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Mungarts

During the climatic changes marked the change of geological epochs, the area of tropical forest

s of Madagascar was reduced up to several isolated sites in river valleys. Large forest species like Malagasy fossa had died out, but some small omnivorous predators had successfully survived. Among them there were rather small Malagasy mongooses (Galidictis), whose descendants have added new fauna of Madagascar.  In forests of Madagascar of Neocene epoch small animals can not feel like in full safety – at night one of local predators goes to hunt. Medium-sized mammal looking like squirrel quickly skips from one branch to another. It is about cat-sized, but looks larger because of long fluffy tail. With the help of such tail animal can change direction jump and support balance on branches and in jump. This creature is a squirrel mungo, one of Neocene Malagasy predators, ruthless hunter of any animals weighting up to 3 – 5 kgs. The skin of squirrel mungo is rusty-red, patterned with wide longitudinal strips of black color, breaking on shoulders to separate strokes. Tail is red with white tip, on eyes there is white “mask”; hands and feet are dark grey. Paws of squirrel mungo are rather long – in proportions animal looks like huge squirrel. Claws are rather short, but fingers and toes are long and tenacious - animal is good tree-climber and spends the whole life in forest canopy. Muzzle of animal is extended; ears are short and rounded. Canines are long, slightly juiting out from mouth. Squirrel mungo takes prey by forepaws, presses to branch and kills, putting deep bites to it. Squirrel mungo eats reptiles, birds and small mammals, and can attack even lemur cubs. It also supplements diet with bird eggs and insects. This predator eats small prey like squirrel, holding it in forepaws.  Squirrel mungoes live and hunt in pairs keeping together till some years, and sometimes till the whole life. Hollow of large tree, especially if the trunk is rotten from within to needed depth, is best dwelling for these animals. In afternoon time squirrel mungos sleep, and right before evening they begin the restless life: stretch, cleaned wool for some time, and go to search for food, renewing boundary marks in passing. Animals mark borders with musk secreting by glands in the basis of tail. For this purpose this mammal nestles back against tree trunk or branch, and rubs against this place for some time. Usually the couple of animals marks territory in common, putting a personal mark near to partner’s one. The pair protects its fodder site in common. If the stranger interferes the site occupied by couple of animals, lawful owners of territory meet it, loudly squalling and keeping nervously shivering tails up. Usually single animal does not get involved in fight with breeding couple and leaves another’s possession. Two times per one year the female brings posterity; in litter there is one cub differing from adults in monotonous reddish colouring without spots. It spends first two weeks of life in shelter (usually in tree-trunk hollow or in abandoned bird nest). When it gets stronger, parents start to train it in hunting receptions. Young animal keeps with parents almost up to the birth of the next cub at them. Shortly before delivery female starts to express aggression to its own cub. She can even kill it, protecting the future posterity if the cub appears not ready to begin independent life. The young animal reaches about 2/3 of the weight of adult animal to the moment of exile from family. At the age of half-year young animals occupy their own territory and after two more months can bring posterity.

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