Small-Toothed Three-Striped Palm Civets (Arctogalidia trivirgata): Non-Ringtails of Southern Asia

by DerdriuMarriner

Mammalogists associate musk with defensive, territorial civets. Perfumists employ it as a scent stabilizer. Female small-toothed three-striped palm civets use it as aphrodisiacs.

The word civet calls to mind both a fragrance and its mammalian source.
• It originally comes from Arabic by way of French.

Acquaintance with civets as affectionate pets and with musk as perfume stabilizers derives from Arabic-speaking traders establishing commercial networks and transportation routes in Africa and Asia.

But challenges never end when it comes to creating, supplying, and sustaining demand for domesticable animals and expensive fragrances.
• Specifically, they entail capturing super-clever, super-fast, super-inconspicuous night-foragers.

But domesticating civets goes easier than de-musking.
• Musk-farming involves scraping liquid from scent glands.

Not all musk is considered equal, and not all civets produce musk.
• For example, female small-toothed three-striped palm civets possess scent glands, which yield … non-perfume-worthy … musk.

Small-Toothed Palm Civet marine ecosystems: One Palm Beach, legendary surf break at Indonesia's Panaitan Island

Pulau Panaitan, island in Sunda Strait between Sumatra and westernmost tip of Java (Java Head)
Pulau Panaitan, island in Sunda Strait between Sumatra and westernmost tip of Java (Java Head)

 

Wildlife-lovers generally expect civets to have:

  • Spotted bodies;
  • Striped tails;
  • Strong body odor.

They therefore find small-toothed three-striped palm civets predictable and surprising. Small-toothed three-striped palm civets go through their life cycles and natural histories most inconspicuously. Their bodies have only the subtlest spotting. Striping is limited to three longitudinal lines which run mid-dorsally from shoulders to rump. Their super-long tails lack bands, rings or stripes. Female small-toothed three-striped palm civets alone leave behind fleeting scents. They make musk in diminutive, females-only scent glands. Other civet species typically release musk to:

  • Mark territory;
  • Share information;
  • Stink-bomb predatory mammals, raptors, and reptiles.

But female small-toothed three-striped palm civets only use musk to announce the opening of breeding seasons.

 

juvenile Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus)

Although Small-Toothed Palm Civets have distinctive head structure and facial expression, under poor field conditions or at a poor angle, they may be confused with Paradoxurus hermaphroditus (R. Eaton et al., p. 17)
Situgede, Bogor, Java
Situgede, Bogor, Java

 

Two sets of names aid in identifying and understanding the world’s known wildlife. One set belongs within popular parlance as the common, trivial, or vernacular name even though scientific influences sometimes prevail. Another set comes from scientific consensus as the binomial (“two-name”), Latin, or taxonomic name. Common terminology describes the opportunistic carnivore in question as the small-toothed three-striped palm civet for:

  • Baring a frugivore’s (“fruit-eater”) small teeth;
  • Bearing three mid-dorsal stripes;
  • Braving heights for palm tree fruits, juices, and toddies.

Scientific wording differs on two emphases and overlaps on a third. The genus name Arctogalidia focuses upon mammalian parallels by joining ancient Greek words:

  • ἄρκτος (arktos, “bear”);
  • Γαλιθιάς (galidias, “little weasel”).  

The species name trivirgata means “three-striped.”

 

 

The scientific community’s formal acquaintance with small-toothed three-striped palm civets dates back to 1831. It deals with the official taxonomic identification by Walsall-born West Midlander John Edward Gray (February 12, 1800 – March 7, 1875), as:

  • London medical student;
  • London’s British Museum taxonomist as insect-collecting volunteer, 1815-, reptile collection cataloguer, 1824-, and zoology keeper, 1840 - 1874;
  • London’s British Museum writer of 1,000+ scientific papers, 1821-;
  • Second husband of Maria Emma Smith (1787 – December 9, 1876), Greenwich Hospital-born algologist, conchologist, and natural history illustrator, 1826-.

The Gray taxonomy draws upon a specimen from the Reinwardt collections gathered in the Indo-Australian Archipelago during 1821 and stored in the Rijksmuseum van Natuurlijke Historie (“National Museum of Natural History”), Leiden, Netherlands.

 

Small-toothed Palm Civet (Arctogalidia trivirgata) range

Distribution data from IUCN Red List
Distribution data from IUCN Red List

 

Bio-geographies differentiate subspecies. They may be endemic to:

  • Borneo:

Arctogalidia trivirgata stigmaticus per Temminck, 1853;

  • India:

A.t. millsi (Nagaland) per Wroughton, 1921;

  • Indonesia:

A.t. inornata (Bunguran) per Miller, 1901;

A.t. minor (Belitung) per Lyon, 1906;

A.t. simplex (Lingga) per Miller, 1902;

A.t. sumatrana (Sumatra), tingia (Tebing Tinggi) per Lyon, 1908;

A.t. trilineata (Java) per Wagner, 1841;

  • Malaysia:

A.t. bancana (Peninsula) per Schwarz, 1913.

Or they may not:

  • A.t. macra (Langkawi [Malaysia], Letsok-aw [Myanmar], Tarutao [Thailand]) per Miller, 1913;
  • A.t. fusca (Kundur, Merbau, Sugi Islands, Indonesia), major (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam) per Miller, 1906;
  • A.t. leucotis (Assam, Kadan Kyun [Myanmar], Thailand) per Horsfield, 1851;
  • A.t. trivirgata (Malaysian Borneo, Peninsula), encompassing Miller’s (1913) bicolor (Kalimantan), depressa (Bintan), mima (Batam).

