Common European Small-Spotted Genets (Genetta genetta): Linnaean Ringtails of Africa and Eurasia

by DerdriuMarriner

Spots and stripes act as camouflage. They also advise of scented communication and defense. Why else do Africa's and Eurasia's common genets have spotted bodies and striped tails?

Pigment affects colors in commodities and nature. Scientists generally attribute pivotal roles in nature to genetic heritage. But genetic studies of animals (excluding people) and plants connect the effects of nature with the intentions behind commodities. Colors facilitate survival when Mother Nature intervenes in wildlife and people manipulate products. Impacts always involve:
• Communicating dis-information or information;
• Facilitating people’s lifespans through encouraging sales or wildlife’s longevity through outsmarting predators.

Informational associations even overlap since:
• Red can communicate dangerous situations and distasteful wildlife;
• Spots and stripes together may serve as attention-getters.

For example, scientists opine that Africa’s and Eurasia’s cat and foxlike common genets attract or repel predators through smelly warnings inherent in mixing spotted coats with striped ringtails.

Genetta genetta caught the attention of taxonomic genius Carl Linnaeus:

closeup of bronze statue of Carl Linnaeus, sculpted in 1982 by Robert Berks ( April 26, 1922 – May 16, 2011), Heritage Garden ~ gifted to Chicago Botanic Garden by Gertrude B. Smith Nielsen (July 27, 1897 - April 8, 1998)
"Snowy Linnaeus"
"Snowy Linnaeus"

 

Getting noticed by Carl Linnaeus (May 23, 1707 – January 10, 1778) -- Småland-born Swedish botanist, founder of modern ecology and taxonomy, physician, zoologist -- augurs well for wildlife. Common genets indeed can be considered officially identified since the Linnaean observations of 1758. But excluding environmentalists and exotic pet-owners, their name lacks household and worldwide recognition despite designations by languages within the arboreal nocturnalist’s bio-geography:

  • Arabic: الرتم;
  • Aragonese: Chineta;
  • Basque: Katajineta;
  • Catalan: Geneta comuna;
  • Esperanto: Genoto;
  • French: Genette commune, genette d’Europe;
  • Galician: Algaria, xeneta;
  • German: Europäische Ginsterkatze, Kleinfleck-Ginsterkatze;
  • Portuguese: Gineta-europeia;
  • South African: Bush-cats (English), Insimba (South Ndebele, Swati, Zulu), inyhwagi (Xhosa), kanu (Swahili), kleinkolmuskejaatkat (Afrikaans), nsimba-maxanatsi (Tsonga), tshipa (Sotho, Tswana), tsimba (Shona, Venda);
  • Spanish: Gato almizclero, gineta, jineta.

 

Common Genet (Genetta genetta) range:

color code: black = green = native; red = extant introduced; black = extinct introduced
Distribution data from IUCN Red List
Distribution data from IUCN Red List

 

But current scientific classification acknowledges the input of two languages from the common genet’s bio-geography. The binomial (“two-name,” or genus + species) designation Genetta genetta arises from the French word genette perpetuating the Arabic identification jarnait. The Arabic term assumes special importance in identifying the means and timing of the omnivorous mammal’s expansion outside the original and persevering homeland of all genets. Common genets alone can be found inhabiting apparently native ranges outside Africa. They indeed can be numbered among western Asia’s native wildlife in:

  • Israel;
  • Oman;
  • Saudi Arabia;
  • Yemen.

But they descend from successfully naturalized introductions during the establishment of Muslim caliphates from the seventh century onward in the southwest European countries of:

  • France;
  • Portugal;
  • Spain.

 

France: One of Genetta genetta's new homelands resulting from successful naturalized introductions into southwestern Europe during Muslim caliphates, beginning in 7th century

distribution of Genetta genetta in France
distribution of Genetta genetta in France

 

Common genets additionally answer to the names:

  • European genet, from the above-mentioned, unique naturalizations;
  • Small-spotted genet, through comparison with Africa’s other spotted and striped genets.

