Temporal range: 34–0 Ma
Eocene to Recent[2]
Viverrids, including (top left to bottom right), species of Paradoxurus, Genetta, Paguma and Arctictis
Scientific classification
Gray, 1821


Viverridae is a family of small to medium-sized mammals, the viverrids (/vˈvɛrɪdz/), comprising 15 genera, which are subdivided into 38 species.[1] This family was named and first described by John Edward Gray in 1821.[3] Members of this family are commonly called civets or genets. Viverrids are found in South and Southeast Asia, across the Wallace Line, all over Africa, and into southern Europe. Their occurrence in Sulawesi and in some of the adjoining islands shows them to be ancient inhabitants of the Old World tropics.[4]


Viverrids have four or five toes on each foot and half-retractile claws. They have six cutting teeth in each jaw and true grinders with two tubercular grinders behind in the upper jaw, and one in the lower jaw. The tongue is rough with sharp prickles. A pouch or gland occurs beneath the anus, but there is no coecum.[3]

Viverrids are the most primitive of all the families of feliform Carnivora and clearly less specialized than the Felidae (cats). In external characteristics, they are distinguished from the Felidae by the longer muzzle and tuft of facial vibrissae between the lower jaw bones, and by the shorter limbs and the five-toed hind foot with the first digit present. The skull differs by the position of the postpalatine foramina on the maxilla, almost always well in advance of the maxillopalatine suture, and usually about the level of the second premolar; and by the distinct external division of the auditory bulla into its two elements either by a definite groove or, when rarely this is obliterated, by the depression of the tympanic bone in front of the swollen entotympanic. The typical dental formula is:, but the number may be reduced, although never to the same extent as in the Felidae.[4]

Their flesh-shearing carnassial teeth are relatively undeveloped.[5] Most viverrid species have a penis bone (a baculum).[6] Viverrids range in size from the African linsang with a body length of 33 cm (13 in) and a weight of 650 g (1.43 lb) to the African civet at 84 cm (33 in) and 18 kg (40 lb), although very large binturongs, which can weigh up to 25 kg (55 lb), attain the greatest mass.

Ecology and behavior

They are generally solitary and have excellent hearing and vision. They are omnivorous; the palm civet is almost entirely herbivorous.[5]

Favored habitats include woodland, savanna, mountains, and above all tropical rainforest. Due to heavy deforestation, many face severe habitat loss. Several species, such as the Hose's palm civet, which is endemic to northern Borneo, are considered vulnerable. The otter civet is classified as endangered.[1]


In 1821, Gray defined this family as consisting of the genera Viverra, Genetta, Herpestes, and Suricata.[3] Reginald Innes Pocock later redefined the family as containing a great number of highly diversified genera, and being susceptible of division into several subfamilies, based mainly on the structure of the feet and of some highly specialized scent glands, derived from the skin, which are present in most of the species and are situated in the region of the external generative organs. He subordinated the subfamilies Hemigalinae, Paradoxurinae, Prionodontinae, and Viverrinae to the Viverridae.[4]

The Viverridae consist of:[1]

Some authorities are of the opinion that the subfamily Prionodontinae, which consists of two extant species of Asiatic linsangs in the genus Prionodon, should be regarded as a family in its own right.[8]

In 1833, Edward Turner Bennett described the Malagasy fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) and subordinated the Cryptoprocta to the Viverridae.[9] A molecular and morphological analysis based on DNA/DNA hybridization experiments suggests that Cryptoprocta does not belong within Viverridae, but is a member of the Eupleridae.[10]

The African palm civet (Nandinia binotata) resembles the civets of the Viverridae, but is genetically distinct and belongs in its own monotypic family, the Nandiniidae. There is little dispute that the Poiana species are viverrids.[1]


The following cladogram shows the phylogenetic relationships for the revised Viverridae, based on the molecular genetics study of Gaubert & Cordeiro-Estrela (2006),[2] with additional species placed according to the supertree study of Nyakatura & Bininda-Emonds (2012).[11]




