Rusty-Spotted Panther Genets (Genetta maculata): Ringtails of Central, Eastern and Southern Africa

by DerdriuMarriner

Rusty-spotted panther genets are born furry grey. They become spotted if they inherit mini-leopard looks. They turn all-black if they receive mini-panther-like melanistic genes.

Some experts define panthers as the all-black variants of generally spotted jaguars and leopards, typically striped tigers, and usually tawny lions.
• The development of the natural pigment, melanin, explains the super-black or super-dark brown corporeal coloring of the animal in question.
• Its proliferation has a worrisome association in the emergence of pigmented tumors.

But it also is linked with environmental adaptability and natural adaptation since a dominant gene can be inherited to encourage melanin to be over-produced.
• Its occurrence is not just restricted to the above-mentioned members of the Panthera species.

Super-production of melanin indeed is possible on a regular basis in other animals.
• It surfaces to protect night-shift foragers, such as sub-Saharan Africa’s rusty-spotted panther genets.

Genetta maculata's possible landscape: Pico Basilé, basaltic shield volcano, highest peak, at 9,882 ft (3,012 meters), on Bioko, Equatorial Guinea's island in Gulf of Guinea ~

Researchers hypothesize that Genetta maculata may inhabit Bioko, formerly known as Fernando Pó in honor of 15th century Portuguese navigator Fernão do Pó who discovered islands in Gulf of Guinea in 1472.
Pico Basilé, eastern coast of Bioko, western African coast
Pico Basilé, eastern coast of Bioko, western African coast

 

One litter accommodates all-black and rusty-spotted panther genets. Melanistic morphs appear dark from nose- to tail-tip. Rusty-spotted forms begin as grey-furred kittens. They quickly develop dark-and-light banded tails and red-brown body spots. But the body never gets heavily spotted. The spots never merge into fragmented horizontal lines along the upper limbs. Dark hairs obscure the outer sides of:

  • Rear paws;
  • Upper limbs.

Darkened hair likewise obscures:

  • The chin area;
  • The hairy soles;
  • The last of 6 – 9 bright rings alternating with corresponding numbers of 50 – 75% narrower dark tail stripes.

A dark stripe runs mid-dorsally from the shoulders to the tail base while another smudges the upper side of the tail from the base to the tip.

 

 

Forested and wooded habitats at higher altitudes up to 11,154.86 feet (3,400 meters) above sea level attract panther genets.  They average in monthly environmental configurations:

  • 73.98°F (23.32°C) for temperature;
  • 3.81 inches (96.79 millimeters) for precipitation;
  • 39.11 inches (993.46 millimeters) for evapo-transpiration.

They entail bio-geographical niches in:

  • Angola;
  • Benin, Botswana, Burundi;
  • Cameroon, Centrafrique, Chad, Congo Republic;
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo;
  • Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia;
  • Gabon, Ghana;
  • Kenya;
  • Malawi, Mozambique;
  • Namibia, Nigeria;
  • Rwanda;
  • Somalia, Sudan;
  • Tanzania, Togo;
  • Uganda;
  • Zambia.

They exclude:

  • Super-arid regions;
  • Super-dry savannahs.

They include environments fragmented by export revenue-generating oil palm plantations. They may be joined by suitable tracts within:

  • Closed and open woodlands;
  • Cultivated, farm, and suburbanized lands;
  • Mixed, riverside vegetation;
  • Swamplands;
  • Thicketed lands.

 

An ecological study in 2005 by Francesco M. Angelici and Luca Luiselli revealed a positive correlation between presence of Genetta maculata and altered habitats, such as oil palm plantations, in Nigeria.

palm farm, Calabar, Cross River State, coastal southeastern Nigeria
palm farm, Calabar, Cross River State, coastal southeastern Nigeria

 

Abyssinian (Genetta abyssinica), African-Eurasian common small-spotted (G. genetta), aquatic (G. piscivora), crested (G. cristata), giant (victoriae), king (G. poensis), miombo (G. angolensis), panther, Schouteden’s (G. schoutedeni), servaline (G. servalina), and Thierry’s (G. thierryi) genets are sympatric (“same-ranging”). Common and panther genets overlap everywhere except dense forests. Panther genets additionally share:

  • Forest and savannah mosaics with giant, miombo, Schouteden’s, and servaline genets;
  • Grassy savannahs with Thierry’s genets;
  • Montane forests with Abyssinian, Schouteden’s, and servaline genets;
  • Rainforests with crested, giant, king, Schouteden’s, and servaline genets;
  • Woodland savannahs with miombo, Schouteden’s, and servaline genets.

