Aquatic genet (Genetta piscivora)
It is related to civets and linsangs and was formerly placed in its own genus, Osbornictis, which has now been shown to be the same genus as Genetta.
Unlike other genets, which have spotted coats and ringed tails, the aquatic genet has a plain, rust to dull-red coat and a black, non-ringed tail, with elongated white spots between and above its eyes [3,4] and white on the front and sides of the muzzle. The fur is long and dense, especially on its tail . The palms and soles lack fur, which may be an adaptation to locate, capture and handle slippery aquatic prey. The teeth are relatively small and weak compared to other genets of similar size, with poorly developed molars. The premolars are larger and more developed than the molars. Some have suggested that the teeth are modified to deal with slippery, aquatic prey. The long, lightly built skull has relatively small olfactory bulbs, indicating a poorly developed sense of smell, perhaps linked to specializing on aquatic prey. The total length is 785-910 mm. One adult male had a head and body length of 445 mm and a tail length of 340 mm. An adult male weighed 1430 g, while a female weighed 1500 g . The genet is secretive, seems to be solitary and does not live in groups or families . It probably communicates with others using a combination of visual, auditory, tactile, and olfactory cues. It specializes in catching frogs, fish, crustaceans and other aquatic prey [3,4] with its feet. The bare palms and soles of the feet allow for easier fishing by feeling for fish in muddy holes in streams and rivers. This genet also uses its whiskers to feel the surface of the water for prey. Indigenous people say that the genet also feeds on roots and cultivated cassava tubers left to soak in stream water before the flour preparation process. Males and females probably only come together during the breeding season, which probably corresponds with wet seasons. It is thought that the females care solely for their young; males have no role in raising the young. One female collected in late December contained an embryo, 15 cm long. As most viverrids are altricial at birth, the mother cares for them in a nest or den. After they are weaned, the mothers often bring prey to their young .
The conservation status is Data Deficient, but this species is suspected to be "among the rarest of African carnivores" , being known only from @ 30 museum specimens. In some parts of its range, indigenous people say it is extremely rare, but other groups report it as being more common. The equatorial forests where it G. piscivora lives are relatively undisturbed and unfragmented, due to their inaccessibility, low human population and poor soil for agriculture. The major threats to this area are habitat loss due to mining and logging . As the genet depends on fish prey, it may be vulnerable to the accumulation of toxins and metals in aquatic systems due to mining activities. Local hunters catch genets with snares usually put out on trails near streams or small rivers (5). The genets are hunted as bushmeat by Bambuti pygmies; the meat is taboo to all, except male elders. The genet has been given complete protection by the Congolese government (Ordinance No. 79-244 of 16 Oct 1979) and occurs in the Okapi Faunal Reserve.
Aquatic genets inhabit equatorial forests in central Africa. Their range extends from the north-eastern bank of the Congo River to a rift extending across eastern and northeastern Congo. Reports of Genetta piscivora in Uganda and Burundi are unconfirmed.
Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )
Aquatic genets are characterized by their rusty to dull-red body fur, black tail, and the elongated white spots between and above their eyes. The front and sides of the muzzle are whitish in color, as are the areas above and below the eye. The fur on the body lacks the black spots or bands characteristic of most members of the family Viverridae, and the tail is not ringed. The palms and soles of G. piscivora have no fur, which may be an adaptation to capturing and handling aquatic prey.
Aquatic genets have relatively small and weak teeth compared to other genets of similar size, with poorly developed molars. The premolars are larger and more developed than the molars. Some have suggested that their teeth are modified to deal with their slippery, aquatic prey. The long and lightly built skull is characterized by relatively small olfactory bulbs, indicating a poorly developed sense of smell. Such an underdeveloped sense of smell might be expected in a species specializing on acquatic prey.
Body measurements were obtained for two adult males, with total lengths of 910 and 785 mm. One adult male had a head and body length of 445 mm and a tail length of 340 mm. An adult male weighed 1430 g, whereas a single female weighed 1500 g. Because only about 30 specimens exist, and some of those are not identified by sex, it is difficult to speculate on sexual dimorphism in this species.
Range mass: 1430 to 1500 g.
Range length: 785 to 910 mm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Genetta piscivora is found in dense equatorial forests, typically along streams, at elevations between 460 meters and 1500 meters. Several specimens were collected in forests dominated by homogeneous stands of Gilbertiodendron and specimens have been captured mainly near water or along streams.
Range elevation: 460 to 1500 m.
Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest
Aquatic Biomes: rivers and streams
Other Habitat Features: riparian
Habitat and Ecology
Fish are believed to be a major portion of the diet of G. piscivora, as indicated by the stomach contents of one captured specimen. The stomach contained numerous bones of fish and one complete, 10 cm catfish. Several specimens were collected near streams or small rivers. The naked soles of aquatic genets could be an adaptation to facilitate the location and capture of slippery aquatic prey. Indigenous people report observing G. piscivora feed on fish, frogs, some crustaceans, and cultivated cassava tubers left to soak in the water.
