Linzey, Donald W. Wytheville Community College, Wytheville, Virginia.
Last reviewed:July 2020
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- Striped and hooded skunks (Mephitis)
- Spotted skunks (Spilogale)
- Hog-nosed skunks (Conepatus)
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
Any of a group of mammalian carnivores in the family Mephitidae typically characterized by a glossy black and white coat and two scent glands at the base of the tail. Skunks are members of the family Mephitidae in the mammalian order Carnivora. There are three genera of skunks: Mephitis (Fig. 1), Spilogale, and Conepatus. In addition, two species of Asian stink badgers (genus Mydaus), found in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, are included in the family Mephitidae. Formerly, skunks were classified in the subfamily Mephitinae in the family Mustelidae (weasels, wolverines, otters, minks, and their relatives); however, DNA evidence has conclusively placed skunks within the independent family Mephitidae. Skunks are found only in the New World, ranging from Canada to Chile. These mammals have short limbs with five clawed toes on each foot. The claws are curved and nonretractile. A pair of well-developed anal scent glands, used for defense against predators, are present. A short rostrum is present on the elongate and flattened skull. Carnassial teeth (used to shear flesh and bone) are well developed. See also: Carnivora; Mammalia; Scent gland; Tooth; Weasel
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