); order Carnivora, suborder Feliformia)
A family of small carnivores, closely related to the Viverridae in which they were formerly placed, averaging about 230–750 mm in length and weighing from less than 1 kg to 6 kg. They have small heads with a long, flattened skull, pointed muzzles, and short, rounded ears. Carnassials are well developed. Their claws are not retractile. Many possess anal glands that secrete a foul-smelling substance. Males possess a baculum. Most mongooses are predators of small mammals, birds, and reptiles, and also eat birds' eggs, insects, land crabs, and carrion. Mongooses are renowned for their speed and agility, which allows them to kill venomous snakes, including cobras and adders, despite having no immunity to haemotoxic snake venom, although they are immune to neurotoxins. Some species are solitary, but others travel in groups, called mongaggles, and share food. Meerkats, also known as suricates (Suricata suricatta), of southern Africa live in groups comprising two, three, or more families, each comprising an adult male, adult female, and up to five offspring. There are about 20 genera and 34 species, found mainly in Africa, but also in Asia and southern Europe. Mongooses are often kept as pets to control vermin, but they can be destructive, killing a wide variety of ground-dwelling animals.
Subjects: Zoology and Animal Sciences.