Animal Foods: amphibians; fish; aquatic crustaceans
Plant Foods: roots and tubers
Primary Diet: carnivore (Piscivore )
Little is known about the impact that aquatic genets have on their environment other than limited information on their role as predators.
Nothing is currently known about the non-human predators of G. piscivora or the anti-predator adaptations of this species. Indigenous humans are known to prey upon these animals.
- humans (Homo sapiens)
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Known prey organisms
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Life History and Behavior
Communication between aquatic genets has not been observed. However, as with most mammals, it is likely that they communicate with others using a combination of visual, auditory, tactile, and olfactory cues.
Their small olfactory bulbs indicate a relatively undeveloped sense of smell, characterstic of fish-eating animals. They may use touch extensively in capturing prey. The palms and soles of their paws are bare, not furred as in other viverrids, and it has been suggested that they hunt by feeling for fish in muddy holes in streams and rivers.
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
There is currently no available information about the lifespan of G. piscivora.
Little is known about the mating system of aquatic genets. They seem to be solitary, so males and females probably only come together during mating. As this is the only species in the genus, it is not possible to speculate on the mating system of this species based on those of other closely related animals.
Very little is currently known about the reproductive cycle of G. piscivora. They are one of the rarest and least known viverrids worldwide. One female collected in late December contained one embryo, fifteen cm long. Many equatorial African viverrid species have breeding seasons that correspond with wet seasons.
Breeding interval: The breeding interval is unknown.
Breeding season: The breeding season of G. piscivora is unknown.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous
Nothing is currently known about the the methods of parental care used by G. piscivora. However, most viverrid females are solely responsible for parental care of their offspring. Because this species is apparently solitary, there is no reason to expect any male involvement in the rearing of the young.
Most viverrids are altricial at birth, and are cared for by the female in a nest or a den. Mothers provide milk for the young and often bring them prey foods as they get older.
Parental Investment: no parental involvement; altricial ; pre-fertilization (Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)
In some portions of its range G. piscivora is considered by indigenous people to be extremely rare, whereas other groups report it as being more common. Very little is known about the species, so determination of its conservation status is difficult. The equatorial forests in which G. piscivora lives are relatively undisturbed and unfragmented. This is due to their inaccessibility, low human population, and poor soil for agriculture. The major threats to this area are habitat loss due to mining and logging. Because of their dependence on fish prey acquatic genets may be vulnerable to the accumulation of toxins and metals in aquatic systems as a result of mining activities. Aquatic genets have only been found in the equatorial forests of Zaire, so preservation of this ecosystem is critical to their survival.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: data deficient
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1996Data Deficient
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Aquatic genets have been reported by the Bambuti to occasionally eat cultivated cassava tubers left in streams to soak before the flour preparation process. Given the rarity of aquatic genets, this is unlikely to have an economically significant impact on these people.
Negative Impacts: crop pest
G. piscivora accounted for 1.8 to 2 percent of the small mammal yield in a total of 113 captures by the Bambuti people of Zaire. These animals are apparently eaten.
Positive Impacts: food
The aquatic genet (Genetta piscivora) is a carnivoran mammal located in forests of the northeastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Its range extends from the northeastern bank of the Congo River to a rift extending across eastern and northeastern Congo. They are the one of the least known and rarest Viverrids to be seen in the wild. The aquatic genet is related to civets and linsangs. This species was formerly placed in its own genus, Osbornictis. However, Osbornictis has now been demonstrated to be the same genus as Genetta.
Unlike other genets who have spotted coats and ringed tails, the aquatic genet has a plain, rust-colored coat and a black, non-ringed tail, with white spots between its eyes. The fur is long and dense, especially on its tail. Males typically weigh 3.1 pounds, while females typically weigh 3.3 pounds. Its poor sense of smell is expected in an animal descended from terrestrial ancestors that specializes in catching aquatic prey.
Like most members of its family, it is a secretive and rarely seen species, and little is known about its behavior in the wild, other than that these animals do not live in groups or families.
Diet and Habitat
This unusual genet inhabits rainforest and feeds primarily on fish, which it catches using its feet. The lack of hair on the palms and soles of their feet allows for easier fishing This genet also uses its whiskers to feel the surface of the water for prey. This carnivore consumes frogs and similar aquatic prey.
Although these animals have not been extensively studied, it is thought that the females care solely for their young. Males have no role in the raising of the young. Because most viverrids are altricial at birth, they are cared for by the female in a nest or a den. Mothers provide milk for their young. After they are weaned, the mothers often bring prey they have hunted to their young.
Status and Threats
The conservation status of this genet is data deficient, but it is suspected to be "among the rarest of African carnivores". A possible major threat to this species is habitat loss due to mining and logging.
- Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M., eds. (2005). "Genetta piscivora". Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Van Rompaey, H., Gaubert, P. & Hoffmann, M. (2008). Genetta piscivora. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 24 March 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of data deficient
- Roosenberg, A. 2004. "Genetta piscivora" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed December 03, 2011 http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Genetta_piscivora.html.
- Jakowska, S. (2011). Genets. Retrieved September 30, 2011 from http://science.jrank.org/pages/2995/Genets.html