Endemic to tropical rainforests along the western coast of India, brown palm civets or Jerdon’s palm civets (Paradoxurus jerdoni) are usually found in high altitudes of the Western Ghats mountain range, 21 °N to 8 °N.
Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Native )
- Mudappa, D., B. Noon, A. Kumar, R. Chellam. 2007. Responses of small carnivores to rainforest fragmentation in the southern Western Ghats, India. Small Carnivore Conservation, 36: 18-26.
- Nameer, P., S. Molur, S. Walker. 2001. Mammals of Western Ghats: A simplistic overview. Zoos' Print Journal, 16(11): 629-639.
- Patou, M., A. Wilting, P. Gaubert, J. Esselstyn, C. Cruaud, A. Jennings, J. Fickel, G. Veron. 2010. Evolutionary history of the Paradoxurus palm civets - a new model for Asian biogeography. Journal of Biogeography, 37: 2077-2097.
- Rajamani, N., D. Mudappa, H. Van Rompaey. 2002. Distribution and status of the Brown Palm Civet in the Western Ghats, South India. The Newsletter and Journal of the IUCN/SSC Mustelid, Viverrid & Procyonid Specialist Group, 27: 6-11.
Occurrence is States along Western Ghats
Occurrence in Latitudes degrees N
Paradoxurus jerdoni has not been studied extensively so there is still very little known about this species. Museum specimens of brown palm civets have pale buff, light brown, or dark brown pelage and a dark tail. Occasionally, the tail may have a white or pale yellow tip. Unlike other civets, P. jerdoni has no distinct markings on its face. The characteristic that distinguishes them from common palm civets (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) is the reverse direction of hair growth at their neck line. Measurements from a limited number of museum specimens give a body length of 430 to 620 mm and a tail length of 380 to 530 mm. A small study including seven individuals found a weight range of 1.2 to 3.5 kg. Any difference between the sexes, or sexual dimorphism, was not described in the literature.
Members of family Viverridae are characterized by a long and lean body, with short legs and a bushy tail nearly as long as their body. Generally, members of this family have an elongated head, pointed muzzle and a dental formula of 3/3, 1/1, 3-4/3-4, 1-2/1-2, including a carnassial pair. The first digit on the fore- and hind foot in this family is often reduced or lacking, creating a digital formula of 5/5, 5/4, or 4/4 (number of digits on forefoot/number of digits on hind foot) and their claws can be retractile or non-retractile. Palm civets are well adapted to their arboreal lifestyle, with traction pads on their hind feet and hook-like claws on their medial toes, to aid in climbing. Female viverrids generally have two to three pairs of mammae on their abdomen, but some forms may have only one pair. Males have a baculum.
Range mass: 1.2 to 3.5 kg.
Range length: 430 to 620 mm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike
- Mudappa, D., R. Chellam. 2001. Capture and immobilization of Wild Brown Palm Civets in Western Ghats. Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 37(2): 383-386.
- Vaughan, T., J. Ryan, N. Czaplewski. 2011. Mammalogy. Sudbury, Massachusetts: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, LLC.
- Walker, E., F. Warnick, S. Hamlet, K. Lange, M. Davis, H. Uible, P. Wright. 1964. Mammals of the World. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press.
Habitat and Ecology
It is largely arboreal and nocturnal, and mainly frugivorous, feeding on nearly 40 rainforest tree and liana fruit species, though it does supplement its diet with birds, rodents, and insescts (Pocock 1939). It is often found in coffee plantations (Pocock 1939). This species is often sighted in elevated (above 500 m) moist forest (Ashraf et al, 1993). It is nocturnal and predominantly arboreal, but is often found on the ground, as indicated by success in trapping and camera trapping (Mudappa, 2002). It is known mostly from tropical rainforests (Rajamani et al, 2002), but has been recorded from coffee estates in Coorg and Anamalais (Ryley, 1913; Ashraf et al, 1993; Mudappa, 2001). In a survey conducted in the Western Ghats in 2001-02, all 23 sightings of this species were in evergreen forests, including five in high altitude montane evergreen forest or sholas (Rajamani et al, 2002). It was recorded in both undisturbed, large patches of contiguous forest, as well as in fragments surrounded by plantations of tea, and human habitations (Rajamani et al, 2002). They were recorded on forest trails and along main roads, often exposed to traffic (Rajamani et al, 2002). Rajamani et al (2002) found that this species may be more dependent on the structure and floristics of forests, rather than on altitude.