Arctictis binturong (Binturong)


Macrogalidia musschenbroekii (Sulawesi palm civet)


Paradoxurus hermaphroditus (Asian palm civet)

Paradoxurus jerdoni (Jerdon's palm civet)

Paradoxurus zeylonensis (Golden palm civet)


Paguma larvata (Masked palm civet)



Chrotogale owstoni (Owston's palm civet)


Diplogale hosei (Hose's palm civet)


Hemigalus derbyanus (Banded palm civet)


Cynogale bennettii (Otter civet)


Arctogalidia trivirgata (Small-toothed palm civet)




Civettictis civetta (African civet)


Viverra civettina (Malabar large-spotted civet)

Viverra megaspila (Large-spotted civet)

Viverra zibetha (Large Indian civet)

Viverra tangalunga (Malayan civet)


Viverricula indica (Small Indian civet)

sensu stricto


Genetta angolensis (Angolan genet)

Genetta pardina (Pardine genet)

Genetta bourloni (Bourlon's genet)

Genetta poensis (King genet)

Genetta maculata (Rusty-spotted genet)

Genetta tigrina (Cape genet)

Genetta genetta (Common genet)

Genetta cristata (Crested servaline genet)

Genetta piscivora (Aquatic genet)

Genetta servalina (Servaline genet)

Genetta johnstoni (Johnston's genet)

Genetta victoriae (Giant forest genet)

Genetta abyssinica (Abyssinian genet)

Genetta thierryi (Haussa genet)


Poiana leightoni (Leighton's linsang)

Poiana richardsonii (African linsang)

sensu lato


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Wozencraft, W.C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 548–559. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  2. 1 2 Gaubert, P. & Cordeiro-Estrela, P. (2006). "Phylogenetic systematics and tempo of evolution of the Viverrinae (Mammalia, Carnivora, Viverridae) within feliformians: implications for faunal exchanges between Asia and Africa" (PDF). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 41 (2): 266–278. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2006.05.034. PMID 16837215.
  3. 1 2 3 Gray, J. E. (1821). "On the natural arrangement of vertebrose animals". London Medical Repository. 15 (1): 296–310.
  4. 1 2 3 Pocock, R. I. (1939). The Fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Mammalia. – Volume 1. Taylor and Francis, London. Pp. 330–332.
  5. 1 2 Wozencraft, W. C. (1984). Macdonald, D., ed. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File. pp. 134–135. ISBN 0-87196-871-1.
  6. Ewer, R. F. (1998). The Carnivores. Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-8493-6.
  7. Groves, C. P., Rajapaksha, C., Manemandra-Arachchi, K. (2009). "The taxonomy of the endemic golden palm civet of Sri Lanka" (PDF). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. 155: 238–251. doi:10.1111/j.1096-3642.2008.00451.x.
  8. Gaubert, P.; Veron, G. (2003). "Exhaustive sample set among Viverridae reveals the sister-group of felids: the linsangs as a case of extreme morphological convergence within Feliformia" (PDF). Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 270 (1532): 2523–2530. doi:10.1098/rspb.2003.2521. PMC 1691530. PMID 14667345.
  9. Bennett, E. T. (1833). "Notice of a new genus of Viverridous Mammalia from Madagascar". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. 1833: 46.
  10. Veron, G.; Catzeflis, F. M. (1993). "Phylogenetic relationships of the endemic Malagasy carnivore Cryptoprocta ferox (Aeluroideae): DNA/DNA hybridization experiments". Journal of Mammalian Evolution. 1 (3): 169–185. doi:10.1007/bf01024706.
  11. Nyakatura, Katrin; Bininda-Emonds, Olaf RP (2012). "Updating the evolutionary history of Carnivora (Mammalia): a new species-level supertree complete with divergence time estimates" (PDF). BMC Biology. 10: 12. doi:10.1186/1741-7007-10-12.
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