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MammalsSpecies Animal

Genetta genetta

Genetta genetta

The common genet (Genetta genetta Linnaeus, 1758) is a mammal belonging to the Viverridae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Animalia,
Phylum Chordata,
Mammalia class,
Subclass Theria,
Infraclass Eutheria,
Superorder Laurasiatheria,
Order Carnivora,
Suborder Feliformia,
family Viverridae,
Subfamily Viverrinae,
Genus Genetta,
G.genetta species.
The terms are synonyms:
– Genetta vulgaris Lesson, 1827;
– Viverra genetta (Linnaeus, 1758).
Within this species the following subspecies are recognised:
Genetta Genetta genetta (Linnaeus), 1758 — Present in Spain, Portugal and France;
Genetta Genetta afra (Cuvier), 1825 – Present in North Africa;
Genetta Genetta senegalensis (Fischer), 1829 — Present in sub-Saharan Africa;
Genetta Genetta dongolana (Hemprich and Ehrenberg), 1832 – Present in Arabia.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
The Genetta genetta is a carnivore native to Africa which was subsequently introduced to south-western Europe. It is widely distributed, with its subspecies, north of the Sahara, in savannah areas south of the Sahara to southern Africa and along the coast of Arabia, Yemen and Oman.
It is widespread in southwestern Europe, where it was introduced by the Romans.
Its range is expanding and in 2008 there was the first sighting in the Regional Natural Park of the Ligurian Alps of a specimen from nearby France.
Its habitat is that of wooded areas, both evergreen and deciduous, where it is often associated with water courses. It avoids open environments, although it has sometimes been observed in savannahs or farms. Instead it is absent from rainforests and wooded savannas. It can reach 3,300 meters of altitude in the Ethiopian highlands.

Description –
The Genetta genetta is a medium-sized carnivore, with the length of the head and body between 432 and 552 mm; the length of the tail fluctuates between 331 and 516 mm; that of the foot between 80 and 90 mm and that of the ears between 40 and 54 mm; it has a weight that can reach up to 2.5 kg.
It has relatively long, soft, dense and woolly fur, with a ground color of the body ranging from whitish-gray to light reddish-yellow. It has a black dorsal stripe that extends from the shoulders to the base of the tail. There are also 4 rows of small well separated black spots along the sides. Another blackish stripe is present on the forehead, while there are blackish spots on each side of the eye. The sides of the muzzle, chin, lower lip and throat are white.
The vibrissae are about 60–70 mm long. The legs are dark at the back. The central part between the pads of the sole of the forepaw is covered with hair. The tail is shorter than the head and body, is blackish and has 8-9 whitish rings and a white tip.
Females have two pairs of teats.
The various subspecies differ mainly in the color of the fur and in its length, highlighting two main variants, the first characteristic of the Mediterranean climatic regions and of South Africa where the fur is longer, dark and with blackish spots, and a second widespread in the rest of the tropical and desert climate range where the fur is shorter, paler and covered with more brownish spots. Finally, completely melanistic specimens are present only in the Iberian Peninsula.

Biology –
The reproduction period of the Genetta genetta varies according to the area where it lives; for example in Spain it reproduces between January and September, with a peak in February and March and another in summer.
The breeding season is mainly associated with the rainy seasons in Africa while it occurs in spring and autumn in the Mediterranean regions. Lactating females were observed in Ethiopia in late November, while other pregnant females were observed from October to February in Botswana, and more generally from September to January in southern Africa. Females reach sexual maturity at two years of age.
Mating behavior and juvenile development have been studied in captive individuals.
Copulation lasts two to three minutes and is repeated up to five times in the same night. After a gestation period of 10-11 weeks, up to four young are born.
The litter is looked after inside the hollows of large trees or in dens of other animals. At birth, the chicks are covered in down, have their eyes and ears closed and weigh from 60 to 85 g; they grow very slowly, reaching a weight of 1.5 kg after eight months. They leave the nest after 45 days and will start eating meat at about seven weeks of age and are fully weaned by four months.
By the time they are five months old, they are adept at hunting on their own.
When they are 19 months old, they begin marking their territory and are thought to be sexually mature by the age of two.
This species, in captivity, lives up to 20 years while the one in the wild does not exceed 8 years.

Ecological Role –
The Genetta genetta was initially classified with the scientific name of Viverra genetta by Carl Linnaeus in 1758.
It is an animal that tends to take refuge in the bush, in rock masses or in the hollows of trees, sometimes in dens abandoned by other animals such as aardvarks, where it generally lives alone and more rarely in pairs.
It is mainly a terrestrial species, although it is a skilled climber, in particular on trees to look for fruit or birds’ nests and to escape from predators. It can be recognized, other than by its somatic characteristics, because it usually walks or trots with the body kept very close to the ground, the vertebral column, including the tail, almost horizontal, the shoulders lower than the base of the tail in such a way that the center of gravity always remains low. It often uses dry roads, trails, and riverbeds to get around.
Communications between different individuals occur mainly through olfactory and visual signals, although vocal calls are important in mother-child relationships. In this regard, they use the secretions of the perineal glands and urine as much as the rubbing of the body and paws.
Territorial marking is more pronounced in males during the breeding seasons, while in females it is more evident during the rest of the year. Rubbing is associated with aggressive posturing, often together with erecting long tail hairs and dorsal crest, arching of the back in a very cat-like manner, and loud hissing accompanied by forward movement of the head towards the opponent with the mouth open to show teeth. The range of action is very limited, with movements that do not exceed 3 km.
The Genetta genetta preys at night, from sunset to the early hours of the morning, while the young are also active during the day.
Once the prey has been identified, the genet moves slowly, chasing it in a feline way and then suddenly pounced on it. It is then grabbed with the claws of its front legs and bitten all over its body, but if it does not die in a short time, the genet throws itself next to it and grabs it with all four legs trying to crush its head or break its neck with some bites. Generally small rodents and other vertebrates are dissected into two or three parts and then eaten.
The diet is therefore composed of small mammals, birds, eggs, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, fruit and mushrooms. It has been reported as a species which, in some cases, raids chicken coops.
Even before the domestic cat, in the Middle Ages the common genet was used to limit the proliferation of rodents around the houses.
There are no known major threats regarding its conservation status.
In North Africa and some localities in Southern Africa they are hunted for their fur. In Portugal they are killed in predator traps. In Ibiza, urbanization and infrastructure development cause habitat loss and fragmentation.
Among predators, predation by servals, caracals, leopards, ratels and great owls have been observed, suggesting vulnerability to large numbers of African carnivores.
The Genetta genetta is listed in Appendix III of the Bern Convention and in Annex V of the Habitats and Species Directive of the European Union.
The IUCN Red List, considering the vast range, the presence in numerous protected areas and the presence in various habitats, classifies the G. genetta as a minimum risk species (Least Concern).

Guido Bissanti

– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Facilidad Global de Información sobre Biodiversidad.
– Gordon Corbet, Denys Ovenden, 2012. Guide to mammals of Europe. Franco Muzzio Publisher.
– John Woodward, Kim Dennis-Bryan, 2018. The Great Encyclopedia of Animals. Gribaudo Publisher.

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