The Dwarf Mongoose (Helogale parvula) is the smallest of the Mongooses (family Herpestidae) and the smallest African carnivore, with an average total length of only 38cm and average weight of 267g. They inhabit savanna woodlands, crafting their dens in rock crevices and termite mounds, and consume a diet primarily of insects with the occasional mouse and small bird. They are highly social animals, living in groups up to 32, and live up to 18 years.
Ethiopia to Angola and eastern South Africa.
Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )
Head and body length is 180 to 260mm and tail length is 120 to 200mm. Fur color varies, but is generally speckled brown to greyish. The tail and lower legs are generally darker, with the ventral surfaces being slightly paler.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Average mass: 274.8 g.
Catalog Number: USNM 182715
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Mammals
Sex/Stage: Male; Adult
Preparation: Skin; Skull
Collector(s): E. Heller
Year Collected: 1911
Locality: Mount Lololokwi, summit, Kenya, Africa
Elevation (m): 1829
- Type: Hollister, N. 1916 Feb 10. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections. 66 (1): 7.
These animals inhabit savanah, woodlands, brush country and mountain scrub. They range from sea level up to 1,800m.
Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; scrub forest
Habitat and Ecology
The diet is mostly insects with small vertebrates, eggs, and fruit also being eaten occasionally. Most of the day is spent looking for food among brush, leaves, and rocks.
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
Status: captivity: 10.0 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Births occur mainly during the rainy season from November to May, and the dominant female often has three litters a year. Gestation lasts 49-56 days and average litter size is four. Young nurse for 45 days, and they are also brought food before being fully weaned. Juveniles begin to forage with the group at around six months of age. Full sexual maturity isn't reached until about three years old.
Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual
Average gestation period: 55 days.
Average number of offspring: 3.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
Sex: female: 456 days.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Helogale parvula
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Common dwarf mongoose
The common dwarf mongoose is a typical mongoose: it has a large pointed head, small ears, a long tail, short limbs, and long claws. The species can be distinguished from other mongooses by its size. It is much smaller than most other species (18 to 28 cm, 210 to 350 grams); in fact, it is Africa's smallest carnivore. The soft fur is very variable in color, ranging from yellowish red to very dark brown.
Distribution and habitat
The common dwarf mongoose is primarily found in dry grassland, open forests, and bush land, up to 2,000 m in altitude. It is especially common in areas with many termite mounds, their favorite sleeping place. The species avoids dense forests and deserts. The common dwarf mongoose can also be found in the surroundings of settlements, and can become quite tame.
The common dwarf mongoose is a diurnal animal. It is a highly social species that lives in extended family groups of two to thirty animals. There is a strict hierarchy among same-sexed animals within a group, headed by the dominant pair (normally the oldest group members). All group members cooperate in helping to rear the pups and in guarding the group from predators.
Young mongooses attain sexual maturity by one year of age but delay dispersal, with males usually emigrating (in the company of their brothers) at 2-3 years old. Dispersing males may join other established groups, either as subordinates or by ousting the resident males, or they may found new groups with unrelated dispersing females. In contrast, females normally remain in their home group for life, queuing for the dominant position. They will, however, emigrate to found a new group if they lose their place in the hierarchy to a younger sister.
Dwarf mongooses are territorial, and each group uses an area of approximately 30-60 hectares (depending on the type of habitat). They sleep at night in disused termite mounds, although they occasionally use piles of stones, hollow trees, etc. The mongooses mark their territory with anal gland and cheek gland secretions and latrines. Territories often overlap slightly, which can lead to confrontations between different groups, with the larger group tending to win.
Dwarf mongooses tend to breed during the wet season, between October and April, raising up to three litters. Usually only the group's dominant female becomes pregnant, and she is responsible for 80% of the pups reared by the group. If conditions are good, subordinate females may also become pregnant, but their pups rarely survive. After the gestation period of 53 days, 4-6 young are born. They remain below ground within a termite mound for the first 2-3 weeks. Normally one or more members of the group stay behind to babysit while the group goes foraging. Subordinate females often produce milk to feed the dominant female's pups. At 4 weeks of age the pups begin accompanying the group. All group members help to provide them with prey items until they are around 10 weeks old.
A mutualistic relationship has evolved between dwarf mongooses and hornbills, in which hornbills seek out the mongooses in order for the two species to forage together, and to warn each other of nearby raptors and other predators.
The diet of the common dwarf mongoose consists of insects (mainly beetle larvae, termites, grasshoppers and crickets), spiders, scorpions, small lizards, snakes, small birds, and rodents, and is supplemented very occasionally with berries.
- Anne Rasa: Mongoose Watch: A Family Observed, John Murray, 1985, ISBN 0-719-54240-5.
- Anne Rasa: Intra-familial sexual repression in the dwarf mongoose (Helogale parvula) in Naturwissenschaften, Volume 60, Number 6, p. 303-304, Springer, 1973.
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- Creel, S. & Hoffmann, M. (2008). Helogale parvula. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 22 March 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern
- Anne O, Rasa E (1983). "Dwarf mongoose and hornbill mutualism in the Taru desert, Kenya." Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 12 (3): 181–90.