Their common name as common genet continues in English and European language translations because of the species’ most widespread distribution of all native genets within Africa, regarding both total affected area and total number of host countries. Common genets indeed can be found in Africa’s:

  • North: Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia;
  • Central West: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo;
  • Central East: Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda;
  • South: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

 

French naturalist René Martin praised European small-spotted genets as extremely graceful and noted their facility in eluding human invaders in their forested habitats by disappearing into foliage as a result of their camouflaging coloration:

illustration by A. Bessin
Plate 28, opp. p. 28
Plate 28, opp. p. 28

 

Bio-geographical and physical subtleties demand subspecies classifications. They do not impede recognizing common genets as:

  • Big-eared;
  • Bushy-tailed;
  • Fleet-bodied;
  • Long-whiskered;
  • Loose-jointed;
  • Narrow-snouted;
  • Plush-coated;
  • Round-eyed;
  • Short-legged;
  • Thick-necked;
  • Tiptoe-gaited.

 

Ninja Genet & Karate Kitten ~ A video collection of play time between Kuma, the small spotted genet, and Scat, the domestic kitten.

Published on YouTube on September 18, 2012 by jllnws ~ URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwXILwCL0pk

 

This elongated sinewiness oftentimes eludes predatory leopards, raptors, and reptiles because of dappled, dark-and-light, woody-like camouflaging from:

  • Black-crested spine;
  • Buff, cream, grey or yellow coat with 3 – 4+ black- or brown-spotted horizontal rows;
  • Dark-eyebrowed, green-eyeshining brown eyes;
  • Dark-patched cheeks, chin, and throat;
  • Light-splotched ears, eyes, muzzle, and paws;
  • Light-tipped tail with 8 – 13 black rings.

Eco-blending is supplemented by common genet self-defenses of:

  • Bristled back-hairs;
  • 5 retractable claws per paw;
  • 40 teeth, with 6 incisors, 2 canines, 8 premolars, and 4 molars per lower and upper jaws;
  • Handstand-released stink-bombs;
  • Stand-up fighting.

 

Deux genettes communes (Genetta genetta), parc animalier des Pyrénées, Argelès-Gazost, Hautes-Pyrénées, France.
Deux genettes communes (Genetta genetta), parc animalier des Pyrénées, Argelès-Gazost, Hautes-Pyrénées, France.

 

Bio-geography and budgets frustrate trinomial (“three-name”) classifications. Scientists identify G.g. genetta as the Linnaean nominate (“first-designated”). Of 12 – 30+ possible subspecies, they ponder:

  • G.g. afra (Georges Cuvier [August 23, 1769 – May 13, 1832], 1825);
  • G.g. balearica (Michael Rogers Oldfield Thomas [February 21, 1858 – June 16, 1929], 1902);
  • G.g. felina (Carl Peter Thunberg [November 11, 1743 – August 8, 1828], 1811);
  • G.g. granti (Thomas, 1902);
  • G.g. hintoni (Schwarz, 1929);
  • G.g. isabelae (Miguel Delibes, 1977);
  • G.g. pulchra (Paul Matschie [August 11, 1861 - March 7, 1926], 1902);
  • G.g. pyrenaica (Édouard Sicaire Bourdelle [September 21, 1876 – June 16, 1960] and M. Dezilière, 1951);
  • G.g. rhodanica (Matschie, 1902);
  • G.g. senegalensis (Johann Baptist Fischer [1803 – May 26, 1832], 1829);
  • G.g. terraesanctae (Neumann, 1902).

 

Michael Rogers Oldfield Thomas: brilliant zoologist lent his genius to Genetta genus and identified subspecies Genetta genetta balearica, based on Balearic Island of Mallorca, in 1902 ~

portrait bequeathed by Oldfield Thomas to London's Natural History Museum
oil on canvas by John Ernest Breun (1862-1921)
oil on canvas by John Ernest Breun (1862-1921)

 

But entering and exiting genet head-sized burrows, crevices, and hollows undoubtedly becomes the ultimate self-defense. Such flexibility encourages adults to sample:

  • Arthropods (especially centipedes, insects, millipedes, and scorpions);
  • Bird eggs and birds;
  • Buds, fruits, and nuts;
  • Frogs, geckoes, lizards, and snakes;
  • Mammals (especially dormice [Eliomys quercinus], red squirrels [Sciurus vulgaris], and wood mice [Apodemus sylvaticus]).

