Carnivore Families




Family Felidae

40 species of cats

From the rusty-spotted cat to the tiger

Family Herpestidae

33 species: mongooses

From the dwarf to the white-tailed mongoose

Family Hyaenidae

4 species of hyenas

From the aardwolf to the spotted hyena

Family Viverridae

35 species: genets and civets

From the spotted linsang to the binturong

Family Eupleridae

8 species: Malagasy civets and mongooses

From the broad striped mongoose to the fossa

Family Nandiniidae

1 species: African palm civet



Family Canidae

35 species dogs

From the fennec fox to the gray wolf

Family Procynonidae

14 species: raccoons and coatis

From the ringtail to the common raccoon

Family Otariidae

16 species: sea lions and fur seals

From the Galapagos fur seal to Steller sea lion

Family Odobenidae

1 species: walruses

Family Ursidae

8 species: bears

From the sun bear to the polar bear (includes giant panda)

Family Mustelidae

59 species: weasels, martens, badgers, and otters

From the weasel to the sea otter

Family Phocidae

19 species: true seals

From the Caspian seal to the southern elephant seal

Family Ailuridae

1 species: red panda

Family Mephitidae

12 species: skunks

From the spotted to the hog-nosed skunk

Cats are carnivores and there are 286 species of carnivores.  These are classified into 15 families. Each comprises a group of species more closely related to one another than to the members of other families.  The 15 families are grouped into 2 major suborders reflecting a major separation that occurred early in Miacid evolution.
The classification of carnivores is still hotly debated. Seals, sea lions and walruses are sometimes accorded their own full order, "Pinnipedia".  Some recently reclassified families (red pandas and African palm civets) are not yet accepted by all authorities.
Even the number of species remains unclear.  The classification presented here follows the standard reference for mammals, Wilson & Reeder (2005).
What makes a carnivore?  They have carnassials that slide closely past one another, slicing off chunks of meat as efficiently as a knife.  This tooth first made its appearance 60 million years ago from a group of small predators called Miacids.  Modern cats do not have the same dentition as dogs or other carnivores of the Caniformia family. They have lost their rear molars or retain them as useless pegs.  They have little crushing ability and can handle mainly meat.  Their carnassials are in the back while those in dogs have theirs behind premolars and have 2 pairs of crushing molars behind the carnassials.  This results in dual-purpose dentition that both shears and crushes.  This allows bones, insects, seeds, fruit, and plant matter to be eaten.  Cats are considered to be the most predatory of the carnivore families due to their dentition and also the make-up of their physical bodies.  In a handful of species in the carnivore families (Caniformia), the carnassial shear has been lost entirely and they are completely herbivores (red panda and giant panda).  Although true, their ancestors had them as do some of their living relatives.

Hunter, Luke. 2005. Cats of Africa. John Hopkins University Press, MD. Pgs 34, 38, & 39.