Paradoxurus jerdoniJerdon's palm civet

Geographic Range

Endemic to tropical rainforests along the western coast of India, brown palm civets or Jerdon’s palm civets (Paradoxurus jerdoni) are usually found in high altitudes of the Western Ghats mountain range, 21 °N to 8 °N. (Mudappa, et al., 2007; Nameer, et al., 2001; Patou, et al., 2010; Rajamani, et al., 2002)

Habitat

Brown palm civets are nocturnal, arboreal, small carnivores that thrive in the high altitude tropical rainforests of the Western Ghats in India. Brown palm civets prefer an altitudinal range of 500 to 1,300 m. This region receives an annual rainfall of approximately 1,500 mm in the eastern slopes, to over 3,000 mm in the western slopes. Throughout the year, the temperature ranges from 19°C in January, to 24°C in April and May. Humidity also varies throughout the year, from 60% in March, to 97% in November and December. Due to continuous human development in this region, brown palm civets are exposed to an increasing amount of habitat fragmentation. Large plantations of coffee, cardamom, and tea, fragment brown palm civets' habitat and introduce exotic food sources into their diet. (Mudappa, et al., 2010; Rajamani, et al., 2002)

  • Range elevation
    500 to 1300 m
    1640.42 to 4265.09 ft

Physical Description

Paradoxurus jerdoni has not been studied extensively so there is still very little known about this species. Museum specimens of brown palm civets have pale buff, light brown, or dark brown pelage and a dark tail. Occasionally, the tail may have a white or pale yellow tip. Unlike other civets, P. jerdoni has no distinct markings on its face. The characteristic that distinguishes them from common palm civets (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) is the reverse direction of hair growth at their neck line. Measurements from a limited number of museum specimens give a body length of 430 to 620 mm and a tail length of 380 to 530 mm. A small study including seven individuals found a weight range of 1.2 to 3.5 kg. Any difference between the sexes, or sexual dimorphism, was not described in the literature. (Mudappa and Chellam, 2001; Mudappa and Chellam, 2001; Rajamani, et al., 2002; Walker, et al., 1964)

Members of family Viverridae are characterized by a long and lean body, with short legs and a bushy tail nearly as long as their body. Generally, members of this family have an elongated head, pointed muzzle and a dental formula of 3/3, 1/1, 3-4/3-4, 1-2/1-2, including a carnassial pair. The first digit on the fore- and hind foot in this family is often reduced or lacking, creating a digital formula of 5/5, 5/4, or 4/4 (number of digits on forefoot/number of digits on hind foot) and their claws can be retractile or non-retractile. Palm civets are well adapted to their arboreal lifestyle, with traction pads on their hind feet and hook-like claws on their medial toes, to aid in climbing. Female viverrids generally have two to three pairs of mammae on their abdomen, but some forms may have only one pair. Males have a baculum. (Vaughan, et al., 2011; Walker, et al., 1964)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    1.2 to 3.5 kg
    2.64 to 7.71 lb
  • Range length
    430 to 620 mm
    16.93 to 24.41 in

Reproduction

The specific mating behaviors of this species have not yet been studied.

Currently, there is no information on the general reproductive behavior of brown palm civets. For members of family Viverridae, the breeding season is in spring, summer, or throughout the year. The age of sexual maturity is not currently known for this family. Once sexual maturity is reached, many genera will produce two litters per year, with 1 to 6 offspring per litter. Very few gestation periods are known for members of this family. Offspring are born blind, but with hair. (Walker, et al., 1964)

Within genus Paradoxurus, females will most likely give birth to more than one litter of two to four young throughout the year. (Walker, et al., 1964)

  • Breeding interval
    Members of genus Paradoxurus often breed more than once per year.
  • Breeding season
    Members of genus Paradoxurus often breed throughout the year.
  • Range number of offspring
    2 to 4

The amount of parental care given by this species is not known at this time. But as viverrid young are born blind and relatively defenseless, it is assumed that some parental care is involved. (Walker, et al., 1964)

Lifespan/Longevity

The lifespan of P. jerdoni is not currently known, but most members in family Viverridae live 5 to 15 years in the wild. (Walker, et al., 1964)

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    5 to 15 years

Behavior

Brown palm civets are nocturnal, arboreal, and generally a solitary species. When resting during the day, P. jerdoni exhibit a day-bed preference for the nests of Indian giant squirrels. These nests are found in trees and have greater girth and height than others nearby. Brown palm civets exhibit a day resting range a third the size of their night foraging range. Like other viverrids, brown palm civets have an anal scent gland that produces a pungent smelling fluid as a defensive mechanism and they have been observed to fight when cornered. (Mudappa, 2006; Walker, et al., 1964)

Home Range

Paradoxurus jerdoni are restricted to the tropical rainforests of the Western Ghats in India. They thrive in areas with relatively undisturbed canopy and adequate food sources. Abundance of brown palm civets is relatively greater in medium-sized (51 to 100 hectares) fragments that border shade coffee plantations and is positively correlated to greater food-tree densities and altitude. (Mudappa, et al., 2007; Rajamani, et al., 2002)

Communication and Perception

Modes of communication have not yet been studied for brown palm civets and there is no general information available for the viverrid family.

