897 Small-toothed palm civet (A. trivirgata) (Gray, 1832) Small-toothed Palm Civet (Arctogalidia trivirgata stigmatica) (8076736823) (cut).jpg
Genettinae Genetta Cuvier, 1816 Genetta genetta felina (Wroclaw zoo).JPG
Poiana Gray, 1864 Em - Poiana richardsonii 2.jpg


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


Paradoxurus zeylonensis (Golden palm civet)

Paradoxurus montanus (Sri Lankan brown palm civet)

Paradoxurus stenocephalus (Golden dry-zone palm civet)

Paradoxurus aureus (Golden wet-zone palm civet)

Paradoxurus jerdoni (Jerdon's palm civet)

Paradoxurus hermaphroditus (Asian palm civet)


Macrogalidia musschenbroekii (Sulawesi palm civet)


Paguma larvata (Masked palm civet)


Arctictis binturong (Binturong)


Arctogalidia trivirgata (Small-toothed palm civet)


Cynogale bennettii (Otter civet)


Chrotogale owstoni (Owston's palm civet)


Diplogale hosei (Hose's palm civet)


Hemigalus derbyanus (Banded palm civet)


Viverra civettina (Malabar large-spotted civet)

Viverra megaspila (Large-spotted civet)

Viverra zibetha (Large Indian civet)

Viverra tangalunga (Malayan civet) Malay Civet (Viverra tangalunga) white background.jpg


Civettictis civetta (African civet) Viverra civetta - 1700-1880 - Print - Iconographia Zoologica - Special Collections University of Amsterdam -(white background).jpg


Viverricula indica (Small Indian civet)

 sensu stricto 

Poiana leightoni (Leighton's linsang)

Poiana richardsonii (African linsang)


Genetta abyssinica (Abyssinian genet)

Genetta thierryi (Haussa genet)

Genetta victoriae (Giant forest genet)

Genetta johnstoni (Johnston's genet)

Genetta piscivora (Aquatic genet)

Genetta servalina (Servaline genet)

Genetta cristata (Crested servaline genet)

Genetta felina (South African small-spotted genet)

Genetta genetta (Common genet)

Genetta tigrina (Cape genet)

Genetta letabae

Genetta schoutedeni (Schouteden’s genet)

Genetta maculata (Rusty-spotted genet)

Genetta angolensis (Angolan genet)

Genetta pardina (Pardine genet)

Genetta bourloni (Bourlon's genet)

Genetta poensis (King genet)

 sensu lato 

Extinct species[edit]

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[12]
Tugenictis Morales & Pickford, 2005[14][15] T. ngororaensis[14] Morales & Pickford, 2005
Kanuites Dehghani & Werdelin, 2008[16] K. lewisae[16] Dehghani & Werdelin, 2008
Siamictis Grohé et al., 2020[17] S. carbonensis[17] Grohé et al., 2020

Ecology and behavior[edit]

They are generally solitary and have excellent hearing and vision. They are omnivorous; the palm civet is almost entirely herbivorous.[5]

Favored habitats include woodland, savanna, mountains, and above all tropical rainforest. Due to heavy deforestation, many face severe habitat loss. Several species, such as the Hose's palm civet, which is endemic to northern Borneo, are considered vulnerable. The otter civet is classified as endangered.[2]


  1. ^ a b c Gaubert, P. & Cordeiro-Estrela, P. (2006). "Phylogenetic systematics and tempo of evolution of the Viverrinae (Mammalia, Carnivora, Viverridae) within feliformians: implications for faunal exchanges between Asia and Africa" (PDF). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 41 (2): 266–278. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2006.05.034. PMID access
  2. ^ a b c d e 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.
  3. ^ a b c Gray, J. E. (1821). "On the natural arrangement of vertebrose animals". London Medical Repository. 15 (1): 296–310.
  4. ^ a b c Pocock, R. I. (1939). "Family Viverridae". The Fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Mammalia. – Volume 1. London: Taylor and Francis. pp. 330–332.
  5. ^ a b Wozencraft, W. C. (1984). Macdonald, D. (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File. pp. 134–135. ISBN 0-87196-871-1.
  6. ^ Ewer, R. F. (1998). The Carnivores. Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-8493-6.
  7. ^ Bennett, E. T. (1833). "Notice of a new genus of Viverridous Mammalia from Madagascar". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. 1833: 46.
  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.
  9. ^ Gaubert, P.; Veron, G. (2003). "Exhaustive sample set among Viverridae reveals the sister-group of felids: the linsangs as a case of extreme morphological convergence within Feliformia". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 270 (1532): 2523–2530. doi:10.1098/rspb.2003.2521. PMC 1691530. PMID 14667345.
  10. ^ a b Nyakatura, K. & Bininda-Emonds, O. R. P. (2012). "Updating the evolutionary history of Carnivora (Mammalia): a new species-level supertree complete with divergence time estimates". BMC Biology. 10: 12. doi:10.1186/1741-7007-10-12. PMC 3307490. PMID 22369503.
  11. ^ Groves, C. P.; Rajapaksha, C.; Manemandra-Arachchi, K. (2009). "The taxonomy of the endemic golden palm civet of Sri Lanka" (PDF). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. 155: 238–251. doi:10.1111/j.1096-3642.2008.00451.x.
  12. ^ a b Savage, R. J. G. (1965). "Fossil mammals of Africa: 19, The Miocene Carnivora of East Africa". Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History). 10 (8): 239–316.
  13. ^ Adrian, B.; Werdelin, L. & Grossman, A. (2018). "New Miocene Carnivora (Mammalia) from Moruorot and Kalodirr, Kenya" (PDF). Palaeontologia Electronica. 21 (1 10A): 1–19. doi:10.26879/778.
  14. ^ a b Morales, J. & Pickford, M. (2005). "Carnivores from the Middle Miocene Ngorora Formation (13-12 Ma), Kenya" (PDF). Estudios Geológicos. 61: 271–284. doi:10.3989/egeol.05613-668.
  15. ^ Werdelin, L. (2019). "Middle Miocene Carnivora and Hyaenodonta from Fort Ternan, western Kenya" (PDF). Geodiversitas. 41 (6).
  16. ^ a b Dehghani, R. & Werdelin, L. (2008). "A new small carnivoran from the Middle Miocene of Fort Ternan, Kenya". Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie-Abhandlungen. 248 (2): 233–244. doi:10.1127/0077-7749/2008/0248-0233.
  17. ^ a b Grohé, C.; Bonis, L. D.; Chaimanee, Y.; Chavasseau, O.; Rugbumrung, M.; Yamee, C.; Suraprasit, K.; Gibert, C.; Surault, J.; Blondel, C.; Jaeger, J.-J. (2020). "The Late Middle Miocene Mae Moh Basin of Northern Thailand: The Richest Neogene Assemblage of Carnivora from Southeast Asia and a Paleobiogeographic Analysis of Miocene Asian Carnivorans". American Museum Novitates. 2020 (3952): 1–57. doi:10.1206/3952.1.

External links[edit]