среда, 24. децембар 2008.

Bobcat (Lynx rufus)

The Bobcat (Lynx rufus) is a North American mammal of the cat family, Felidae. With twelve recognized subspecies, it ranges from southern Canada to northern Mexico, including most of the continental United States. The Bobcat is an adaptable predator that inhabits wooded areas, as well as semi-desert, urban edge, and swampland environments. It persists in much of its original range and populations are healthy. With a gray to brown coat, whiskered face, and black-tufted ears, the Bobcat resembles the other species of the mid-sized Lynx genus. It is smaller than the Canadian Lynx, with which it shares parts of its range, but is about twice as large as the domestic cat. It has distinctive black bars on its forelegs and a black-tipped, stubby tail, from which it derives its name. Though the Bobcat prefers rabbits and hares, it will hunt anything from insects and small rodents to deer. Prey selection depends on location and habitat, season, and abundance. Like most cats, the Bobcat is territorial and largely solitary, although there is some overlap in home ranges. It uses several methods to mark its territorial boundaries, including claw marks and deposits of urine or feces. The Bobcat breeds from winter into spring and has a gestation period of about two months. Although the Bobcat has been subject to extensive hunting by humans, both for sport and fur, its population has proven resilient. The elusive predator features in Native American mythology and the folklore of European settlers.

There had been debate over whether to classify this species as Lynx rufus or Felis rufus as part of a wider issue regarding whether the four species of Lynx should be given their own genus, or be placed as a subgenus of Felis. The Lynx genus is now accepted, and the Bobcat is listed as Lynx rufus in modern taxonomic sources.

Subspecies:

Twelve Bobcat subspecies are currently recognised:
  • L. rufus rufus (Schreber) – eastern and midwestern United States
  • L. rufus gigas (Bangs) – northern New York to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick
  • L. rufus floridanus (Rafinesque) – southeastern United States and inland to the Mississippi valley, up to southwestern Missouri and southern Illinois
  • L. rufus superiorensis (Peterson & Downing) – western Great Lakes area, including upper Michigan, Wisconsin, southern Ontario, and most of Minnesota
  • L. rufus baileyi (Merriam) – southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico
  • L. rufus californicus (Mearns) – California west of the Sierra Nevada
  • L. rufus escuinipae (J. A. Allen) – central Mexico, with a northern extension along the west coast to southern Sonora
  • L. rufus fasciatus (Rafinesque) – Oregon, Washington west of the Cascade Range, northwestern California, and southwestern British Columbia
  • L. rufus oaxacensis (Goodwin) – Oaxaca
  • L. rufus pallescens (Merriam) – northwestern United States and southern British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan
  • L. rufus peninsularis (Thomas) – Baja California
  • L. rufus texensis (Mearns) – western Louisiana, Texas, south central Oklahoma, and south into Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, and Coahuila

The subspecies division has been challenged, given a lack of clear geographic breaks in the Bobcat range and the minor differences between subspecies.

The Bobcat resembles other species of the Lynx genus but is on average the smallest of the four. Its coat is variable, though generally tan to grayish brown, with black streaks on the body and dark bars on the forelegs and tail. Its spotted patterning acts as camouflage. The ears are black-tipped and pointed, with short black tufts. There is generally an off-white color on the lips, chin, and underparts. Bobcats in the desert regions of the southwest have the lightest colored coats, while those in the northern, forested regions are darkest. Kittens are born well-furred and already have their spots. A few melanistic Bobcats have been sighted and captured in Florida. They appear black, but may actually still exhibit a spot pattern. The face appears wide due to ruffs of extended hair beneath the ears. The fur is brittle but quite long and dense. The nose of the Bobcat is pinkish-red, and it has a base color of gray or yellowish- or brownish-red on its face, sides, and back. Bobcat eyes are yellow with black pupils. The pupils are elongated vertically and will widen during nocturnal activity to maximize light reception. The cat has sharp hearing and vision, and a good sense of smell. It is an excellent climber, and will swim when it needs to, but will normally avoid water. The adult male Bobcat is 28 to 47 inches (70–120 cm) long, averaging 36 inches (90 cm); this includes a stubby 4 to 7 inch (10–18 cm) tail, which has a "bobbed" appearance and gives the species its name. An adult stands about 14 or 15 inches (36–38 cm) at the shoulders. Adult males usually range from 16 to 30 pounds (7–14 kg); females average about 20 pounds (9 kg). The Bobcat is muscular, and its hind legs are longer than its front legs, giving it a bobbing gait. At birth it weighs 0.6 to 0.75 pounds (280–340 g) and is about 10 inches (25 cm) in length. By its first year it will reach about 10 pounds (4.5 kg).