Brown palm civets are nocturnal, arboreal, small carnivores that thrive in the high altitude tropical rainforests of the Western Ghats in India. Brown palm civets prefer an altitudinal range of 500 to 1,300 m. This region receives an annual rainfall of approximately 1,500 mm in the eastern slopes, to over 3,000 mm in the western slopes. Throughout the year, the temperature ranges from 19°C in January, to 24°C in April and May. Humidity also varies throughout the year, from 60% in March, to 97% in November and December. Due to continuous human development in this region, brown palm civets are exposed to an increasing amount of habitat fragmentation. Large plantations of coffee, cardamom, and tea, fragment brown palm civets' habitat and introduce exotic food sources into their diet.
Range elevation: 500 to 1300 m.
Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest
Other Habitat Features: agricultural
Paradoxurus jerdoni is predominantly frugivorous, foraging over a wide range, but has one of the smallest diet ranges among South Asia’s small carnivores. Brown palm civets are considered the most frugivorous species in family Viverridae, with a diet consisting of 97% fruit. They consume fruit that is predominately small (less than 1 cm in diameter), multi-seeded, pulpy berries and drupes, with moderate to high water content. Their diet consists largely of native fruit species and some exotic fruits, such as bananas, cardamoms, coffee, and guavas. When fruit availability is low, they also supplement their diet with some invertebrates (insects, millipedes, centipedes, snails and crabs) and rarely with small vertebrates (rodents, other small mammals, birds, and reptiles). Their “unspecialized” digestive system, characteristic of carnivores, and opportunistic feeding strategy, gives them the unique ability to cope with fluctuations in food availability.
Animal Foods: birds; mammals; insects; mollusks; aquatic crustaceans
Plant Foods: fruit
Primary Diet: herbivore (Frugivore )
Paradoxurus jerdoni specializes in seed dispersal. With a diet predominately composed of fruit, viverrids are considered among the most important mammalian seed dispersers in the forests throughout Asia. The wide foraging range and unspecialized digestive system of brown palm civets allows them to carry seeds away from parent trees and deposit them in other sites, after passing through their digestive tract. The seeds remain relatively undamaged with germination viability intact, or sometimes enhanced.
Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds
Known predators of brown palm civets include larger diurnal predators within the system. Predators of P. jerdoni include pythons, black eagles, and leopards.
- pythons (Python molurus)
- black eagles (Ictinaetus malayensis)
- leopards (Panthera pardus)
Life History and Behavior
Modes of communication have not yet been studied for brown palm civets and there is no general information available for the viverrid family.
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
The lifespan of P. jerdoni is not currently known, but most members in family Viverridae live 5 to 15 years in the wild.
Status: wild: 5 to 15 years.
The specific mating behaviors of this species have not yet been studied.
Currently, there is no information on the general reproductive behavior of brown palm civets. For members of family Viverridae, the breeding season is in spring, summer, or throughout the year. The age of sexual maturity is not currently known for this family. Once sexual maturity is reached, many genera will produce two litters per year, with 1 to 6 offspring per litter. Very few gestation periods are known for members of this family. Offspring are born blind, but with hair.
Within genus Paradoxurus, females will most likely give birth to more than one litter of two to four young throughout the year.
Breeding interval: Members of genus Paradoxurus often breed more than once per year.
Breeding season: Members of genus Paradoxurus often breed throughout the year.
Range number of offspring: 2 to 4.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous
The amount of parental care given by this species is not known at this time. But as viverrid young are born blind and relatively defenseless, it is assumed that some parental care is involved.
Parental Investment: altricial
- Walker, E., F. Warnick, S. Hamlet, K. Lange, M. Davis, H. Uible, P. Wright. 1964. Mammals of the World. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press.
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 2000Vulnerable (VU)
- 1996Vulnerable (VU)
- 1994Vulnerable (V)
- 1990Indeterminate (I)
- 1988Indeterminate (I)
Brown palm civets are listed as a species of Least Concern under the IUCN Red List and under CITES Appendix III, due to its abundance within disturbed and fragmented areas. With a highly restricted distribution, continuous habitat loss and fragmentation, the adaptability of P. jerdoni is constantly tested and, for the moment, they seem to be thriving. But the scarcity of information and studies specific to this species leaves some concern over the status of the population in some areas of their range.
Brown palm civets, while elusive for most researchers, are not without a wide range of threats. While P. jerdoni may thrive around coffee and cardamom plantations, the conversion to tea does not support quality habitat or food for civets. Habitat is also lost due to mining activities and hydroelectric projects throughout the Western Ghats. While brown palm civets can adapt and persist in a fragmented habitat, they are not without dangers, such as risk of road kill due to crossing roads between fragments, or increasing human intrusions into the forest and changes in habitat structure.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: appendix iii
State of Michigan List: no special status
- Ashraf, N., A. Kumar, A. Johnsingh. 1993. Two endemic viverrids of the Western Ghats, India. Oryx, 27: 109-114.