Female panther genets probably will deliver more melanistic morphs in the darker, denser, moister bio-geographies of extensively closed canopies than in drier, more light-filled, open-canopied environments.

Genetta piscivora, under synonym of Osbornictis piscivora: Aquatic Genets overlap with Rusty-Spotted Panther Genets in Democratic Republic of the Congo's northern provinces. ~

illustration by Richard Deckert (December 5, 1878 - January 18, 1971) from skin collected in Niapu, Democratic Republic of Congo, December 1, 1913
J.A. Allen, "Carnivora Collected by the American Museum Congo Expedition" (1922 - 1925), Plate XVIII
J.A. Allen, "Carnivora Collected by the American Museum Congo Expedition" (1922 - 1925), Plate XVIII

 

Experts accept subtleties within a species. That deep truth accounts for recognizing the panther genet’s melanistic morphs and rusty-spotted standards. Scientists allow slack as long as specimens remain true to the species’:

  • Behavior;
  • Bio-geography;
  • Form and function;
  • Genetics;
  • Physique.

The slack carries specialists from binomial (“two-name”) to trinomial (“three-name”) taxonomies. For example, the binomial, Latin, scientific or taxonomic classification currently describes panther genets as Genetta maculata. The genus name functions as “invented,” modern Latin for the French intermediate word genette and the original Arabic term jarnait for today’s athletic, charming, elusive, graceful, intelligent wild animal capable of affectionately loyal domestication. Genets indeed have longstanding lineages and reputations as  favorites in:

  • Ancient Egypt;
  • Islamicized North Africa;
  • Moorish Spain.

 

Genetta maculata

Shimba Hills National Reserve, southeastern Kenya
Shimba Hills National Reserve, southeastern Kenya

 

The species name maculata acknowledges the panther genet’s distinctly large corporeal spots. It can be followed by a third name for a subspecies. The first subspecies to warrant official scientific designation gets called the nominate. It has the same name as the holotype (specimen inspiring species status), Genetta maculata maculata, collected 3.73 miles (6 kilometers) from Ethiopia’s Harrar Road, at an elevation of 7,152.23 feet (2,180 meters) above sea level. Its presentation to non-specialists and scientists outside Africa is dated to the taxonomic expertise in 1830 of Walsall-born British zoologist John Edward Gray (February 12, 1800 – March 7, 1875), as:

  • Botany and medicine student;
  • British Museum zoology keeper, 1840 – 1874;
  • Publisher of 1,000+ museum catalogues and papers.

 

Extraordinarily perceptive British zoologist (Michael Rogers) Oldfield Thomas (February 21, 1858 – June 16, 1929) jointly described, with Harold Schwann, Genetta maculata letabae in 1906, noting diet of "this very interesting species" as mainly beetles.

portrait bequeathed by Oldfield Thomas to London's Natural History Museum
Kristofer M. Helgen, Roberto Portela Miguez, James Kohen, Lauren Helgen/ZooKeys, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Kristofer M. Helgen, Roberto Portela Miguez, James Kohen, Lauren Helgen/ZooKeys, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

 

A nominate cannot exist without the identification of at least 1 other subspecies. The number of panther genet subspecies currently depends upon individual expert conclusions and prevailing scientific consensus. For example, biological singularities encourage Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle scientist Philippe Gaubert to elevate the subspecies Genetta maculata letabae to the species Genetta letabae.  They inspire established and upcoming mammalogists to re-examine today’s:

  • 1 Africa-, Asia-, and Europe-based non-aquatic genet species;
  • 1 aquatic genet species;
  • 12 – 15 sub-Saharan Africa-based non-aquatic species.

The attention is particularly necessary regarding all-black and rusty-spotted panthers, whose distribution is the most widespread of Africa’s genets and whose life cycles and natural histories therefore reveal genet adaptability or inadaptability to twenty-first century environmental stresses.

 

Nocturnal hunting for insects in the grass by Genetta maculata ~

Genetta maculata was described under synonym of Genetta rubiginosa ("rusty genet") in 1855 by French zoologist Jacques Pucheran (June 2, 1817 - January 13, 1895).
Little Kwara camp on Okavengo Delta, northwestern Botswana
Little Kwara camp on Okavengo Delta, northwestern Botswana

Conclusion: Can Rusty-Spotted Panther Genets establish sustainable niches, elude 21st century challenges of agro-industrialism, climate change, and over-hunting, and maintain species solidarity via communication through gestures and their senses?

