Cryptoprocta spelea (Grandidier, 1902)

Giant fossa



Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Synonym/s: Cryptoprocta ferox spelea Grandidier, 1902 (original combination); Cryptoprocta antamba Lamberton, 1939?


Conservation Status


Last record: 1520 ± 25 14C age BP ± SD (Michielsen et al., 2023); 1500 AD (Fisher & Blomberg, 2012)

IUCN RedList status: Extinct


There is a very remote chance that this species still persists, with quite a few reports by locals (Freed, 1996; Goodman et al., 2003, 2004; Nomenjanahary et al., 2021). It has also been encountered by at least one visiting PhD student, Benjamin Freed:

"In December 1989, at 06:00 hours, one of us (BZF) witnessed a large euplerid carnivoran locally known as fosabe (big fosa) or fosa jobijoby (blackish fosa) who had entered his field tent at Montagne d’Ambre. The animal was “twice the size and much darker than the common fossa” (Freed, 1996, p. 34). The individual was black and weighed approximately 20-25 kg. Freed wrote that the animal was well known to the local people and that “many local people also reported seeing it”. The animal fits paleontologists’ expectations for Cryptoprocta spelea, a large carnivoran known from the fossil record, believed to have been extinct for at least 1000 years."

(Nomenjanahary et al., 2021:159; but see pp.161-162)





Biology & Ecology




Neotype: MNHN CG 1977.755 (designated by Goodman et al., 2004)






Original scientific description:

Grandidier, Guillaume. (1902). Observations sur les lémuriens disparus de Madagascar. Collections Alluaud, Gaubert, Grandidier. Bulletin du Muséum d’Histoire naturelle 8: 497-505, 587-592.


Other references:

Burness, G.P., Diamond, J. & Flannery, T. 2001 Dinosaurs, dragons, and dwarfs: the evolution of maximal body size. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 98, 14518-14523.

Burney, David A. et al. (2019). Subfossil lemur discoveries from the Beanka Protected Area in western Madagascar. Quaternary Research. DOI: [Abstract]

Crowley, B. E. A refined chronology of prehistoric Madagascar and the demise of the megafauna. Quat. Sci. Rev. 29, 2591–2603 (2010).

Fisher, Diana O. and Blomberg, Simon P. (2012). Inferring Extinction of Mammals from Sighting Records, Threats, and Biological Traits. Conservation Biology 26(1): 57-67.

Freed, Benjamin Z. (1996). Co-occurrence among crowned lemurs (Lemur coronatus) and Sanford’s lemurs (Lemur fulvus sanfordi) of Madagascar. PhD thesis. Washington University, St. Louis.

Goodman, Steven M., Ganzhorn, J. U. and Rakotondravony, D. (2003). Introduction to the mammals, pp. 1159-1186. In: Goodman, Steven M. and Benstead, J. P. (eds.). The Natural History of Madagascar. University of Chicago Press. 1728 pp.

Goodman, S. M. and Jungers, W. L. (2014). Extinct Madagascar: Picturing the Island’s Past. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Goodman, Steven M., Rasoloarison, R. M. and Ganzhorn, J. U. (2004). On the specific identification of subfossil Cryptoprocta (Mammalia, Carnivora) from Madagascar. Zoosystema 26(1): 129-143.

Hoffmann, M. and Hawkins, F. (2015). Cryptoprocta spelea. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T136456A45221489. Downloaded on 18 November 2017.

Kouvari, M. & van der Geer, A. A. E. Biogeography of extinction: The demise of insular mammals from the Late Pleistocene till today. Palaeogeogr. Palaeoclimatol. Palaeoecol. 505, 295–304 (2018).

Lamberton Charles. (1939). Contribution à la connaissance de la faune subfossile de Madagascar. Notes IV-VI I .  Lémuriens et Cryptoproctes. Mémoires l’Academie malgache 27: 1-203.

MacPhee, R. D. E., Burney, D. A. and Wells, N. A. (1985). Early Holocene chronology and environment of Ampasambazimba, a Malagasy subfossil lemur site. International Journal of Primatology 6(5): 463-489.

Meador, Lindsay Renee. (2017). Who Ate the Subfossil Lemurs? A Taphonomic and Community Study of Raptor, Crocodylian and Carnivoran Predation of the Extinct Quaternary Lemurs of Madagascar. Dissertation. xvii + 388 pp.

Meador, Lindsay Renee, Godrefy, Laurie Rohde, Rakotondramavo, Jean Claude, Ranivoharimanana, Lovasoa, Zamora, Andrew, Sutherland, Michael Reed and Irwin, Mitchell T. (2017). Cryptoprocta spelea (Carnivora: Eupleridae): What Did It Eat and How Do We Know? Journal of Mammalian Evolution. doi:10.1007/s10914-017-9391-z [Abstract]

Michielsen, Nathan M., Goodman, Steven M., Soarimalala, Voahangy, van der Geer, Alexandra A. E., Dávalos, Liliana M., Saville, Grace I., Upham, Nathan and Valente, Luis. (2023). The macroevolutionary impact of recent and imminent mammal extinctions on Madagascar. Nature Communications 14: 14. [Supplementary Data 1 (mammal list); Supplementary Data 6 (references)]

Muldoon, Kathleen M. et al. (2012). Early Holocene fauna from a new subfossil site: A first assessment from Christmas River, south central Madagascar. Madagascar Conservation & Development 7(1): 23-29.

Nomenjanahary, E. S., Freed, B. Z., Dollar, L. J., Randrianasy, J. and Godfrey, L. R. (2021). The stories people tell, and how they can contribute to our understanding of megafaunal decline and extinction in Madagascar. eds. K. Douglass, L. R. Godfrey & D. A. Burney. Malagasy Nature, 15: 159-179.

Pettit, G. (1935). Description d'un crâne de Cryptoprocte subfossile, suivie de remarques sur les affinitiés de genre Cryptoprocta. Archives du Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle 12: 621-636.

Rosenberger, Alfred L. et al. (In Press, 2015). Giant subfossil lemur graveyard discovered, submerged, in Madagascar. Journal of Human Evolution.

Turvey, Samuel T. (2009). Holocene mammal extinctions, pp. 41-61. In: Turvey, Samuel T. (ed.). Holocene Extinctions. Oxford, UK & New York, USA: Oxford University Press. xii + 352 pp.

Turvey, Samuel T. and Fritz, Susanne A. (2011). The ghosts of mammals past: biological and geographical patterns of global mammalian extinction across the Holocene. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 366(1577): 2564-2576. [Supplementary Information]

Upham, N. S., Esselstyn, J. A. & Jetz, W. Inferring the mammal tree: Species-level sets of phylogenies for questions in ecology, evolution, and conservation. PLOS Biol. 17, e3000494 (2019).

Yoder, A. D. et al. Single origin of Malagasy Carnivora from an African ancestor. Nature 421, 734–737 (2003).


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