Fossa Definition | Characteristics & Facts


Fossa Definition

The fossa is a unique and elusive carnivorous mammal found only on the island of Madagascar. It belongs to the family Eupleridae, which is a group of carnivores endemic to Madagascar. Here’s a definition of the fossa:

Fossa General Characteristics & Facts

Certainly! Here are some general characteristics and interesting facts about the fossa:


The fossa is a medium-sized carnivore, with males typically being larger than females. Adult males can reach a length of about 70 to 80 centimeters (27 to 31 inches) and weigh around 8 to 12 kilograms (18 to 26 pounds), while females are slightly smaller.


The fossa has a slender and elongated body, with a long tail that is about the same length as its body. It has short, powerful legs and sharp retractable claws that aid in climbing trees and capturing prey. The coat of the fossa is reddish-brown or brown, and it may have some variation in coloration among individuals.


Fossas are found exclusively on the island of Madagascar. They inhabit various forest types, including rainforests, dry deciduous forests, and montane forests. Fossas are highly skilled climbers and are often seen in the trees.

Carnivorous Diet

The fossa is a carnivorous predator with a varied diet. Its primary prey includes lemurs, which are also endemic to Madagascar, but it will also feed on birds, small mammals, reptiles, and insects.

Solitary Behavior

Fossas are solitary animals and are usually active during the night (nocturnal). They are territorial and have home ranges that can be quite large, depending on the availability of prey and suitable habitat.


Breeding in fossas typically occurs during the austral winter, which is from June to August. After a gestation period of around 90 days, females give birth to one to four offspring, though two is more common. The young are cared for by the mother until they are old enough to hunt on their own.

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Physical Characteristics of Fossa

  1. Size and Body Shape: The fossa is a medium-sized carnivorous mammal with a slender and elongated body. Adult males are generally larger than females, and they can reach a total length of about 70 to 80 centimeters (27 to 31 inches), excluding the tail. The tail itself is long and bushy, almost as long as the body, which helps with balance during climbing and jumping.
  2. Fur and Coloration: The fossa’s fur is short, dense, and soft, with a coloration that can vary from reddish-brown to brown or gray. The underbelly is typically lighter in color. Some individuals may have dark spots or markings on their coat, especially on their underside.
  3. Head and Face: The fossa has a distinctive pointed snout and large, round eyes, giving it a cat-like facial appearance. Its ears are rounded and relatively small compared to its head.
  4. Limbs and Claws: The fossa has short, powerful limbs, and its front paws have sharp, retractable claws that are adapted for climbing trees and capturing prey. Its climbing abilities are exceptional, allowing it to swiftly navigate through the forest canopy.
  5. Dentition: The fossa has a specialized set of teeth suited for its carnivorous diet. It possesses sharp, pointed teeth for tearing meat and crushing bones.
  6. Tail Usage: The long and bushy tail serves multiple purposes, including acting as a counterbalance during jumps and helping with stability while climbing trees.
  7. Scent Glands: Fossas have scent glands located near their anus, which they use to mark their territory and communicate with other fossas.

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Scientific Classification of Fossa

Kingdom: Animalia (Animals)

Phylum: Chordata (Chordates)

Class: Mammalia (Mammals)

Order: Carnivora (Carnivores)

Family: Eupleridae (Euplerids)

Genus: Cryptoprocta

Species: Cryptoprocta ferox

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Fossa FAQs

What does Fossa eat?

The fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) is a carnivorous predator with a diverse diet. Its food list includes:

  1. Lemurs: Fossas are known to be skilled lemur hunters, and lemurs make up a significant part of their diet. They may prey on various lemur species, including smaller ones like mouse lemurs and larger ones like sifakas and indris.
  2. Birds: Fossas are opportunistic hunters and will capture and eat various bird species found in their habitat, such as ground-nesting birds and smaller birds in the trees.
  3. Small Mammals: In addition to lemurs, fossas also prey on smaller mammals like rodents and tenrecs.
  4. Reptiles: Fossas are known to hunt and consume reptiles, such as lizards and snakes, when the opportunity arises.
  5. Insects: Fossas may supplement their diet with insects, including grasshoppers, beetles, and other small arthropods.

What is a fossa?

Answer: The fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) is a unique and elusive carnivorous mammal native to the island of Madagascar. It is the largest carnivorous mammal on the island and is known for its cat-like appearance and agile hunting abilities.

Is the fossa endangered?

Yes, the fossa is considered vulnerable according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The main threats to fossa populations include habitat loss and fragmentation due to deforestation, as well as hunting and trapping.

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