Feb 15

Bored at work? Looking for a distraction? Look no further as it’s time to play ARKive’s Six Degrees of Separation. Let me start by congratulating our winner from last time – Catherine Hayward! Well done! Any chain that involves Darwin immediately gets my seal of approval, especially as it’s Darwin’s 202nd birthday this month.

A Madagascan twist

In honour of the BBC’s fantastic Madagascar series that’s showing in the UK at the moment, I thought my next challenge should involve only those species that occur on this fantastically bizarre island. Nick Garbutt’s recent ARKive blog highlights the bleak future that Madagascar’s wildlife currently faces, with only 7-8% of the island’s forests remaining. I thought I’d take the opportunity to showcase some of the many weird and wonderful Malagasy species by getting from the ferocious fossa to the stupendous silky sifaka in just six steps. Here’s my attempt….


Fossa photo

Being the largest carnivore on Madagascar the fossa can pretty much have its pick of animals to eat. One particular delicacy is the common tenrec. Spikey but tasty apparently!

Common tenrec

Common tenrec photo

The common tenrec is also known as the tailess tenrec. In contrast, one Malagasy species that is famed for its striking tail is the ring-tailed lemur.

Ring-tailed lemur

Ring-tailed lemur photo

Ring-tailed lemurs spend about two-thirds of their time up in the trees. One tree you certainly won’t find them hanging out in is Grandidier’s baobab – the trunk of this tree is too smooth for them to be able to climb it!

Grandidier’s baobab

Grandidier's baobab photo

Grandidier’s baobab is named after Alfred Grandidier, a 19th century French naturalist and explorer who studied the wildlife of Madagascar. He is also responsible for the scientific name of the giant-striped mongoose, Galidictis grandidieri.

Giant striped mongoose

Giant striped mongoose photo

Deforestation means that much of Madagascar’s wildlife has become isolated in pockets of remaining forest. The giant-striped mongoose is only found in a very small area in the southwest of the island, which is also where the blue-legged mantella is found.

Blue-legged mantella

Blue-legged mantella photo

It’s fairly obvious where the blue-legged mantella gets its name, and the same is true of the silky sifaka – often called the ‘angel of the forest’!

Silky sifaka

Silky sifaka photo

Over 80% of Madagascar’s wildlife is found nowhere else in the world, so you’ve got plenty of bizarre and brilliant species to choose from! My fossa → silky sifaka chain is a bit mammal-heavy I think, so I challenge you to use less furry and more feathery or scaly species in yours!

If you need some inspiration then don’t forget to watch Madagascar on the BBC, and use ARKive’s ‘Explore by Geography’ to discover the wildlife of this wonderful island.

Bonnie Metherell, ARKive Media Researcher

  • Mitchell (February 18th, 2011 at 8:44 pm):

    The fossa is the largest carnivore in Madagascar, and being the biggest around means it can eat what it wants, such as…

    …the crowned sifaka (A relative of the silky sifaka). The crowned sifaka is a lemur, and that makes it a good climber too. Another animal that is skilled in the art of climbing is the…

    … the Labord’s chameleon. These chameleons live in the drier areas of western Madagascar, so it’s not likeley to fall prey to…

    … a marsh owl. Marsh owls, as their name would suggest, live in the marshes of eastern Madagascar, along with…

    … the Madagascar rail. The Madagascar rail is a small bird with dull, brown, short feather that are quite the opposite of…

    … the silky sifaka’s plush, fluffy, white fur.

  • logan olsen (April 21st, 2011 at 4:07 pm):

    i love the silkiy sifaka