Paradoxurus is a genus of three species of palm civets native to Asia. Some distinct features of the genus are they have a broad head with a narrow muzzle, large rounded ears, and a tail that is usually as long as their head and body combined. (Blanford, 1885; Dhungel and Edge, 1985; Tanomtong, et al., 2005; Veron, et al., 2015)
Members of the genus Paradoxurus can be found throughout Southeast Asia. The most widespread species is the Asian palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus), which has populations spanning from Pakistan and India to as far east as the Philippines. The other two species, the brown palm civet (Paradoxurus jerdoni) and the golden palm civet (Paradoxurus zeylonensis), occupy more specific ranges within the Western Ghats mountain range of West India and the island nation of Sri Lanka respectively. (Blanford, 1885; Dhungel and Edge, 1985; Groves, et al., 2009; Patou, et al., 2010)
Despite having few species, Paradoxurus can be found in a variety of habitats. Overall, members of Paradoxurus are arboreal and prefer areas with dense foliage for secluded shelter. They also tend to choose wherever food is most abundant, picking fruit trees to call home. While their most common habitat is temperate and tropical forests, Asian palm civets and brown palm civets have been found to take shelter in human-developed places, such as parks, gardens, or plantations. The golden palm civet, being endemic to an island, inhabits all of the varying regions that make the island up. They can be found in the dry scrublands to the rainy highlands. (Bartels, 1964; Blanford, 1885; Dhungel and Edge, 1985; Patou, et al., 2010; Pocock, 1934)
The genus Paradoxurus is part of the subfamily Paradoxurinae. The other genuses include Arctictis, Paguma, and Arctogalidia. Paradoxurinae is part of the family Viverridae which house other civets, genets and oyans. Within the genus there are only three currently described species. The first two are Paradoxurus hermaphroditus and Paradoxurus jerdoni. The third species, Paradoxurus zeylonenesis, was at one point proposed to be three different species, but later research found there was too low genetic diversity to support this. (Blanford, 1885; Groves, et al., 2009; Patou, et al., 2010; Tanomtong, et al., 2005; Veron, et al., 2015)
Members of the Paradoxurus genus tend to be small, ranging from 1 to 3.5 kg and an average body length of 50 cm and a tail length of an additional 40 cm. They have pointed snouts and elongated heads. They have black, gray, or brown coats, although this depends on the species. Brown palm civets will have light or dark brown fur while the golden palm civet has a golden shade to its coat. Only common palm civets will be black and gray. They are also the only species in Paradoxurus to have bands of white fur on their face similar to other species of civets in other families. Palm civets have feet well-adapted for their arboreal environment. They have naked soles, a reduced first digit on both sets of feet, and traction pads on their hind feet. There are very few distinguishing features between males and females, but females do have two to three pairs of abdominal mammae and males possess a baculum, or penis bone. (Bartels, 1964; Blanford, 1885; Miller, 1913; Pocock, 1934)
All members of the genus Paradoxurus are nocturnal and avoid humans often, so very little is known about the species’ mating systems. Palm civets are solitary most of the time and only come together for one to fifteen days to mate. They usually choose hollowed out trees to give birth and raise young in. (Blanford, 1885; Dhungel and Edge, 1985)
Palm civets will breed year round and will likely mate multiple times in a year. Their gestation period is between 60 and 90 days depending on the species, but all members give birth to two to five kittens per litter, usually twice a year. The kittens are born blind, but with hair, only weighing about 80 grams. In about two weeks, their eyes will open and they will be fully weaned by two months. Palm civets aren’t sexually mature until a year after birth. (Blanford, 1885; Dhungel and Edge, 1985; Miller, 1913; Pocock, 1934)
Palm civets are altricial and need their parents’ care for a time after birth. There is very little information on how palm civets raise their offspring since the young do not leave the tree for the first two months of being weaned. Females most likely carry the bulk of the investment, being in charge of providing nourishment both before and after weaning. (Bartels, 1964; Dhungel and Edge, 1985; Pocock, 1934)
While other members of the Viverridae family usually live to be 5-15 years old in the wild, common palm civets have been known to live on average 15-20 years and even longer in captivity. Golden and brown palm civets on the other hand usually live around 10 years in the wild. (Blanford, 1885; Dhungel and Edge, 1985; Pocock, 1934)
All three species of palm civets are nocturnal, arboreal, and solitary outside of mating seasons. They are usually only active at night, awakening at dusk and trying to find a place to rest before dawn. The brown palm civet has been recorded using the nests of Indian giant squirrels (Ratufa indica) as day-beds. It has also been observed that palm civets like darker nights more. During this time, they search for food. If an area has plenty of food, then a palm civet will tend to stay in one spot. Only if food begins to run out will a palm civet travel into a neighboring civet’s territory. Males are usually more active than females and can travel further in a day. While they are skilled climbers, they are not particularly agile and move slower than other tree-dwelling animals. If cornered, some species have been known to fight and release a pungent chemical from their anal scent gland as defense. (Blanford, 1885; Dhungel and Edge, 1985; Groves, et al., 2009; Miller, 1913; Pocock, 1934)
Palm civets rely on their scent glands more than sounds to communicate. The only times palm civets are vocal are when they are being agitated. By combining the secretions from their scent glands with urine and feces, palm civets will mark their territories with a scent marking that is unique to the individual. Civets will also spray this scent as self-defense against predators or intruders to their territory. Males mark their surroundings much more often than females will. Males and females have also been observed to use different methods of application for their scent markings. Both sexes will secrete their mixture onto the ground, but then males will wipe their hind legs in it and then rub the scent onto trees and rocks. Females will drag their anus along the scent and spread it on the ground. (Dhungel and Edge, 1985; Patou, et al., 2010; Veron, et al., 2015)