 

Behavior and bio-geography account for the panther genet’s stable populations:

  • Home territories border for same-gender adults and overlap for mixed-gender;
  • Individual hygiene demands clean burrow-, crevice-, hollow-based dens, communal off-site latrines, and no-mess-no-spill dining;
  • Paired or solitary forages elude daytime’s predatory mammals, raptors, and reptiles and expect such night-shift prey as eggs, fruits, insects, and small birds, mammals, and reptiles;
  • Predator-proof self-defenses include acute senses, arched backs, digitigrade (tiptoed) getaways, handstand-thrown stink-bombs, hissed saliva-balls, kick-boxing paws, raised hair, and sharp claws and teeth;
  • Species solidarity involves communication by gesture, hearing, scent, sight, sound, taste, and touch.

But sustainability faces:

  • Bush-meat, fur, and pet over-hunting;
  • Globally-warmed climate change;
  • Habitat-fragmenting agro-industrialism.

It requires:

  • Environmental activism;
  • Government-protected bio-geographies;
  • Scientific prioritization.

 

Genetta maculata maintains species solidarity via communication systems involving gestures and senses.

Shimba Hills National Reserve, southeastern Kenya
Shimba Hills National Reserve, southeastern Kenya

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.

 

Genetta maculata's avian synecology: Lamprotornis acuticaudus (under synonym Lamprocolius acuticaudus) ~

Sharp-tailed Glossy-Starling overlaps with Genetta maculata in 6 south African countries (Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia).
J.V. Barboza du Bocage, Ornithologie d'Angola (1877), Plate VI
J.V. Barboza du Bocage, Ornithologie d'Angola (1877), Plate VI

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Saint-Hilaire, Isidore Geoffroy. 1832. "G. panthérine G. pardina Is. Geoff." Magasin de Zoologie 2 (1832) Class 1: Plate 8.

  • Available via Internet Archive at: http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/114092#page/66/mode/1up

Saint-Hilaire, Isidore Geoffroy. 1832. Histoire générale et particulière des anomalies de l’organisation chez l’homme et les animaux. Paris: J.B. Baillière.

  • Available via Internet Archive at: https://archive.org/details/Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire1832xs96J-c

Thomas, Oldfield, and Harold Schwann. 1906. "The Rudd Exploration of South Africa -- V. List of Mammals Obtained by Mr. Grant in N.E. Transvaal." Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London (May 29, 1906): 575-591.

  • Available via Internet Archive at: https://archive.org/stream/proceedingsofzoo19064631052zool#page/575/mode/1up

Veron, Geraldine. 2010. “Phylogeny of the Viverridae and ‘Viverrid-like’ Feliforms.” Pp. 64-90 in Carnivoran Evolution: New Views on Phylogeny, Form and Function edited by Anjali Goswami and Anthony Friscia. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge Studies in Morphology and Molecules.

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Genetta maculata's human landscape: Great Zimbabwe National Monument, settled by 4th century; monument construction, 11th-14th centuries over area of 722 hectares (1,780 acres); designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986 ~

granite boulders and stacked rocks of Hill Complex: occupied ca. 9th-13th centuries; oldest of 3 architectural groups (Valley Complex, Great Enclosure); thought to have served as temple complex.
Great Zimbabwe, southeastern Zimbabwe
Great Zimbabwe, southeastern Zimbabwe
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Genetta maculata's human landscape ~ Great Zimbabwe National Monument, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Zimbabwe, Africa: photo by P. Groenendijk ~

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 - Robert Harding

Wall mural of Dhow on Lake Malawi, Cape Maclear: photo by Ariadne Van Zandbergen ~

Genetta maculata's human landscape
Dhow on Lake Malawi, Cape Maclear

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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Maritravel on 07/27/2014

I'm ashamed of myself Derdriu, I now next to nothing about these lovely little animals, and heavens haven't you given me a lot to read about them! All fascinating - and I nearly bought a tee shirt (the green jungle eyes one) but I stopped myself just in tme! I work on a 'one in and one out' tee shirt system now and I don't have one I want to pop in the charity bag just now.

DerdriuMarriner on 05/31/2014

VioletteRose, Me, too, I think genets are quite spectacular.

VioletteRose on 05/31/2014

These animals look really amazing, the spotted ones that resembles mini leopards look really spectacular!

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