Food Habits

Paradoxurus jerdoni is predominantly frugivorous, foraging over a wide range, but has one of the smallest diet ranges among South Asia’s small carnivores. Brown palm civets are considered the most frugivorous species in family Viverridae, with a diet consisting of 97% fruit. They consume fruit that is predominately small (less than 1 cm in diameter), multi-seeded, pulpy berries and drupes, with moderate to high water content. Their diet consists largely of native fruit species and some exotic fruits, such as bananas, cardamoms, coffee, and guavas. When fruit availability is low, they also supplement their diet with some invertebrates (insects, millipedes, centipedes, snails and crabs) and rarely with small vertebrates (rodents, other small mammals, birds, and reptiles). Their “unspecialized” digestive system, characteristic of carnivores, and opportunistic feeding strategy, gives them the unique ability to cope with fluctuations in food availability. (Mudappa, et al., 2007; Mudappa, 2006; Mudappa, et al., 2010)

  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • insects
  • mollusks
  • aquatic crustaceans
  • Plant Foods
  • fruit

Predation

Known predators of brown palm civets include larger diurnal predators within the system. Predators of P. jerdoni include pythons, black eagles, and leopards. (Mudappa, 2006)

Ecosystem Roles

Paradoxurus jerdoni specializes in seed dispersal. With a diet predominately composed of fruit, viverrids are considered among the most important mammalian seed dispersers in the forests throughout Asia. The wide foraging range and unspecialized digestive system of brown palm civets allows them to carry seeds away from parent trees and deposit them in other sites, after passing through their digestive tract. The seeds remain relatively undamaged with germination viability intact, or sometimes enhanced. (Mudappa, et al., 2010)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Brown palm civets' ability to disperse seeds over an extensive range and thrive in fragmented habitats could play a role in restoring patches of degraded forest in the Western Ghats. This wide dispersal also helps maintain, or increase diversity within the forest. (Mudappa, et al., 2010)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

The highly varied and non-specific diet of brown palm civets allows for the consumption and dispersal of introduced or exotic plant species such as coffee, and subsequently, the alteration of the understory of relatively undisturbed forests. The implications of this alteration have yet to be studied. Their ability to access and consume fruits from plantations bordering the forests may also make them a pest. (Mudappa, et al., 2010)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

Brown palm civets are listed as a species of Least Concern under the IUCN Red List and under CITES Appendix III, due to its abundance within disturbed and fragmented areas. With a highly restricted distribution, continuous habitat loss and fragmentation, the adaptability of P. jerdoni is constantly tested and, for the moment, they seem to be thriving. But the scarcity of information and studies specific to this species leaves some concern over the status of the population in some areas of their range. (Mudappa and Choudbury, 2008)

Brown palm civets, while elusive for most researchers, are not without a wide range of threats. While P. jerdoni may thrive around coffee and cardamom plantations, the conversion to tea does not support quality habitat or food for civets. Habitat is also lost due to mining activities and hydroelectric projects throughout the Western Ghats. While brown palm civets can adapt and persist in a fragmented habitat, they are not without dangers, such as risk of road kill due to crossing roads between fragments, or increasing human intrusions into the forest and changes in habitat structure. (Ashraf, et al., 1993; Mudappa and Choudbury, 2008; Nameer, et al., 2001; Pillay, 2009)

Other Comments

While brown palm civets share some general characteristic with other members of the family Viverridae, they are a considerably unique species and there is still much to learn about these important frugivores.

Contributors

Jessica Bodle (author), University of Alaska Fairbanks, Laura Prugh (editor), University of Alaska Fairbanks, Leila Siciliano Martina (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.

Glossary

agricultural

living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

arboreal

Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

frugivore

an animal that mainly eats fruit

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

oriental

found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map

rainforest

rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

solitary

lives alone

tactile

uses touch to communicate

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year

References

Ashraf, N., A. Kumar, A. Johnsingh. 1993. Two endemic viverrids of the Western Ghats, India. Oryx, 27: 109-114.

Mudappa, D., A. Choudbury. 2008. "Paradoxurus jerdoni" (On-line). IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Version 2012.2. Accessed November 01, 2012 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/16104/0.

Mudappa, D. 2006. Day-bed choice by the brown palm civet (Paradoxurus jerdoni) in the Western Ghats, India. Mammalian Biology, 71: 238-243.

Mudappa, D., R. Chellam. 2001. Capture and immobilization of Wild Brown Palm Civets in Western Ghats. Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 37(2): 383-386.

Mudappa, D., A. Kumar, R. Chellam. 2010. Diet and fruit choice of the brown palm civet Paradoxurus jerdoni, a viverrid endemic to the Western Ghats rainforest, India. Tropical Conservation Science, 3(3): 282-300.

Mudappa, D., B. Noon, A. Kumar, R. Chellam. 2007. Responses of small carnivores to rainforest fragmentation in the southern Western Ghats, India. Small Carnivore Conservation, 36: 18-26.

Nameer, P., S. Molur, S. Walker. 2001. Mammals of Western Ghats: A simplistic overview. Zoos' Print Journal, 16(11): 629-639.

Patou, M., A. Wilting, P. Gaubert, J. Esselstyn, C. Cruaud, A. Jennings, J. Fickel, G. Veron. 2010. Evolutionary history of the Paradoxurus palm civets - a new model for Asian biogeography. Journal of Biogeography, 37: 2077-2097.

Pillay, R. 2009. Observations of small carnivores in the southern Western Ghats, India. Small Carnivore Conservation, 40: 36-40.

Rajamani, N., D. Mudappa, H. Van Rompaey. 2002. Distribution and status of the Brown Palm Civet in the Western Ghats, South India. The Newsletter and Journal of the IUCN/SSC Mustelid, Viverrid & Procyonid Specialist Group, 27: 6-11.

Vaughan, T., J. Ryan, N. Czaplewski. 2011. Mammalogy. Sudbury, Massachusetts: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, LLC.

Walker, E., F. Warnick, S. Hamlet, K. Lange, M. Davis, H. Uible, P. Wright. 1964. Mammals of the World. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press.