The Bobcat is crepuscular (generally most active at twilight and dawn). It keeps on the move from three hours before sunset until about midnight, and then again from before dawn until three hours after sunrise. Each night it will move from 2 to 7 miles (3–11 km) along its habitual route. This behavior may vary seasonally, as Bobcats become more diurnal during fall and winter. This is a response to the activity of their prey, which are more active during the day in colder months.

The Bobcat is able to go for long periods without food, but will eat heavily when prey is abundant. During lean periods, it will often prey on larger animals that it can kill and return to feed on later. The Bobcat hunts by stalking its prey and then ambushing it with a short chase or pounce. Its preference is for mammals about 1.5 to 12.5 pounds (0.7 to 5.7 kg). Its main prey varies by region. In the eastern United States it is cottontail rabbit species, and in the north it is the Snowshoe Hare. When these prey species exist together, as in New England, they are the primary food sources of the Bobcat. In the far south, the rabbits and hare are sometimes replaced by Cotton Rats as the primary food source. The Bobcat is an opportunistic predator that, unlike the more specialized Canadian Lynx, will readily vary its prey selection. The Bobcat hunts animals of different sizes, and will adjust its hunting techniques accordingly. With small animals, such as rodents, squirrels, birds, fish and insects, it will hunt in areas known to be abundant in prey, and will lie, crouch, or stand and wait for victims to wander close. It will then pounce, grabbing its prey with its sharp, retractable claws. For slightly larger animals, such as rabbits and hares, it will stalk from cover and wait until they come within 20 to 35 feet (6 to 10 m) before rushing in to attack. Less commonly it will feed on larger animals such as foxes, minks, skunks, small dogs and house cats.

Bobcats typically live to six or eight years of age, with a few reaching beyond ten. The longest they have been known to live is 16 years in the wild and 32 years in captivity. The female raises the young alone. One to six, but usually two to four, kittens are born in April or May, after roughly 60 to 70 days of gestation. There may sometimes be a second litter, with births as late as September. The female generally gives birth in some sort of enclosed space, usually a small cave or hollow log. The young open their eyes by the ninth or tenth day. They start exploring their surroundings at four weeks and are weaned at about two months. Within three to five months they begin to travel with their mother. They will be hunting by themselves by fall of their first year and usually disperse shortly thereafter.

The Bobcat is an exceptionally adaptable animal. It prefers woodlands—deciduous, coniferous, or mixed—but unlike the other Lynx species it does not depend exclusively on the deep forest. It ranges from the humid swamps of Florida to rugged mountain areas. It will make its home near agricultural areas, if rocky ledges, swamps, or forested tracts are present, its spotted coat serving as camouflage. The Bobcat's range does not seem to be limited by human populations, as long as it can still find a suitable habitat; only large, intensively cultivated tracts are unsuitable for the species.

The Bobcat has long been valued both for fur and sport; it has been hunted and trapped by humans, but has maintained a high population, even in the southern United States where it is extensively hunted. Indirectly, kittens are most vulnerable to hunting given their dependence on an adult female for the first few months of life. The 1970s and 1980s saw an unprecedented rise in price for Bobcat fur causing further interest in hunting, but by the early 1990s prices had dropped significantly. Regulated hunting still continues, with half of mortality of some populations being attributed to this cause. As a result, the rate of Bobcat deaths is skewed in winter, when hunting season is generally open.


































































уторак, 23. децембар 2008.

Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus)

The Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus), sometimes referred to as the Spanish lynx, is a critically endangered feline mammal native to the Iberian Peninsula in Southern Europe. The species often used to be misclassified as a subspecies of the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx), but is now considered a separate species. Both species occurred together in central Europe in the Pleistocene epoch, being separated by habitat choice. The Iberian lynx is believed to have evolved from Lynx issiodorensis.

While the Eurasian lynx bears rather pallid markings, the Iberian lynx has distinctive, leopard-like spots with a coat that is often light grey or various shades of light brownish-yellow. Some western populations were spotless though these have recently become extinct. The head and body length is 85–110 cm, with the short tail an additional 12–30 cm; the shoulder height is 60–70 cm. The male is larger than the female, with the average weight of males 12.9 kg and a maximum of 26.8 kg, compared to 9.4 kg for females; this about half the size of the Eurasian lynx. The Iberian lynx does not differ greatly from the Eurasian lynx but more closely resembles a bobcat. The face is more cat-like than that of Eurasian lynx. It has a short stubby bob tail with a black tip, and a tuft of black hair on the tip of the pointed ears, whiskers and sideburns.