It specifically helps females:

  • Gestating 70 – 78 days;
  • Producing 2 biannual litters of 1 – 4 cubs/kittens each.

It also must explain healthy survival rates of 2.15 – 2.89-ounce (61 – 82-gram) newborns becoming:

  • Hearing, seeing youths in 5 – 18 days;
  • Purring, mewing, and hiccupping communicators for the respectively first 7, 45, and 150 days;
  • Weaned, growl-emitting foragers and click-uttering guards in 50 – 62 days.

 

Garden dormouse (Eliomys quercinus), with tail often equal in length to its body: popular prey for Genetta genetta

garden dormouse (Eliomys quercinus)
garden dormouse (Eliomys quercinus)

Conclusion: Graceful forest camouflagers, concerned eluders of climate change and hunters

 

Common genets attain physical and sexual maturity in 2 years, with:

  • Head-and-body lengths: 16.54 – 22.83 inches (420 – 580 millimeters);
  • Tail lengths: 15.35 – 20.87 inches (390 – 530 millimeters);  
  • Weights: 2.20 – 6.614 pounds (1 – 3 kilograms).

Adults commit to:

  • Home ranges non-overlapping with same-gendered -- but overlapping with opposite-gendered -- neighbors;
  • Individualized, permanent dens near dry-aired caves, rocks, and streams;
  • Paired or solitary forages up to 9,842.52 feet (3,000 meters) above sea level;
  • Scent-marked territories in deciduous woodlands, mixed scrublands, and pine forests.

They handle wild-urban interfaces since cats, dogs, and people may be considered allies whereas birds, hamsters, and poultry may be deemed prey. But they remain defenseless against:

  • Globally-warmed climate change;
  • Flesh- and fur-hunting Africans and Eurasians.

 

The genet specimen described by Carl Linnaeus was collected in El Pardo, a ward (barrio) of northern Madrid, located close to the Manzanares River (Río Manzanares) and covered partly by a forest, Monte de El Pardo (El Pardo Mountain).

Monte de El Pardo, Madrid, central Spain
Monte de El Pardo, Madrid, central Spain

Acknowledgment

 

My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.

 

Mallorcan town of Inca is type locality of Genetta genetta balearica:

In 1902, Oldfield Thomas identified genet subspecies from specimen collected on April 15, 1901 by Don Miguel Riutort.
aerial view of Inca from southeast, central Mallorca, Balearic Islands, western Mediterranean Sea,
aerial view of Inca from southeast, central Mallorca, Balearic Islands, western Mediterranean Sea,

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sunrise view of Pico de Vallibierna (Vallibierna Peak) from Llauset resrvoir, Huesca province, northern Autonomous Community of Aragón, northeastern Spain:

Ruggedly beautiful Pyrenees, southwestern Europe's mountain range separating Iberian Peninsula from continental Europe, serve as naturalized homeland for Genetta genetta.
December in south central Pyrenees
December in south central Pyrenees
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

genet: photo by Andy and Clare Teare

10x14 Photo Puzzle with 252 pieces. Packed in black cardboard box 5 5/8 x 7 5/8 x 1 1/5. Puzzle image 5x7 affixed to box top.
Photo Jigsaw Puzzle - Ardea Wildlife Pets

Close-Up of Genets and their Cubs in the Forest (Genetta Genetta)

Close-Up of Genets and their Cubs in the Forest (Genetta Genetta)

Common Genet (Genetta Genetta) at Night, Masai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya: photo by Joe McDonald

Common Genet (Genetta Genetta) at Night, Masai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya

Animal Picture with Genet, c.1560, by Ludger tom Ring the Younger (July or November 19, 1522– May 22, 1584):

Genets were introduced into Mediterranean Basin under Muslim caliphates, ca. 7th century onward.
Animal Picture with Genet, c.1560

Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 08/20/2014, DerdriuMarriner
 
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