We North Americans know all about skunks. We know what they smell like, and we know when one has been hit on the highway before we drive past its flattened corpse.
But we really don’t know that much about them. For one thing, we’ve always assumed that skunks were like an offshoot of the Old Wold polecats. The zorilla or striped polecat of Sub-Saharan Africa looks a lot like a spotted skunk. It’s also quite well-known for having projectile anal glands that are used in exactly the same way skunks do.
Because of their similarity to these polecats, we’ve always just assumed skunks were mustelids (weasels, otters, polecat, mink, stoats, and wolverines).
That was until Jerry Dragoo and a team of researchers looked at skunk DNA and compared it to other caniform canivorans.
It turns out that the skunks of the Americas are most closely related to two very esoteric species of “stink badger.” One of these is the Sunda stink badger (Mydaus javanensis) of Indonesia and the Philippine or Palawan stink badger (Mydaus marchei), which is found on Palawan, Busuanga, and Calauit.
The animal in the photo above is a Sunda stink badger. It’s so obvious that this is a skunk that it amazes me that the connection was not made sooner. It looks a lot like a hog-nosed skunk with a docked tail!