The Iberian lynx is smaller than its northern relatives, and so typically hunts smaller sized animals, usually no larger than hares. It also differs in habitat choice, with Iberian lynx inhabiting open scrub and Eurasian lynx inhabiting forests. It hunts mammals (including rodents and insectivores), birds, reptiles and amphibians at twilight. The European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) is its main prey (79.5-86.7%), with (5.9%) hares (Lepus granatensis) and (3.2%) rodents less common. A male requires one rabbit per day, and a female bringing up cubs will eat three rabbits per day. As the population of rabbits in Spain has declined, the Iberian lynx is often forced to attack young deer, fallow deer, roebuck or mouflons. The Iberian lynx competes with the red fox, the meloncillo (Herpestes ichneumon) and the wildcat. It is solitary and hunts alone; it will stalk its prey or lie in wait for hours behind a bush or rock until the prey is sufficiently close to pounce in a few strides. The tufts of hair on its ears helps it to detect sources of sound; without them, its hearing capacity is greatly reduced. The edges of its feet are covered in long thick hair, which facilitates silent movement through snow. Lynx, especially with younger animals, roam widely, with ranges reaching more than 100 km. Also it has a territory (~ 10-20 km²), depending on how much food is available. The Iberian lynx marks its territory with its urine, droppings and scratch marks on the barks of trees.

During the mating season the female leaves her territory in search of a male. The typical gestation period is about two months; the cubs are born between March and September, with a peak of births in March and April. A litter consists of two or three (rarely one, or four to five) kittens weighing between 200–250 grams. The kittens become independent at 7–10 months old, but remain with the mother until around 20 months old. Survival of the young depends heavily on the availability of prey species. In the wild both males and females reach sexual maturity at one year old, though in practice they rarely breed until a territory becomes vacant; one female was known not to breed until five years old when its mother died. The maximum longevity in the wild is 13 years.

This lynx was once distributed over the entire Iberian Peninsula. It is now restricted to very small areas, with breeding only confirmed in two areas of Andalucía, southern Spain. The Iberian lynx prefers heterogeneous environments of open grassland mixed with dense shrubs such as Arbutus, lentisk, and Juniper; and trees such as Holm oak and Cork oak. Mainly in mountainous areas covered with vegetation; maquis or "Mediterranean forest".

The Iberian lynx is a critically endangered species. The Iberian lynx is the world's most threatened species of cat, and the most threatened carnivore in Europe.




































































понедељак, 22. децембар 2008.

Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx)

The Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) is a medium-sized cat native to European and Siberian forests, where it is one of the predators. The Eurasian lynx is the biggest of the lynxes, ranging in length from 80 to 130 cm (32 to 51 in) and standing about 70 cm (28 in) at the shoulder. Males usually weigh from 18 to 30 kg (40 to 66 lb) and females weigh 18.1 kg (40 lb) on average. It has grey to reddish fur with black spots. The pattern of the fur is variable; lynxes with heavily spotted fur may exist close to conspecifics with plain fur. The Eurasian lynx is mainly nocturnal and lives solitarily as an adult. Moreover, the sounds this lynx makes are very quiet and seldom heard, so the presence of the species in an area may go unnoticed for years. Remnants of prey or tracks on snow are usually observed long before the animal is seen. Lynxes prey on hares, rabbits, rodents, wild boar, chamois, foxes, roe deer and reindeer. As with other cats, trying on larger prey presents a risk to the animal. The main method of hunting is stalking, sneaking and jumping on prey. In winter certain snow conditions make this harder and the animal may be forced to switch to larger prey. The European lynx likes rugged forested country providing plenty of hideouts and stalking opportunities. The hunting area of an average lynx is from 20 to 60 km² and it can tread more than 20 km during one night.

Subspecies:

The following are the recognized subspecies of the Eurasian lynx. Others have been proposed, but are now considered to be synonyms for these.
  • Lynx lynx lynx (Scandinavia, Central Europe, Eastern Europe and western Serbia, Caucasus, Siberia, Mongolia, Northern China, Korea)
  • Lynx lynx isabellinus (Central Asia)
  • Lynx lynx kozlovi (Central Siberia)

  • Lynx lynx sardiniae (Sardinia (extinct))
  • Lynx lynx stroganovi (Amur region)






























недеља, 21. децембар 2008.

Canadian lynx (Lynx canadensis)

The Canadian lynx (Lynx canadensis) is a North American mammal of the cat family, Felidae. It is a close relative of the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx). Some authorities regard both as conspecific. However, in some characteristics the Canadian lynx is more like the bobcat (Lynx rufus) than the Eurasian lynx. With the recognized subspecies, it ranges across Canada and into Alaska as well as some parts of the northern United States. With a dense silvery-brown coat, ruffed face and tufted ears, the Canadian lynx resembles the other species of the mid-sized Lynx genus. It is larger than the bobcat, with whom it shares parts of its range, and over twice the size of the domestic cat.

