Salanoia durrelli


December 6, 2021

Salanoia durrelli (English: Durrell's vontsira) is a mammal from Madagascar in the family Eupleridae and the order Carnivora. This mongoose-like animal is closely related to the brown-tailed fern (Salanoia concolor), and the two form the genus Salanoia. Both are genetically similar, but morphologically different, so scientists view them as two different species. After the study of a specimen in 2004, it became known to science and S. durrelli was described as a new species in 2010. It is endemic to the Lac Alaotra area. Salanoia durrelli is a small reddish-brown carnivore, characterized by broad feet with prominent pads, a reddish tint to the inner skin, as well as strong and broad teeth, among other differences from Salanoia concolor. Two specimens were weighed showing a body mass of 600 g and 675 g. Salanoia durrelli is a swamp-dwelling animal that may eat crustaceans and molluscs. The Lac Alaotra area is a threatened ecosystem, and S. durrelli may also be threatened with extinction due to competition from introduced species.


In 2004, a Salanoia durrelli was spotted swimming by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (DWCT) while observing the bamboo lemur (Hapalemur) in the Lac Alaotra area, Madagascar's largest wetland. This animal was captured, photographed, and then released, but examination of the photograph showed that it could not be identified with any known species of the malagasy carnivore (family Eupleridae). Therefore, two specimens were subsequently captured in 2005 by DWCT. One of them was killed to facilitate additional morphological comparisons. In 2010, the animal was officially described as Salanoia durrelli in a paper by conservationist Joanna Durbin and a team of scientists from the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance, Nature Heritage, Natural History Museum in London, Conservation International and DWCT. Its specific name, durrelli, was given in honor of Gerald Durrell, a conservationist and founder of DWCT. Previously local residents had reported the existence of a small carnivore in Alaotra, and it was speculated that the animal was a closely related Salanoia concolor. Salanoia durrelli was placed in the genus Salanoia, which previously only included Salanoia concolor from eastern Madagascar. S. durrelli showed substantial morphological differences from S. concolor, but the mitochondrial DNA of the two species was very similar. The discoverers decided to consider the Lac Alaotra population as a separate species in view of the significant morphological differences. The observed morphological peculiarities may be the result of adaptation to life in the Alaotra wetlands, similar to that of the Alaotra bamboo lemur species, Hapalemur alaotrensis, which is also recognized as a distinct species although genetically closely related to the more widespread Hapalemur griseus.


Salanoia durrelli is most similar to Salanoia concolor, which is a small carnivore like the fern. This animal is generally reddish brown in color, paler than S. concolor. The head and neck are speckled. The lower body is reddish yellow, not brown as in S. concolor. Most of the color of the tail is similar to the body, but the tip is yellowish-brown. The hairy inner part of the external ear (pina) is reddish yellow. The broad lower legs are hairless, with bare skin yellowish on the forelegs and dark brown on the hind legs, and showing prominent bearings. Each of the five toes on the forelegs and hind feet has long, dark brown claws. There are rows of stiff hair along the edges

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