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Analysis of mitochondrial DNA revealed that the Southeast Asian group of Javan mongoose subspecies differs genetically from the Javan mongoose occurring farther west. The Salween River in Myanmar is probably a barrier between the two groups.
The body is slender and the head is elongated with a pointed snout. The length of the head and body is 509-671 millimetres (20.0-26.4 in). The ears are short. They have five toed feet with long claws. Genders differ in size with males having a wider head and bigger bodies.
The Javan mongoose can be distinguished from the sympatricIndian grey mongoose (H. edwardsii) by its somewhat smaller size. It is larger in the east of its range, where the Indian grey mongoose does not occur, showing a stronger sexual dimorphism with the males being relatively larger than the females.
The 1800s was a huge century for sugar cane, and plantations shot up on many tropical islands including Hawaii, Fiji and Jamaica. With sugar cane came rats, attracted to the sweet plant, which ended up causing crop destruction and loss. Attempts were made to introduce the species in Trinidad in 1870, but this failed. A subsequent trial with four males and five females from Calcutta however, were established in Jamaica in 1872. A paper published by W. B. Espeut that praised the results intrigued Hawaiian plantation owners who, in 1883, brought 72 mongooses from Jamaica to the Hamakua Coast on the Big Island. These were raised and their offspring were shipped to plantations on other islands.
Only the islands of Lana'i and Kaua'i are thought to be free of mongooses. There are two conflicting stories of why Kaua'i was spared. The first is that the residents of Kaua'i were opposed to having the animals on the island and when the ship carrying the offspring reached Kaua'i, the animals were thrown overboard and drowned. A second story tells that on arriving on Kaua'i one of the mongooses bit a dockworker who, in a fit of anger, threw the caged animals into the harbor to drown.
Accounts from the sugar industry in the early 20th century state that the introduced mongooses were effective at significantly reducing the number of rats, mice, and insects.
Introduction to Caribbean
Starting in 1870, the Javan mongoose was introduced to Jamaica, Cuba, Hispaniola, St. Croix (1884), to prey upon black rats (Rattus rattus) that were ravaging the sugarcane industry. Another reason for introducing the mongoose was to reduce the snakes in the cane fields. While very successful in reducing sugarcane damage from rats, the introduction had a negative impact on reptiles and other animals. The green iguana (Iguana iguana, also believed to be an introduced species) has been greatly reduced in number and the ground lizard Ameiva polops was eliminated from the island of St. Croix before 1962 (but not from Protestant Cay, Green Cay, Ruth Cay, and Buck Island). Ground nesting birds may also have been affected.
The Javan mongoose uses about 12 different vocalizations.
In studies where traps were used in an attempt to remove the mongoose, it was found that the trap success was nearly zero in conditions of rain.
It is mostly solitary; males sometimes form social groups and share burrows. Females are pregnant for up to 49 days and give birth to a litter of 2-5 young. Males can potentially become sexually mature at the age of 4 months.
It mostly eats insects but are opportunistic feeders and will eat crabs, frogs, spiders, scorpions, snakes, small mammals, birds and eggs.
The introduced populations show genetic diversification due to drift and population isolation. Populations on islands throughout the world have increased in size and sexual dimorphism, resembling populations in the east of their range where they have no ecological competitors.
Mongoose introduction was very successful in rat control, but the mongoose also hunts reptiles,birds and bird eggs, threatening many local island species.
It has also been extremely successful regarding its second purpose in getting rid of snakes; on many of the Caribbean islands where it was released the native snakes have been extirpated and now only exist on offshore islands, at least one species from St. Croix in the Virgin Islands may now be extinct.
In 2016, the European Commission put the mongoose on the list of invasive alien species in the EU.
^Long, J. L. (2003). Introduced Mammals of the World: Their History, Distribution and Influence. Cabi Publishing. ISBN9780851997483.
^Hays, Warren ST, and Sheila Conant. "Biology and impacts of Pacific Island invasive species. 1. A worldwide review of effects of the small Indian mongoose, Herpestes javanicus (Carnivora: Herpestidae)." Pacific Science 61.1 (2007): 3-16.
^Hoagland, D. B., G. R. Horst, and C. W. Kilpatrick (1989) Biogeography and population biology of the mongoose in the West Indies. Pages 611-634 in C. A. Woods, editor. Biogeography of the West Indies. Sand Hill Crane Press, Gainesville, Florida, USA.
^ abEspeut, W. B. 1882. On the acclimatization of the Indian mongoose in Jamaica. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1882:712-714.
^Mulligan, B E and D W Nellis (1973) Sounds of the Mongoose Herpestes auropunctatus. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 54(1): 320-320
^Nellis, D. W., and C. O. R. Everard. 1983. The biology of the mongoose in the Caribbean. Stud. Fauna Curacao Other Caribb. Isl. 195: 1-162.
^Ishibashi Osamu ; Ahagon Ayako ; Nakamura Masaji ; Morine Nobuya ; Taira Katsuya ; Ogura Go ; Nakachi Manabu ; Kawashima Yoshitsugu ; Nakada Tadashi (2006) Distribution of Leptospira spp. on the Small Asian Mongoose and the Roof Rat Inhabiting the Northern Part of Okinawa Island. Japanese Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 11(1):35-41
^Nakamura, I.; Obi, T.; Sakemi, Y. (2011). "The Prevalence of Antimicrobial-Resistant Escherichia coli in Two Species of Invasive Alien Mammals in Japan". Journal of Veterinary Medical Science. 73 (8): 1067-1070. doi:10.1292/jvms.10-0525. PMID21467758.
Tseng, Z.; Flynn, J. (2015). "Convergence analysis of a finite element skull model of Herpestes javanicus (Carnivora, Mammalia): Implications for robust comparative inferences of biomechanical function". Journal of Theoretical Biology. 365: 112-148. doi:10.1016/j.jtbi.2014.10.002. PMID25445190.