There had been debate over whether to classify this species as Lynx canadensis or Felis canadensis, part of a wider issue regarding whether the four species of Lynx should be given their own genus, or be placed as a subgenus of Felis. The Lynx genus is now accepted. Johnson et al. report that Lynx shared a clade with the Puma, leopard cat (Prionailurus), and domestic cat (Felis) lineages, dated to 7.15 Ma; Lynx diverged first, approximately 3.24 Ma. (There are significant confidence intervals for both figures.)

Subspecies

Three subspecies of the Canadian lynx are currently recognized:
  • L. canadensis canadensis
  • L. canadensis mollipilosus
  • L. canadensis subsolanus: The Newfoundland lynx is a subspecies of the Canadian lynx. It is larger than the mainland subspecies. This animal is known to have killed caribou calves when snowshoe hares were not available.
The appearance of the Canadian lynx is similar to that of the Eurasian lynx: the dense fur is silvery brown and may bear blackish markings. The Canadian is rather smaller than its Eurasian cousin, at an average size of 11 kg (24 lbs), 90 cm (36 in) in length and a shoulder height of 60 cm (24 in). Males are larger than females. In summer, its coat takes on a more reddish brown colour. This lynx has a furry ruff which resembles a double-pointed beard, a short tail with a black tip and long furry tufts on its ears. Its long legs with broad furred feet aid the Canadian lynx in traveling through deep snow.

The Canadian lynx is a solitary and secretive animal, usually active at night, and requires a large territory. It breeds in spring and two to four cubs are born. The survival of the young depends heavily on the availability of prey species.

The Canadian lynx hunts for hares, rodents, birds and sometimes kills larger animals such as deer. It relies mainly on hearing and sight to locate prey. In some areas the snowshoe hare is virtually the only prey of the Canadian lynx. The size of the Canadian lynx population tends to follow the approximately 10 year long rise and decline of snowshoe hare numbers.

Female Canadian lynx use maternal dens from birth of their young until they are weaned and able to forage for food themselves. Typically inside thickets of shrubs or trees or woody debris, dens are generally situated mid-slope and face south or southwest.

This cat is found in northern forests across almost all of Canada and Alaska. In addition there are large populations of this lynx in Montana, Idaho and Washington and a resident population exists in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming that extends into the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The Canadian lynx is rare in Utah, Minnesota, and New England; reintroduction efforts in Colorado have been ongoing since 1999, with the first wild-born kittens confirmed in 2003, with many successful kindles thereafter. The Canadian lynx is a threatened species in the contiguous United States.

In the United States, prior to 1999, lynx were known to occur only in Alaska, Washington state, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and possibly in Michigan. Starting in 1999, the Colorado Division of Wildlife began a program reintroducing a wild lynx population back to Colorado. While showing early signs of promise, biologists say it will take more than a decade to determine whether the program is a success. However, in 2006 the first case of a native-born Colorado lynx giving birth since 1999 was documented: it gave birth to 2 kittens, affirming the possibility of successful reintroduction. In the United States, prior to 1999, lynx were known to occur only in Alaska, Washington state, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and possibly in Michigan. Starting in 1999, the Colorado Division of Wildlife began a program reintroducing a wild lynx population back to Colorado. While showing early signs of promise, biologists say it will take more than a decade to determine whether the program is a success. However, in 2006 the first case of a native-born Colorado lynx giving birth since 1999 was documented: it gave birth to 2 kittens, affirming the possibility of successful reintroduction.

The Canadian lynx is trapped for its fur and has declined in many areas due to habitat loss, and the IUCN lists them as Least Concern. On 24 March 2000, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service issued its Final Rule, which designated the Canadian lynx a Threatened Species in the lower 48 states.



























































субота, 20. децембар 2008.

Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) part II

Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)


