Journal of Mammalian Evolution

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 237–251 | Cite as

Cryptoprocta spelea (Carnivora: Eupleridae): What Did It Eat and How Do We Know?

  • Lindsay Renee MeadorEmail author
  • Laurie Rohde Godfrey
  • Jean Claude Rakotondramavo
  • Lovasoa Ranivoharimanana
  • Andrew Zamora
  • Michael Reed Sutherland
  • Mitchell T. Irwin
Original Paper


The extent to which Madagascar’s Holocene extinct lemurs fell victim to nonhuman predators is poorly understood. Madagascar’s Holocene predator guild included several now-extinct species, i.e., crocodiles, carnivorans, and raptors. Here we focus on mammalian carnivory, specifically the roles of Cryptoprocta spelea and its still-extant but smaller-bodied sister taxon, C. ferox, the fosa. Cryptoprocta spelea was the largest carnivoran on Madagascar during the Quaternary. We ask whether some extinct lemurs exceeded the upper prey-size limits of C. spelea. We use univariate and multivariate phylogenetic generalized least squares regression models to re-evaluate the likely body mass of C. spelea. Next, we compare characteristics of the forelimb bones of C. ferox and C. spelea to those of other stealth predators specializing on small, mixed, and large-bodied prey. Finally, we examine humeri, femora, crania, and mandibles of extinct lemurs from six sites in four ecoregions of Madagascar to identify damage likely made by predators. We test the relative prevalence of carnivory by mammals, raptors, and crocodiles at different sites and ecoregions. Our data reveal that crocodiles, raptors, and the largest of Madagascar’s mammalian predators, C. spelea, all preyed on large lemurs. Cryptoprocta opportunistically consumed lemurs weighing up to ~85 kg. Its forelimb anatomy would have facilitated predation on large-bodied prey. Social hunting may have also enhanced the ability of C. spelea to capture large, arboreal primates. Cryptoprocta carnivory is well represented at cave and riverine sites and less prevalent at lake and marsh sites, where crocodylian predation dominates.


Fosa Cryptoprocta Extinct lemurs Madagascar Extinction Eupleridae Predator 



This project was funded by the Paleontological Association and the University of Massachusetts Natural History Collections and Department of Anthropology. The Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation funded observation of fosa predation on sifakas. We thank Jeannot Randrianasy, Director of the Laboratory of Primatology at University of Antananarivo, for access to specimens. We thank Jean Luc Raharison and SADABE for providing fosa predation observations and collecting sifaka skeletal material. Comments on an earlier draft from reviewers William L. Jungers and Steven M. Goodman, as well as the editor, substantially improved this manuscript.

Supplementary material

10914_2017_9391_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (50 kb)
Online Resource 1 List of Cryptoprocta, extinct lemur, and extant lemur specimens studied, including species, institutional identification number, element examined, locality, and collection that holds the specimen. UA = Université d’Antananarivo; AM = l’Académie Malgache; TFFP = Tsinjoarivo Forest Fragments Project. Other identification acronyms are specific to the collection holding the specimens. (XLSX 50 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lindsay Renee Meador
    • 1
    Email author
  • Laurie Rohde Godfrey
    • 1
  • Jean Claude Rakotondramavo
    • 2
  • Lovasoa Ranivoharimanana
    • 2
  • Andrew Zamora
    • 1
  • Michael Reed Sutherland
    • 3
  • Mitchell T. Irwin
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of Massachusetts AmherstAmherstUSA
  2. 2.Mention Bassins sédimentaires, Evolution Conservation (BEC), BP 906, Faculté des SciencesUniversité d’AntananarivoAntananarivoMadagascar
  3. 3.Data Science ProgramNew College of FloridaSarasotaUSA
  4. 4.Department of AnthropologyNorthern Illinois UniversityDeKalbUSA

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