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Flrmungo

The tropical rainforest gives the huge variety of kinds of food to the inhabitants; therefore it is possible to meet the set of highly specialized species of animals here. Among them at times there are species depending on the most unexpected food sources. Predators turn to vegetarians rather seldom. Pandas, partly bears, and the African palm-nut vulture among birds are the examples of this phenomenon known in human epoch. But in Neocene in Madagascar forests the descendant of carnivores evolved, which quite may add this list with itself – sugar mungo. This species of former predators lives in canopy of Madagascar rainforests at the great height. The small mammal with bright red wool and long tail quickly clambers among lianas and branches. It is similar to any rodent or small lemur, but at close examination first impression appears deceptive. It differs from primates in claws and short fingers and toes bearing characteristic small pads. Also it is lack of large incisors being a “card” of rodents.  This animal moves in a manner characteristic for predators: it quickly jumps among branches, frequently sniffing. And it seems that sensitive long nose prompts its owner where the food is. In several jumps small predator reaches the purpose: branches of plentifully blossoming tree. Having found recently opened labiate flowers emitting aroma with slight putrefactive shade, little mammal thrusts head in flower. In the weight it lowers the bottom petal, densely pressed against top one, and narrow muzzle allows it to penetrate deep into flower fauces. Little mammal does not search for small animals it can easily cope with – it feeds on nectar. When it pulls head out from flower, its nape appears powdered with brownish pollen. Having cleaned and having sneezed squeaky, sugar mungo gets into other flowers by turns, licking nectar from them and making pollination in passing. Sugar mungo, perhaps, is one of the smallest and most specialized species of carnivores; it is the descendant of Malagasy mongoose (Galidictis). Having adapted to life in forest canopy, it has turned to skilful acrobat, and small size allows it to clamber easily on thinest branches. It is only about rat-sizeв one, though it seems larger because of longer fluffy tail. Bright red wool of sugar mungo is short and rich. Throat and breast are white, bordered with thin black strip. On back there passes black longitudinal strip; sometimes it is supplemented with pale faltering parallel strips on each side. Tenacious paws of animal are supplied with sharp bent claws, allowing clambering on branches and tree trunks. Tail serves as a counterbalance when this mammal moves on lianas and thin branches. Head is extended and is on rather long and flexible neck. Brown eyes are large – sugar mungo has good color sight; it distinguishes the most part of colors (except for dark blue) and especially likes to feed on red flowers. Muzzle of animal is long and narrow, slightly lowered downwards; on each side of nose long whiskers stick out. Teeth are small and short – sugar mungo eats firm food seldom. But tongue of this animal is a principal organ of food getting. It can be put far out from mouth, and on its tip there is brush of fibers, assisting to gather nectar. In addition to nectar sugar mungo eats friable pulp of ripe fruits. Animal licks it by tongue from cracks in peel, or tears peel of fruit by claws for feeding. Occasionally sugar mungo catches tiny insects and slugs, supplementing a diet with necessary animal protein. Pregnant and nursing females, and also young animals especially frequently catch invertebrates. Sugar mungo is a solitary animal and is active mainly in afternoon time. Females of this species are very much adhered to the territory, and each individual carefully marks borders of territory with musky smell. Males lack musky glands, and they have no constant territory which may be marked at all. Every male lives at the large site including some territories of females. Males are more tolerant, rather than females, concerning to each other and some animals can even spend the night in the same hollow. This species brings posterity up to 3 – 4 times per year. In a litter there is only one cub, twins are rarity. The young growth is born rather advanced, covered with short wool. It is remarkable, that at this species habits like at cuscuses and lemurs were developed: the grown up cub leaves nest very early (at the age of one week, just having opened eyes), and gets on back of mother. It travels so approximately two weeks more, and then starts to follow mother independently. At this time it remembers species of plants having nectar-bearing flowers. At the age of two months it becomes completely independent and leaves mother which already bears the new cub at that time. Five-monthly sugar mungoes are already adult and also are capable to breed. Life expectancy is short, as well as at all small mammals: no more than 5 years.

Florm ap

The related species also lives in rainforests of East Madagascar – it is bee mungo (Floromungo apiphilus). This species differs from sugar mungo in dim brown colouring of the top part of body with longitudinal black strips on sides. Spots on its throat are yellowish and rather small.

The diet of bee mungo includes mostly honey which it steals in bee nests, and also larvae of these insects which represent the main source of protein of animal origin in its diet. It is dangerous to get such food: bees can kill small animal, having stung it enough of times. But bee mungo uses the special adaptation to ravage bee nests: it has strongly advanced musky glands, and the smell of their secretion frightens insects off. Getting into bee nest, animal lets out some drops of musky liquid. The extending smell forces bees to leave nest and to get off in dense clusters on branch at some distance while the animal quietly licks honey and eats larvae in their nest. In other features the biology of this species is similar to biology of sugar mungo.

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