fossa

fossa, carnivorous mammal, Cryptoprocta ferox, of Madagascar. The island's largest carnivore, the fossa resembles a puma in appearance and has semiretractable claws, but it is most closely related to Madagascar's other native carnivores and to the mongoose and civet. Its slender body may be more than 5 ft (1.5 m) long including the tail, which makes up about half of the total length, and the largest males may weigh as much as 26 lb (12 kg). The female is somewhat smaller. The coat is generally reddish brown above and cream below.

The fossa is found in both humid and dry forests and is an agile climber. A generally solitary animal, it preys on lemurs, wild pigs, and other mammals as well as fish and birds; it hunts by ambush. During mating season several males compete for a female, who rests high in a tree; the tree may be used for mating, and then used as a mating ground by another female when the first leaves. There are two to four young in a litter. The young are blind and helpless when born, and remain the mother for about a year and a half. Largely because of habitat destruction, the fossa is endangered.

The fossa is classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Carnivora, family Eupleridae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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