The cheetah is a carnivore, eating mostly mammals under 40 kg (88 lb), including the Thomson's Gazelle, the Grant's gazelle, the springbok and the impala. The young of larger mammals such as wildebeests and zebras are taken at times, and adults too, when the cats hunt in groups. Guineafowl and hares are also prey. While the other big cats mainly hunt by night, the cheetah is a diurnal hunter. It hunts usually either early in the morning or later in the evening when it is not so hot, but there is still enough light. The cheetah hunts by vision rather than by scent. Prey is stalked to within 10–30 m (33–98 ft), then chased. This is usually over in less than a minute, and if the cheetah fails to make a catch quickly, it will give up. The cheetah has an average hunting success rate of around 50% - half of its chases result in failure. Running at speeds up to 112 km/h (70 mph) puts a great deal of strain on the cheetah's body. When sprinting, the cheetah's body temperature becomes so high that it would be deadly to continue - this is why the cheetah is often seen resting after it has caught its prey. If it is a hard chase, it sometimes needs to rest for half an hour or more. The cheetah kills its prey by tripping it during the chase, then biting it on the underside of the throat to suffocate it, for the cheetah is not strong enough to break the necks of the four-legged prey it mainly hunts. The bite may also puncture a vital artery in the neck. Then the cheetah proceeds to devour its catch as quickly as possible before the kill is taken by stronger predators. The diet of a cheetah is dependent upon the area in which it lives. For example, on the East African plains, its preferred prey is the Thomson's Gazelle. This small antelope is shorter than the cheetah (about 58–70 cm (23–28 in) tall and 70–107 cm (28–42 in) long), and also cannot run faster than the cheetah (only up to 80 km/h (50 mph)), which combine to make it an appropriate prey. Cheetahs look for individuals which have strayed some distance from their group, and do not necessarily seek out old or weak ones. More than half of the cheetah cubs are killed by lions, hyenas, and leopards.

The genus name, Acinonyx, means "no-move-claw" in Greek, while the species name, jubatus, means "maned" in Latin, a reference to the mane found in cheetah cubs. The cheetah has unusually low genetic variability and a very low sperm count, which also suffers from low motility and deformed flagellae. Skin grafts between non-related cheetahs illustrate this point in that there is no rejection of the donor skin. It is thought that it went through a prolonged period of inbreeding following a genetic bottleneck during the last ice age. It probably evolved in Africa during the Miocene epoch (26 million to 7.5 million years ago), before migrating to Asia. New research by a team led by Warren Johnson and Stephen O'Brien of the Laboratory of Genomic Diversity (National Cancer Institute in Frederick, Maryland, United States) has recently placed the last common ancestor of all existing cat species as living in Asia 11 million years ago, which may lead to revision and refinement of existing ideas about cheetah evolution. Now-extinct species include: Acinonyx pardinensis (Pliocene epoch), much larger than the modern cheetah and found in Europe, India, and China; Acinonyx intermedius (mid-Pleistocene period), found over the same range. The extinct genus Miracinonyx was extremely cheetah-like, but recent DNA analysis has shown that Miracinonyx inexpectatus, Miracinonyx studeri, and Miracinonyx trumani (early to late Pleistocene epoch), found in North America and called the "North American cheetah" are not true cheetahs, instead being close relatives to the cougar.

Subspecies:

For a short time it was thought that there were six subspecies of cheetah, but Acinonyx rex - the king cheetah (see below) - was abandoned after it was discovered the variation was only a recessive gene. The subspecies Acinonyx jubatus guttatus - the woolly cheetah - may also have been a variation due to a recessive gene. Other populations have been elevated to subspecies level, and there are again six subspecies recognized:
  • Asiatic Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus): northern Africa (Algeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Tunisia and Western Sahara) and Asia (Afghanistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States)
  • Northwest African Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus hecki): western Africa (Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal)
  • Acinonyx jubatus raineyii: eastern Africa (Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania, and Uganda)
  • Acinonyx jubatus jubatus: southern Africa (Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia)
  • Acinonyx jubatus soemmeringii: central Africa (Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Niger, and Sudan)
  • Acinonyx jubatus velox
Cheetah fur was formerly regarded as a status symbol. Today, cheetahs have a growing economic importance for ecotourism and they are also found in zoos. Cheetahs are far less aggressive than other big cats and can be tamed, so cubs are sometimes illegaly sold as pets. Cheetahs were formerly, and sometimes still are, hunted because many farmers believe that they eat livestock. When the species came under threat, numerous campaigns were launched to try to educate farmers and encourage them to conserve cheetahs. Recent evidence has shown that cheetahs will not attack and eat livestock if they can avoid doing so, as they prefer their wild prey. However, they have no problem with including farmland as part of their territory, leading to conflict. Ancient Egyptians often kept cheetahs as pets, and also tamed and trained them for hunting. Cheetahs would be taken to hunting fields in low-sided carts or by horseback, hooded and blindfolded, and kept on leashes while dogs flushed out their prey. When the prey was near enough, the cheetahs would be released and their blindfolds removed. This tradition was passed on to the ancient Persians and brought to India, where the practice was continued by Indian princes into the twentieth century. Cheetahs continued to be associated with royalty and elegance, their use as pets spreading just as their hunting skills were. Other such princes and kings kept them as pets, including Genghis Khan and Charlemagne, who boasted of having kept cheetahs within their palace grounds. Akbar the Great, ruler of the Mughal Empire from 1556 to 1605, kept as many as 1000 cheetahs. Cheetah cubs have a high mortality rate due to genetic factors and predation by carnivores in competition with the cheetah, such as the lion and hyena. Recent inbreeding causes cheetahs to share very similar genetic profiles. This has led to poor sperm, birth defects, cramped teeth, curled tails, and bent limbs. Some biologists now believe that they are too inbred to flourish as a species. Cheetahs are included on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list of vulnerable species (African subspecies threatened, Asiatic subspecies in critical situation) as well as on the US Endangered Species Act: threatened species - Appendix I of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). Approximately 12,400 cheetahs remain in the wild in twenty-five African countries; Namibia has the most, with about 2,500. Another fifty to sixty critically endangered Asiatic Cheetahs are thought to remain in Iran. There have been successful breeding programs, including the use of in vitro fertilisation, in zoos around the world. Founded in Namibia in 1990, the Cheetah Conservation Fund's mission is to be an internationally recognized centre of excellence in research and education on cheetahs and their eco-systems, working with all stakeholders to achieve best practice in the conservation and management of the world's cheetahs. The CCF has also set stations throughout South Africa in order to keep the conservation effort going. The Cheetah Conservation Foundation, a South African based organisation, was set up in 1993 for cheetah protection.














