 

Small-Toothed Palm Civet landscape: outskirts of Myanmar's largest city, Yangon

Popular park near downtown Yangon (Rangoon): Kandawgyi Lake
Popular park near downtown Yangon (Rangoon): Kandawgyi Lake

 

The bio-geographical distributions and ranges of small-toothed three-striped palm civets center upon:

  • Close-canopied, dense, evergreen, primary-growth, tall rainforests;
  • Remote altitudes up to 3,937.01+ feet (1,200+ meters) above sea level.

But they also find sustainable niches within such habitats as:

  • Disturbed forests experiencing active logging and extensive clear-cutting for coconut plantation agriculture;
  • Elevations up to 4,757.22 feet (1,450 meters) above sea level;
  • Lowland mature coniferous or semi-evergreen forests surrounded by disturbed secondary-growth scrub forests;
  • Mixed coniferous forests.

Small-toothed three-striped palm civets essentially need the above-mentioned sylvan habitats to:

  • Cluster in large fruiting fig trees (Ficus spp);
  • Den in tree forks and hollows and on tree branches;
  • Forage nightly for frogs, fruits, insects, lizards, nesting birds, and small mammals.

 

Arctogalidia fusca, subspecies of Small-Toothed Three-Striped Palm Civet: Cuticular scales are imbricate, the simplest form, termed as ovate. The cuticle is the outermost covering of the hair shaft. Cuticular

"The microscopic structures in the hairs of mammals offer certain definite and unchanging characteristics which have been found useful for the purposes of identification." (Dr. Leon Ausman, p. 496)
Dr. Leon Augustus Hausman, "Structural Characteristics of the Hair of Mammals" (1920), Plate 1 Figure 1, p. 498
Dr. Leon Augustus Hausman, "Structural Characteristics of the Hair of Mammals" (1920), Plate 1 Figure 1, p. 498

 

Small-toothed three-striped palm civets attain 10+-year lifespans. After 45-day gestations, females bi-annually deliver 3 beige-furred offspring. Newborns hear and see in 11 days. They ingest solid-food diets 2 months after birth. Physical and sexual maturity involves:

  • Beige, brown-grey, red-brown heads;
  • Big, dark-adapted, rounded eyes;
  • Brown muzzles;
  • Dusk-brown to grey-black ears, feet, and tails;
  • Red-brown under-pelage;
  • Tawny-buff short flank fur;
  • 3 black or black-brown, longitudinal, mid-dorsal stripes;
  • White streaking, nose to forehead.

It realizes:

  • Ear lengths of 1.10 – 1.65 inches (2.8 – 4.2 centimeters);
  • Head-and-body lengths of 17.32 – 23.62 inches (44 – 60 centimeters);
  • Hind-paw lengths of 2.91 – 3.15 inches (7.4 – 8 centimeters);
  • Tail lengths of 18.90 – 25.99 inches (48 – 66 centimeters);
  • Weights of 4.41 – 5.51 pounds (2 – 2.5 kilograms).

 

Arctogalidia from Sarawak: A = left fore foot, digits fully extended; B = left hind foot, digits fully extended

R.I. Pocock, "On the Feet and Glands and other External Characters of the Paradoxurine Genera" (1915), Figure 3, p. 391
R.I. Pocock, "On the Feet and Glands and other External Characters of the Paradoxurine Genera" (1915), Figure 3, p. 391

Conclusion: An abundance of teeth and sharp claws are not sufficient to protect Small-Toothed Three-Striped Palm Civets from expanding agro-industrialism, predatory raptors, and zealous snare-trappers

 

Predatory raptors endanger small-toothed three-striped palm civets less than predatory mammals and reptiles. Agro-industrialists, over-hunters, and reticulated pythons (Python reticulatus) leave:

  • Declining, isolated, and stressed populations;
  • Degraded, fragmented, and reduced habitats.

Against mammalian snare-trappers and reptilian squeezers, small-toothed three-striped palm civets need more than:

  • 12 incisors, 4 canines, 16 premolars, and 8 molars;
  • 20 curved, retractile, sharp claws.

Their bio-geographies pick up the slack by including:

  • Bangladesh, China, and Singapore;
  • Protected areas (Cambodia’s Keo Seima Biodiversity Conservation Area, Java’s Gunung Gede, Gunung Halimun, and Ujung Kulon National Parks, Malaysia’s and Thailand’s Belum-Temengor Forest Reserve, Malaysian Borneo’s Tawau Hills National Park, Vietnam’s Cát Tiên National Park).

Government-funded research and wildlife-lover activism likewise strengthen small-toothed three-striped palm civet sustainability.

 

Rhinarium of Arctogalidia, seen from front (A) and above (B)

R.I. Pocock (1915), Figure 4, p. 396
R.I. Pocock (1915), Figure 4, p. 396

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.

 

Small toothed Palm Civet - Arctogalidia trivirgata - ConCaSa (Conservation of Carnivores in Sabah)

Uploaded to YouTube on May 25, 2009, by 79anwil ~ URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVllHbMZMac

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Small-Toothed Palm Civet island landscape: panorama from top level of northern Sumatra's Mount Sibayak

Mount Sibayak, Karo Regency, North Sumatra
Mount Sibayak, Karo Regency, North Sumatra
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the end which is also the beginning

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Updated: 08/20/2014, DerdriuMarriner
 
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