At the top of the food chain

The Eupleridae (Malagasy Carnivora) are a group of 8 to 10 all endemic to Madagascar and are still little known to the general public.

The "fossa" (Cryptoprocta ferox), the largest Malagasy carnivores, arboreal, with a toothed cats, the "falanouc" (Eupleres goudotii) small insectivorous land, offering him an extreme reduction of the teeth, through the various forms in morphology type mongooses and civets, the species of this family show a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and ecologies of different behaviors.

Go with Margot Michaud, head of program Eupleridae Sergio Razafinimpanana its Madagascan alter ego and a handful of eco-volunteers, on top of the food chain and discover its most illustrious representative, the mysterious fossa, king of Madagascar animals.

Operation explanation photo traps

But why ?
The Malagasy fauna is exemplary and remains a question for many researchers. Isolated from large tracts of land for about a hundred million years (between 88Ma and 165mA depending on the source), the fauna of the island, which is sometimes called the seventh continent, present unusual taxonomic diversity and unique endemism up to 100% for many groups.

Within this insular ecosystem, Eupleridae Carnivora are a family of seven genera and eight to ten endemic species present. In 2003, it was shown that, like strepsirhines, the presence of Eupleridae in Madagascar was explained by a single colonization event aged 18 to 24 million years from a close ancestor of African Herpestidae (mongooses and meerkats). Cette étude réfute donc l’hypothèse paraphylétique des Eupleridae longtemps avancée pour ces différentes espèces. Pour résumer, ça revient à dire que tout les eupleridae auraient le même ancêtre commun.

However, the mechanisms that led to this settlement remain enigmatic. The assumption now offers Advanced Africa certainly a dispersion through vegetation rafts to transport individuals to a nearby coast. After about twenty million years of evolution on islands and in the absence of other terrestrial carnivores, Eupleridae arrived in Madagascar have experienced rapid diversification phase, also known as adaptive radiation, resulting in species occupying niches extremely varied ecological. The great ecological diversity of Eupleridae is illustrated by species of very different size and morphology.

These species include the fossa are at the top of the food chain on the island. Their populations and their distribution therefore have a crucial impact on all Malagasy ecosystems and must be at the center of conservation issues of biodiversity in the country. However, information on the distribution of these species are very sparse for some difficult areas like the Makay massif.

De plus, certaines espèces restent très peu connues car peu observées dans leur milieu naturel. Beaucoup reste encore à découvrir sur la faune des carnivores malgaches.

Un fossa passe devant un de nos pièges photo dans le Makay

Mais comment ?
Le programme eupleridae #Makay2017 a pour objectif de take inventory of Eupleridae species present in the Makay massif but also to know a little more their ranges and to study their behavior and lifestyles.

Several points are then considered in this study:
- The presence of different species in this part of the island;
- The frequency of observations of individuals;
- The study of behavioral patterns of these species, including feeding behavior and locomotor and lifestyle (day, night, twilight, etc.)
- The biological sampling in the field.

Firstly, camera traps in motion detection have been placed at strategic points of the massif and offered us some nice surprises when viewings. To do this, a grid of the area was carried out upstream of the expedition with a satellite tracking to delineate different study areas with different environmental conditions (altitude, sunshine, the presence of some species of lemurs etc).

During the expedition, the camera traps were then placed on the ground for terrestrial species (including mongoose to ten lines Mungotictis de CE wait neata que l’on pourrait retrouver dans cette partie de l’île) tandis que d’autres pièges ont été placés en hauteur dans la végétation, lieu de prédilection du fossa (espèce principalement arboricole). Ses pièges laissés pendant une période de 1 à 6 semaines ont permis de récolter le maximum d’informations sur la présence d’Eupleridae et la fréquence des rencontres. Au sol, la présence de traces de pas et de fèces (excréments) sera étudiée dans le même but.

The content of the faeces will be then studied to better understand the eating habits of carnivorous species present in the Makay and composition of their diet in this part of the island. Direct observation of individuals is complicated but is also favored using meat bait in places previously chosen.

Finally, as cet inventaire ne peut se faire sans une discussion avec les populations locales qui vivent à proximité de ces animaux. Ils peuvent alors nous donner des indications précieuses sur la fréquentation des populations de carnivores autour des habitats occupés par l’homme ainsi que sur le mode de vie de ces animaux.

Pose de piege photo par Rohan et Sergio

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