The family Viverridae is made up of 35 species, including all of the genets, the Binturong, most of the civets, and the four linsangs.
Viverrids are native to most of the Old World tropics, nearly all of Africa (bar the area immediately south of the Mediterranean), Madagascar, and the Iberian Peninsula. Favoured habitats include woodland, savanna, mountains and, above all, tropical rainforest. In consequence, many are faced with severe loss of habitat; several species are considered vulnerable and the Otter Civet is classified as endangered.
Viverrids are amongst the primitive families of the Carnivora
, with skeletons very similar to those of fossils dating back to the Eocene
, up to 50 million years ago. They are variable in form, but generally resemble long-nosed cats. Most have retractile or partially-retractile claws
, a baculum
, and an anal scent gland
Viverrids range in size from the African Linsang with a body length of 33cm, and a weight of 650g, to the African Civet at 84cm and 18kg.
They are nocturnal animals, with excellent hearing and vision. They are generally solitary. Despite their placement in the order Carnivora, they are omnivorous, or, in the case of the Palm Civets, almost entirely herbivorous. In reflection of this, their flesh-shearing carnassial teeth are relatively undeveloped . The usual dental formula is:
Although it resembles the other civets, the African Palm Civet
) is genetically distinct and belongs in its own monotypic family, Nandiniidae
. The Madagascan Fossa Cryptoprocta ferox
was similarly long thought to be a member of Viverridae, but genetic evidence indicates that this animal is a member of the family Eupleridae
, an endemic Madagascan carnivore radiation related to the family Herpestidae
. Furthermore, recent genetic research indicates that the Asiatic linsangs
of the genus Prionodon
, may be more closely related to the species of the family Felidae
; if so, then they should be removed from Viverridae and placed in their own family, Prionodontidae
. There is little dispute, however, that the African linsangs
of genus Poiana
In "The Variation Of Animals And Plants Under Domestication" Charles Darwin noted: The Genetta has bred both here and in the Jardin des Plantes, and produced hybrids.
Others have also reported civet/genet hybrids.