African civet (Civettictis civetta)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Viverridae
Subfamily: Viverrinae
Gray, 1864


The Viverrinae represent the largest subfamily within the Viverridae comprising five genera, which are subdivided into 22 species native to Africa and Southeast Asia.[1] This subfamily was denominated and first described by John Edward Gray in 1864.[2]

Taxonomic history

Common genets
Giant forest genet
Large-spotted civet
Small Indian civet

Gray defined the Viverrinae as comprising the genera Proteles, Viverra, Bassaris and Viverricula. He subordinated the genera Genetta and Fossa to the Genettina, the genera Prionodon and Poiana to the Prionodontinae.[2] Reginald Innes Pocock suggested that the African genets (Genetta) are also most nearly related to the Viverrinae, but should perhaps form a separate subfamily.[3] William King Gregory and Milo Hellman placed the Viverra, Viverricula, Civettictis, Genetta, Osbornictis, Poiana and the North-American eucreodine genera Didymictis and Viverravus of the Eocene into this viverrid subfamily.[4] Ellerman and Morrison-Scott also included the genus Prionodon.[5]

DNA analysis based on 29 Carnivora species comprising 13 Viverrinae species and three species representing Paradoxurus, Paguma and Hemigalinae supports the placement of Prionodon in the monogeneric family Prionodontidae as the sister-group of the Felidae. These investigations also clarified the controversial issue of the boundaries of this subfamily supporting the Viverrinae as being constituted by two monophyletic groups, namely the terrestrial civets CivettictisViverraViverricula and PoianaGenetta.[6]

At present, the Viverrinae comprise:[1]


Viverrina species have a robust body. There is a deep pouch for secreting in the form of a deep cavity on each side of the anus. The back of the hind feet is hairy except the pad of the toes and the metatarsus.[2] The digitigrade feet are adapted for movement on the ground. The cushion-like indistinctly subdivided plantar pad and the pads of digits 2 to 4 are alone applied to the ground. The first digit is small and set well above the plantar pad, and constitutes a practically functionless "dew-claw". The dental formula is:[3]

The outstanding characteristics of the modern Viverrinae are the high development of the perineal scent glands, the marked anteroposterior elongation of the entotympanic chamber of the compound bulla and the carnassial form of the cheek-teeth.[4]

They have excellent hearing and vision. Their flesh-shearing carnassial teeth are relatively undeveloped.[7]

Viverrids are amongst the primitive families of the Carnivora, with skeletons very similar to those of fossils dating back to the Eocene, up to 50 million years ago. They are variable in form, but generally resemble long-nosed cats. Most have retractile or partially retractile claws, a baculum.

The Viverrinae 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).

Distribution and ecology

This subfamily is found throughout the Oriental region, and is represented in Africa by the African civet (Civettictis civetta).[3] The common genet (Genetta genetta) is considered to have been introduced to Europe and the Balearic islands, and occurs in all of continental Portugal, Spain and most of France.[8]

They are generally solitary and omnivorous, despite their placement in the order Carnivora.[7]


  1. 1 2 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 3 Gray, J. E. (1864). A revision of the genera and species of viverrine animals (Viverridae), founded on the collection in the British Museum. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London for the year 1864: 502–579.
  3. 1 2 3 Pocock, R. I. (1939). The fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Mammalia. – Volume 1. Taylor and Francis, London.
  4. 1 2 Gregory, W. K., and M. Hellman. (1939). On the evolution and major classification of the civets (Viverridae) and allied fossil and recent Carnivora: Phylogenetic study of the skull and dentition. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 81 (3): 309–392.
  5. Ellerman, J. R., Morrison-Scott, T. C. S. (1966). Checklist of Palaearctic and Indian mammals 1758 to 1946. Second edition. British Museum of Natural History, London.
  6. Gaubert, P. and 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". Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series B, 270 (1532): 2523–2530. doi:10.1098/rspb.2003.2521
  7. 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.
  8. Delibes, M. (1999). Genetta genetta. In: A. J. Mitchell-Jones, G. Amori, W. Bogdanowicz, B. Kryštufek, P. J. H. Reijnders, F. Spitzenberger, M. Stubbe, J. B. M. Thissen, V. Vohralík, and J. Zima (eds.) The Atlas of European Mammals. Academic Press, London, UK
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