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Fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) Fact Sheet: Reproduction & Development

Courtship

Courtship & Mating

  • Courtship
    • Females typically mate with larger males (from Lührs and Kappeler 2014)
      • Females use aggressive behavior to rebuff unwanted males
      • Females may actively solicit small to moderate-sized males after the peak mating season
    • Males vocalize to court females (from Albignac 1970)
      • Vocalization may attract many other individuals into an area
  • Copulation
    • Location and duration (from Albignac 1975 unless otherwise noted)
      • Copulate high in the canopy on a tree branch
      • Pair may remain together for over an hour
        • Typically copulate for 12-58 minutes; average copulation time of 39 minutes, one study (Lührs and Kappeler 2014)
        • Female mates multiple times with the same male (Lührs and Kappeler 2014)
    • Behavior (from Albignac 1975 unless otherwise noted)
      • Female lies, belly down, on the branch
        • Fore-paws grasp the branch; hind-paws tuck under her body
      • Male mounts female, lying on top of her slightly to one side
        • His fore-paws grasp her waist
        • During intromission, he licks the female’s neck, ears, and back
      • Both partners vocalize with a plaintive meowing (Albignac 1970)
      • Click here for a brief video by the BBC
    • Termination of mating (from Lührs and Kappeler 2014)
      • Weak copulatory lock holds partners together
      • Rival males often interrupt copulation
        • Disruptive males are often larger (heavier) individuals
  • Mating trees
    • Certain trees consistently serve as mating locations (Hawkins and Racey 2009; Lührs and Kappeler 2014)
      • Locations used for several years (Hawkins 2003)
      • Typically near water (Hawkins 2003)
    • One or more females may use the mating tree (Hawkins and Racey 2009; Lührs and Kappeler 2014) 
      • As many as three females observed in the same tree, one study (Lührs and Kappeler 2014)
      • Females either share the site sequentially or simultaneously (Lührs and Kappeler 2014)
        • Simultaneous use is a sign of socio-positive interactions between females
    • Potential benefits of mating trees
      • May facilitate mate location when population density is low (Hawkins and Racey 2009)
        • Up to 18 males can converge on a single tree (Lührs and Kappeler 2014)
        • Aggressive interactions: males fight and chase one another, emitting characteristic vocalizations (Hawkins and Racey 2009)

Reproduction

Polyandrous

  • Female mates with multiple males (from Lührs and Kappeler 2014)
    • Mean number of partners c. 10 in a single season

Seasonal reproduction (Hawkins and Racey 2009; Lührs and Kappeler 2014)

  • Single annual mating season (from Hawkins 2003)
    • October through December in the wild

Estrus (from AZA Small Carnivore TAG 2011)

  • Frequency of estrus
    • Once per year until bred
    • Every other year with successful and ongoing breeding
  • Duration of estrus
    • Up to 2 weeks

Gestation and Birth

Gestation

  • Reports vary
    • 6-7 weeks typically observed (Hawkins 2003 based on Albignac 1973)
    • 48–53 days in one female, 51–56 days in another (Vogler et al. 2009)
    • 53-60 days observed in managed care (M Krebs personal communication, Reiter 2013)

Birth

  • Location of birth
    • Parturition occurs within a nest
    • Nest typically a hollow Commiphora tree or hollowed-out termite mound (Hawkins 2003)
  • Litter size (Hawkins 2003)
    • 2-4 cubs typical; up to 6 possible
  • Features of neonate at birth (from Kohncke and Leonhardt 1986 unless otherwise noted)
    • Furry and without teeth
    • Hair light in color, almost white (Albignac 1975)
    • Eyes closed
    • Weight c. 100 g (3.5 oz) or less

Interbirth interval (time between consecutive births)

  • 3-4 years, one estimate (Albignac 1969)

Life Stages

Infants

  • Care
    • Mother is the sole care giver (Hawkins 2003)
      • The mother moves neonates by mouth until they are old enough to move on their own  
    • Cubs may be left in the nest alone for several hours; observations under managed care (AZA Small Carnivore TAG 2011)
  • Development (from Kohncke and Leonhardt 1986 unless otherwise noted)
    • Development slow, zoological observation
    • Eyes open after 2-3 weeks
      • Color appears blue until c. 6 weeks of age (Albignac 1975)
    • Motor skills develop by 2-3 weeks (Albignac 1975)
      • However, infants typically remain within the den (Albignac 1975)
    • First solid food taken c. 3 months (AZA Small Carnivore TAG 2011)
    • First leave the den after 4.5 months
      • Weaning follows
    • Weigh 4-5 kg by 1 year of age (Albignac 1975)
    • Permanent dentition by 20 months of age

Juveniles

  • Remain with mother for c. 1-2 years (Albignac 1973; Hawkins 2003)

Adults

  • Sexual maturity
    • c.3-4 years of age (Kohncke and Leonhardt 1986; Hawkins 2003
      • Males produce sperm by 36 months of age (Albignac 1975)
      • First reproduce c. 4 years of age, in managed care (Albignac 1975)
  • Reproductive senescence
    • Both sexes continue to reproduce until age 12-15, in managed care (Krebs and Bryan 2012)
      • Male over 18 years of age sired cubs at Suffolk Wildlife Park (Hornsey 1999)
      • 20 year old male and female produced cubs at ZSEA Africa Alive! (ZIMS 2015)

Longevity

In managed care

  • Longest lived individuals
    • 19-20 years for both males and females (Krebs and Bryan 2012)

In the wild

  • No records

Fossa with Offspring

a Fossa with a cub

Fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) with offspring.  Image credit: Ken Bohn, © San Diego Zoo Global. All rights reserved.

Female Fossa with cubs

Fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) with offspring.  Image credit: Ken Bohn, © San Diego Zoo Global. All rights reserved.

 

Page Citations

Albignac (1969)
Albignac (1970)
Albignac (1973)
Albignac (1975)
AZA Small Carnivore TAG (2011)
Goodman (2009)
Hawkins (2003)
Hawkins and Racey (2009)
Hornsey (1999)
Kohncke and Leonhardt (1986)
Krebs and Bryan (2012)
Lührs and Kappeler (2014)
Reiter (2013)
Vogler et al. (2009)
ZIMS (2015)

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