петак, 19. децембар 2008.

Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) part I

The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is an atypical member of the cat family (Felidae) that is unique in its speed, while lacking climbing abilities. As such, it is placed in its own genus, Acinonyx. It is the fastest land animal, reaching speeds between 112 and 120 km/h (70 and 75 mph)[3] in short bursts covering distances up to 460 m (1,500 ft), and has the ability to accelerate from 0 to 110 km/h (68 mph) in three seconds, faster than most supercars.

The cheetah's chest is deep and its waist is narrow. The coarse, short fur of the cheetah is tan with round black spots measuring from 2 to 3 cm (0.79 to 1.2 in) across, affording it some camouflage while hunting. There are no spots on its white underside, but the tail has spots, which merge to form four to six dark rings at the end. The tail usually ends in a bushy white tuft. The cheetah has a small head with high-set eyes. Black "tear marks" run from the corner of its eyes down the sides of the nose to its mouth to keep sunlight out of its eyes and to aid in hunting and seeing long distances. The adult cheetah weighs from 40 to 65 kg (88 to 140 lb). Its total body length is from 115 to 135 cm (45 to 53 in), while the tail can measure up to 84 cm (33 in) in length. Males tend to be slightly larger than females and have slightly bigger heads, but there is not a great variation in cheetah sizes and it is difficult to tell males and females apart by appearance alone. Compared to a similarly-sized leopard, the cheetah is generally shorter-bodied, but is longer tailed and taller (it averages about 90 cm (35 in) tall) and so it appears more streamlined.

Some cheetahs also have a rare fur pattern mutation: cheetahs with larger, blotchy, merged spots are known as 'king cheetahs'. It was once thought to be a separate subspecies, but it is merely a mutation of the African cheetah. The 'king cheetah' has only been seen in the wild a handful of times, but it has been bred in captivity.

The cheetah's paws have semi-retractable claws (known only in three other cat species - the Fishing Cat, the Flat-headed Cat and the Iriomote Cat) offering the cat extra grip in its high-speed pursuits. The ligament structure of the cheetah's claws is the same as those of other cats; it simply lacks the sheath of skin and fur present in other varieties, and therefore the claws are always visible, with the exception of the dewclaw. The dewclaw itself is much shorter and straighter than other cats. Adaptations that enable the cheetah to run as fast as it does include large nostrils that allow for increased oxygen intake, and an enlarged heart and lungs that work together to circulate oxygen efficiently. During a typical chase its respiratory rate increases from 60 to 150 breaths per minute. While running, in addition to having good traction due to its semi-retractable claws, the cheetah uses its tail as a rudder-like means of steering to allow it to make sharp turns, necessary to outflank prey who often make such turns to escape. Unlike "true" big cats, the cheetah can purr as it inhales, but cannot roar. By contrast, the big cats can roar but cannot purr, except while exhaling. However, the cheetah is still considered by some to be the smallest of the big cats. While it is often mistaken for the leopard, the cheetah does have distinguishing features, such as the aforementioned long "tear-streak" lines that run from the corners of its eyes to its mouth. The body frame of the cheetah is also very different from that of the leopard, most notably so in its thinner and longer tail, and unlike the leopard, its spots are not arranged into rosettes. The cheetah is a vulnerable species. Out of all the big cats, it is the least able to adapt to new environments. It has always proved difficult to breed in captivity, although recently a few zoos have managed to succeed at this. Once widely hunted for its fur, the cheetah now suffers more from the loss of both habitat and prey. The cheetah was formerly considered to be particularly primitive among the cats and to have evolved approximately 18 million years ago. New research, however, suggests that the last common ancestor of all 40 existing species of felines lived more recently than that - about 11 million years ago. The same research indicates that the cheetah, while highly derived morphologically, is not of particularly ancient lineage, having separated from its closest living relatives (Puma concolor, the cougar, and Puma yaguarondi, the jaguarundi) around five million years ago. These felids haven't changed much since they first appeared in the fossil record.