- Mudappa, D., A. Choudbury. 2008. "Paradoxurus jerdoni" (On-line). IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Version 2012.2. Accessed November 01, 2012 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/16104/0.
- Pillay, R. 2009. Observations of small carnivores in the southern Western Ghats, India. Small Carnivore Conservation, 40: 36-40.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
The highly varied and non-specific diet of brown palm civets allows for the consumption and dispersal of introduced or exotic plant species such as coffee, and subsequently, the alteration of the understory of relatively undisturbed forests. The implications of this alteration have yet to be studied. Their ability to access and consume fruits from plantations bordering the forests may also make them a pest.
Negative Impacts: crop pest
Brown palm civets' ability to disperse seeds over an extensive range and thrive in fragmented habitats could play a role in restoring patches of degraded forest in the Western Ghats. This wide dispersal also helps maintain, or increase diversity within the forest.
Brown palm civet
Brown palm civet (Paradoxurus jerdoni) also called the Jerdon's palm civet is a civet endemic to the Western Ghats of India. There are two subspecies, the nominate P. j. jerdoni and P. j. caniscus. The Sulawesi palm civet is sometimes referred to by the same English name due to its brown colour.
The brown palm civet's distribution extends from the southern tip of Western Ghats in Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve to Castle Rock in Goa to the north. They are nocturnal, and not as rare as previously thought and sight records of the species in Kodaikanal and Ootacamund where they were earlier considered to be locally extinct are an indication of their ability to go unnoticed.
The brown palm civet has a uniformly brown pelage, darker around the head, neck, shoulder, legs, and tail. Sometimes the pelage may be slightly grizzled. Two subspecies have been described on the basis of the colour of the pelage although the colour is extremely variable, ranging from pale buff or light brown to dark brown. The dark tail sometimes has a white or pale-yellow tip. It has no distinct markings on the body or the face as in the common palm civet. A distinctive feature is the reversed direction of hair growth on the nape, similar to that in the golden palm civet (P. zeylonensis) of Sri Lanka. It is about as large as the Common Palm Civet, but with a long and sleek tail. The body weight of the males ranges from 3.6 kg to 4.3 kg, head and body length 430 mm to 620 mm, and tail length from 380 to 530 mm. The species was described in 1885 on the basis of a skull and pelt obtained in Kodaikanal by Mr F. Levinge and forwarded by Rev. S. B. Fairbank to W T Blanford. Blanford noted the long foramen on the anterior palate. He also found the pelt matching another specimen collected by Francis Day. Blanford named the species in honour of T. C. Jerdon. Subspecies caniscus was described by R I Pocock on the basis of a specimen collected at Virajpet in southern Coorg.
The brown palm civet is predominantly frugivorous. Fruits form a large proportion (97 per cent) of its diet and more than 53 native and four introduced species of plants have been recorded. The diet patterns vary across years and even within the same year. They adapt to climatic variations in fruit availability by feeding on a diverse range of species of invertebrates and vertebrates. They eat fruits of trees and lianas, rarely those of herbs or shrubs. The diet is mostly composed of small (<1 cm diameter), many seeded, pulpy berries, and drupes with moderate to high water content, along with several large (>2 cm) fruits like Palaquium ellipticum, Elaeocarpus serratus, Holigarna nigra, and Knema attenuata. They have also been recorded feeding on flowers such as those of Cullenia exarillata and Syzygium species.
The brown palm civet is a solitary, nocturnal small carnivore. They rest during the day in day-bed sites, such as tree hollows, canopy vine tangles, Indian giant squirrel nests and forks of branches. The day-bed trees are large and are usually in dense mature forest stands with high canopy connectivity. They sometimes rest in the night in open branches.
The brown palm civet is a key mammalian seed disperser in the Western Ghats rainforest by being predominantly frugivorous and dispersing a diverse array of plant species. Their large range and presence within several protected areas have led them to be classified as being of low conservation concern. The brown palm civet occurs in fragmented landscapes containing remnants of tropical rainforest amid commercially exploited land patches such as tea and coffee plantations. Their ability to persist in such landscapes depends on the occurrence of a diversity of fruit tree species in these areas (e.g., shade trees in coffee plantations). However, these areas often do not have large mammalian dispersers and birds like hornbills and large pigeons due to habitat loss and hunting. Hence, the brown palm civet gains importance in such human-impacted landscapes as an important disperser and maintains biodiversity.
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