Plant matter makes up the bulk of the diets of the members in Paradoxurus, but the animals are truly omnivorous, eating whatever becomes available to them at the moment. Different species will be more or less likely to exclusively seek out plants to eat over meat. Paradoxurus jerdoni is one of the biggest herbivores in the entire family of Viverridae for example. All species do have unspecialized digestive systems though and can change their diet with ease. The fruits that palm civets often pick from are figs, chiku, mangoes, coffee, guava, rambutan, pineapples, bananas, cardamom, papayas, and pulpy berries. Their favorite trees to feed from though are palm trees which gave them their common name palm civet. Asian palm civets have also been found to feed on the sap and nectar of various native trees. When hunting, palm civets will prey on small rodents, birds, reptiles, frogs, moths, insects, millipedes, centipedes, arachnids, crustaceans, snails, shrews, worms, and eggs. Since palm civets are foragers and will often move around to find food whenever it’s scarce, they can often be found in urban areas such as gardens or plantations looking for food. (Bartels, 1964; Dhungel and Edge, 1985; Mudappa, et al., 2010; Pocock, 1934)
The main predators of palm civets are the ones that are best suited to hunt an arboreal and nocturnal animal like the members of Paradoxurus. Large cats, like tigers and leopards, and pythons are skilled at hunting in the dark or in trees. Black eagles are also a predator of Asian palm civets, able to fly into a tree and carry a civet away. (Bartels, 1964; Blanford, 1885; Dhungel and Edge, 1985; Miller, 1913; Pocock, 1934)
The main role palm civets play in their ecosystem is the dispersal of seeds. Since viverrids eat fruit as most of their diet, they are often considered one of the most important dispersers of seed across the forests of Asia. As the palm civets move around their environment, they will pass the seeds in their feces several hundred meters from their tree of origin. The feces also allows for the seed to quickly be fertilized and begin growing. Forests become more and more fragmented due to human activity, palm civets are crucial in reconnecting these patches through their seed dispersal. (Bartels, 1964; Dhungel and Edge, 1985; Groves, et al., 2009; Mudappa, et al., 2010)
The earliest use humans had for palm civets was to use their sweet-smelling musk to conceal the smell of scabies, but now that musk is sold as a perfume. People have also kept palm civets as ratcatchers since they have been known to eat rodents in the wild. Some uses for certain species include golden palm civets being used to study rabies and help control the disease in Sri Lanka and Asian palm civets aiding in the production of one of the world’s most expensive coffees. Kopi luwak is made from the pits of coffee cherries that the civets eat and sells for over $100/lb. Civets tend to only pick the best and ripest coffee cherries and the pit gains a unique flavor after being passed through their digestion system. (Blanford, 1885; Groves, et al., 2009; Mudappa, et al., 2010; Pocock, 1934)
The most common problem palm civets cause for humans is when they raid plantations for fruit. Their ability to consume a wide variety of fruits and disperse their seeds also threatens to introduce new species into the ecosystem. Palm civets are also very noisy at night and can be quite a nuisance if they decide to nest in an area populated by humans. Golden palm civets are also a possible carrier of rabies in Sri Lanka, posing a threat to humans and domesticated animals. (Blanford, 1885; Dhungel and Edge, 1985; Mudappa, et al., 2010; Pocock, 1934)
All three species within Paradoxurus are considered a species of Least Concern according to the IUCN Red List. They are highly adaptable and can be found in large numbers throughout areas that have been disturbed and fragmented. Most palm civets are quite elusive, so it’s hard to get a good understanding of their population numbers. Although they are currently nowhere near the threat of extinction, palm civets do face some dangers in the future if left unchecked. Increasing amounts of over-logging are shrinking the forest most civets call home. Palm civets also are often hunted to reduce their effect on crop production. Additionally, the rabies disease in golden palm civets will be fatal to them if left untreated and they are often hunted in an effort to prevent the disease from spreading more. (Groves, et al., 2009; Mudappa, et al., 2010; Patou, et al., 2010; Veron, et al., 2015)
Jonas Cox (author), Colorado State University, Audrey Bowman (editor), Colorado State University.
living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.
uses sound to communicate
young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.
Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
an animal that mainly eats meat
either directly causes, or indirectly transmits, a disease to a domestic animal
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
a substance used for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
parental care is carried out by females
an animal that mainly eats leaves.
A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
an animal that mainly eats fruit
an animal that mainly eats seeds
An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.
An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
eats mollusks, members of Phylum Mollusca
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
an animal that mainly eats nectar from flowers
active during the night
an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals
found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.
rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.
communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them
scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.
remains in the same area
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.
uses touch to communicate
Living on the ground.
the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.
A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.
A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.
A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.
living in cities and large towns, landscapes dominated by human structures and activity.
uses sight to communicate
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
breeding takes place throughout the year
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Veron, G., M. Patou, M. Toth, M. Goonatilake, A. Jennings. 2015. How many species of Paradoxurus civets are there? New insights from India and Sri Lanka. Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research, 53/2: 161-174.