Of the five subspecies of cheetah in the genus Acinonyx, four live in Africa and one in Southwestern Asia. A small population (estimated at about fifty) survive in the Khorasan Province of Iran, where conservationists are taking steps to protect it. It is possible, though doubtful, that some cheetahs remain in India. There have also been several unconfirmed reports of Asiatic Cheetahs in the Balochistan province of Pakistan, with at least one dead animal being recovered recently. The cheetah thrives in areas with vast expanses of land where prey is abundant. The cheetah prefers to live in an open biotope, such as semi-desert, prairie, and thick brush, though it can be found in a variety of habitats. In Namibia, for example, it lives in grasslands, savannahs, areas of dense vegetation, and mountainous terrain. In much of its former range, the cheetah was tamed by aristocrats and used to hunt antelopes in much the same way as is still done with members of the greyhound group of dogs.

Females reach maturity in twenty to twenty-four months, and males around twelve months (although they do not usually mate until at least three years old), and mating occurs throughout the year. A study of cheetahs in the Serengeti showed that females are sexually promiscuous and often have cubs by many different males. Females give birth to up to nine cubs after a gestation period of ninety to ninety-eight days, although the average litter size is three to five. Cubs weigh from 150 to 300 g (5.3 to 11 oz) at birth. Unlike some other cats, the cheetah is born with its characteristic spots. Cubs are also born with a downy underlying fur on their necks, called a mantle, extending to mid-back. This gives them a mane or Mohawk-type appearance; this fur is shed as the cheetah grows older. It has been speculated that this mane gives a cheetah cub the appearance of the Honey Badger (Ratel), to scare away potential aggressors. Cubs leave their mother between thirteen and twenty months after birth. Life span is up to twelve years in the wild, but up to twenty years in captivity. Unlike males, females are solitary and tend to avoid each other, though some mother/daughter pairs have been known to be formed for small periods of time. The cheetah has a unique, well-structured social order. Females live alone except when they are raising cubs and they raise their cubs on their own. The first eighteen months of a cub's life are important - cubs learn many lessons because survival depends on knowing how to hunt wild prey species and avoid other predators. At eighteen months, the mother leaves the cubs, who then form a sibling, or "sib" group, that will stay together for another six months. At about two years, the female siblings leave the group, and the young males remain together for life.

Males are very sociable and will group together for life, usually with their brothers in the same litter; although if a cub is the only male in the litter then two or three lone males may group up, or a lone male may join an existing group. These groups are called coalitions. A coalition is six times more likely to obtain an animal territory than a lone male, although studies have shown that coalitions keep their territories just as long as lone males — between four and four and a half years.

Males are very territorial. Females' home ranges can be very large and trying to build a territory around several females' ranges is impossible to defend. Instead, males choose the points at which several of the females' home ranges overlap, creating a much smaller space, which can be properly defended against intruders while maximizing the chance of reproduction. Coalitions will try their most to maintain territories in order to find females with whom they will mate. The size of the territory also depends on the available resources; depending on the part of Africa, the size of a male's territory can vary greatly from 37 to 160 km2 (14 to 62 sq mi). Males mark their territory by urinating on objects that stand out, such as trees, logs, or termite mounds. The whole coalition contributes to the scent. Males will attempt to kill any intruders and fights result in serious injury or death.
Unlike males and other felines, females do not establish territories. Instead, the area they live in is termed a home range. These overlap with other females' home ranges, often those of their daughters, mothers, or female littermates. Females always hunt alone, although cubs will accompany their mothers to learn to hunt once they reach the age of five to six weeks. The size of a home range depends entirely on the availability of prey. Cheetahs in southern African woodlands have ranges as small as 34 km2 (13 sq mi), while in some parts of Namibia they can reach 1,500 km2 (580 sq mi).


