- This is an article about the species. For topics that share the name, see Skunk (disambiguation)
Within skunk species and subspecies, fur may vary in appearance from black-and-white to brown, cream, ginger-colored, and white (non-albino) colors, but they all display aposematism (or warning coloration), with the stereotypical white-on-black counter-shaded appearance being highly visible. Their fur patterns range from stripes to hoods, and complex spots.
While many millions of years ago skunks were once native to various parts of the world they are currently only located naturally in the Americas continents, as well as islands in the Philippines and Indonesia. Some of their oldest range included Europe, with the oldest identified skunk fossil found in Germany, dated to 11–12 million years ago.
The most unique aspect of skunks is their ability to spray a foul-smelling fluid. The fluid is produced in specialized anal sacs evolved from sacs that all mammals possess. Muscles surrounding these sacs allow for skunks to accurately spray the fluid over 1 meter (3 feet), with some species able to spray upwards of 6 meters (20 feet). Skunks are also able to aerosolize the fluid into a mist if they cannot aim.
Their prior noted striking appearance serves as a warning to potential predators of the small animal. When frightened they may also move to alert and scare the target before spraying, these movements may include running towards the target aggressively, stomping, snarling, and even performing handstands with the tail held high.
Mephitids were once classified as mustelids (polecats, badgers, ferrets, etc), under the family Mustelidae. Recent genetic evidence shows that skunks are more distantly related to mustelids than once thought. The most distantly related mephitids are the old world stink badgers (Genus Mydaus), native to the Philippines and Indonesia.
Mephitidae is part of the superfamily Musteloidea, itself a part of the order Carnivora. Mephitidae shares this superfamily with Ailuridae (red pandas), Procyonidae (raccoons), and Mustelidae. Within this superfamily Mephitidae is closest related to Ailuridae and Procyonidae.
The living species of skunks include:
- Family: Mephitidae
- Genus: Conepatus (hog-nosed skunks)
- Genus: Mephitis (skunks)
- Genus: Mydaus (stink badgers)
- Genus: Spilogale (spotted skunks)
Skunks in mainstream
Skunks are popular characters in (especially children's) media, with examples including Pepé Le Pew from Warner Bros.' Looney Tunes, Fifi La Fume from Warner Bros.' Tiny Toon Adventures, Kicks from Animal Crossing, Flower from The Walt Disney Company's Bambi, and many others. In these depictions, they are often seen as cute and lovable.
But the most common trope involving skunks is of them having a foul odor. This stems, as noted before, from their self-defense spray mechanism. This trope is often pushed to them having an unbearable odor at all times (Pepé Le Pew, Johnny Appleseed, Stella the skunk, Open Season's Rosie and Maria, Cory "Cilantro" the skunk, etc), which is generally false. Typical skunks will smell musty, like ferrets or other mustelids, but will not smell like they have been sprayed on.
The relative frequency of being sprayed by a skunk (being skunked) has led to numerous home remedies to rid the smell from clothing, skin, hair, etc. The most famous of such remedies is the (ineffective) tomato juice bath, with other ineffective remedies including beer. A widely agreed upon working remedy is a solution of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and soap used to clean important things like skin and hair.
Some people keep skunks as an uncommon pet, especially for their fur pattern. While they are native, pet skunks are seen as exotic in North America. The most commonly kept species is Mephitis mephitis, which is the most social and familiar. Pet skunks often have their scent glands surgically removed, except in the UK where it is illegal (as per the Animal Welfare Act 2006). Pet skunks are trained to use litter boxes, which they may have trouble finding when first trained or when the box is moved.
Mainstream skunk characters
- Pepé Le Pew (Warner Bros.' Looney Tunes)
- Fifi La Fume (Warner Bros.' Tiny Toon Adventures)
- Bimbette Skunk (Warner Bros.' Tiny Toon Adventures)
- Kicks (Nintendo's Animal Crossing)
- Flower (The Walt Disney Company's Bambi)
- Stella the skunk (Over the Hedge)
- Rosie (Open Season)
- Maria (Open Season)
- Meg (Chickenhare and the Hamster of Darkness)
- Bradley (Codename: Kids Next Door)
- Roma (Sofia the First)
- Miss Mam'selle Hepzibah (Pogo)
- Pepper Clark (Littlest Pet Shop)
- Petunia (Mondo Media's Happy Tree Friends)
- Skunk (ABC Monsters's Skunk Fu!)
- Geoffrey St. John (Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics))
- Cyrille Le Paradox (Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time)
Skunks and furry
Skunks are a commonly chosen species for furry characters/OCs, fursonas and/or fursuits in the furry fandom, with polls and references listing this preference in the top 20 of all species for several decades.
There are a variety of fictional furry skunk species, with the most prominent of them being the skunktaur.
Furry skunk characters
- Sabrina (Sabrina Conrad, née Sabrina Skunk. Sabrina Online)
- Tabitha Skunk (Sabrina Online)
- Meredith Skunk (The World of Vicki Fox)
- Sue-chan (Andorozon)
- Passion (Extinctioners)
- Frenchie (Steve Martin)
- Gwenneth (Kevin & Kell)
- Martin "Marty" Miller (Cycles)
- "Mammal Species of the World - Browse: Mephitidae". Mammal Species of the World 2005. Retrieved on January 1, 2021.
- Wund, Matthew. "ADW: Mephitidae: INFORMATION". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved on January 1, 2021.
- "Wild Skunk Information". June 26, 2016. Dragoo Institute for the Betterment of Skunks and Skunk Reputations. Retrieved on January 1, 2021.
- Skunk Colors: Black and White (Mostly) article on the Sciencing website. Retrieved January 6, 2021.
- "FAQ". Skunks as Pets. Retrieved on January 5, 2021.
- "Skunk - Natural History". Encyclopaedia Brittanica. Retrieved on January 1, 2021.
- Old World skunk article on the Natural History's blog. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
- "General Skunk Facts". Skunk.com. Retrieved on January 6, 2021.
- "Does Tomato Juice Really Neutralize Skunk Odor?". Britannica. Retrieved on January 5, 2021.
- "Skunk Stuff". Skunks as Pets. Retrieved on January 5, 2021.
- "Pounced.org user stats page". Archived from the original on July 10, 2006. Retrieved on January 1, 2021.
- "Species representation in the furry fandom". July 27, 2008. Furry Research Center. Retrieved on January 1, 2021.
- Skunk search results on DeviantArt
- Skunk search results on Fur Affinity
- Skunk search results on Mia's Index of Anthro' Stories
- Skunkette on the Urban Dictionary
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