Vocalizations

The cheetah cannot roar, unlike other big cats, but does have the following vocalizations:
  • Chirping - When cheetahs attempt to find each other, or a mother tries to locate her cubs, it uses a high-pitched barking called chirping. The chirps made by a cheetah cub sound more like a bird chirping, and so are termed chirping.
  • Churring or stuttering - This vocalization is emitted by a cheetah during social meetings. A churr can be seen as a social invitation to other cheetahs, an expression of interest, uncertainty, or appeasement or during meetings with the opposite sex (although each sex churrs for different reasons).
  • Growling - This vocalization is often accompanied by hissing and spitting and is exhibited by the cheetah during annoyance, or when faced with danger.
  • Yowling - This is an escalated version of growling, usually displayed when danger worsens.
  • Purring - This is made when the cheetah is content, usually during pleasant social meetings (mostly between cubs and their mothers).
Cheetahs are outranked by all of the other large predators in most of their range. Because they have evolved for short bursts of extreme speed at the expense of both power and the ability to climb trees, they cannot defend themselves against most of Africa's other predator species. They usually avoid fighting and will surrender a kill immediately to even a single hyena, rather than risk injury, because anything that slows them down is essentially life threatening. The cheetah's mortality is very high during the early weeks of its life; up to 90% of cheetah cubs are killed during this time by lions, leopards, hyenas, wild dogs, or even by eagles. Cheetah cubs often hide in thick brush for safety. Mother cheetahs will defend their young and are at times successful in driving predators away from their cubs. Coalitions of male cheetahs can also chase away other predators, depending on the coalition size and the size and number of the predator. Because of its speed, a healthy adult cheetah has no predators. A cheetah has a 50% chance of losing its kill to other predators. heetahs avoid competition by hunting at different times of the day and by eating immediately after the kill. Due to the reduction in habitat in Africa, Cheetahs in recent years have faced greater pressure from other native African predators as available range declines.























































четвртак, 18. децембар 2008.

Jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi)

The jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi) is a medium-sized wild cat that ranges from southern Texas in the United States south to South America. The average length is 65 cm (30 inches) with 45 cm (20 in) of tail and a weight of about 6 kg (13.2 lbs). It has short legs and an appearance somewhat like an otter; the ears are short and rounded. The coat is unspotted, uniform in color, and varying from blackish to brownish gray (gray phase) or from foxy red to chestnut (red phase).

The two color phases were once thought to represent two distinct species; the gray one called jaguarundi, and the red one called eyra. However, these are the same species and both color phases may be found in the same litter. Its coat has no markings except for spots at birth. In some Spanish speaking countries, the jaguarundi is also called leoncillo, which means little lion. Other Spanish common names for the jaguarundi include: "gato colorado", "gato moro", "león brenero", "onza", and "tigrillo".

This cat is closely related to the much larger and heavier cougar as evident by its similar genetic structure and chromosome count; both species are in the genus Puma although it is sometimes classified under a separate genus, Herpailurus and until recently, both cats were classified under the genus Felis. According to a 2006 genomic study of Felidae, an ancestor of today's Leopardus, Lynx, Puma, Prionailurus, and Felis lineages migrated across the Bering land bridge into the Americas approximately 8 to 8.5 million years ago. The lineages subsequently diverged in that order. Studies have indicated that the cougar and jaguarundi are next most closely related to the modern cheetah of Africa and western Asia, but the relationship is unresolved. It has been suggested that ancestors of the cheetah diverged from the Puma lineage in the Americas and migrated back to Asia and Africa, while other research suggests the cheetah diverged in the Old World itself. The outline of small feline migration to the Americas is thus unclear (see also American cheetah).

Its habitat is lowland brush areas close to a source of running water. It occasionally inhabits dense tropical areas as well. It is crepuscular and nocturnal depending on location. This cat is comfortable in trees, but prefers to hunt on the ground. It preys upon fish, small mammals, reptiles and birds.

The litter consists of one to four kittens. They are raised socially after a 70-day gestation. The kittens become mature at approximately 2 years of age.

Subspecies:
  • Puma yagouaroundi armeghinoi (Western Argentina, Far-Eastern Chile)
  • Gulf Coast Jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi cacomitli, southern Texas and eastern Mexico)
  • Puma yagouaroundi eyra (Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina)
  • Puma yagouaroundi fossata (southern Mexico to Honduras)
  • Puma yagouaroundi melantho (Peru and Brazil)
  • Puma yagouaroundi panamensis (Nicaragua to Ecuador)
  • Sinaloan Jauguarundi, Puma yagouaroundi tolteca (western Mexico (unconfirmed sightings have been reported in Arizona and Sonora)
  • Puma yagouaroundi yagouaroundi (Guayana and the Amazon Rainforest)
























среда, 17. децембар 2008.

Cougar (Puma concolor) part II

Cougar (Puma concolor)

Females reach sexual maturity between one-and-a-half and three years of age. They typically average one litter every two to three years throughout their reproductive life; the period can be as short as one year. Females are in estrus for approximately 8 days of a 23-day cycle; the gestation period is approximately 91 days. Females are sometimes reported as monogamous, but this is uncertain and polygyny may be more common. Copulation is brief but frequent. Only females are involved in parenting. Female cougars are fiercely protective of their kittens, and have been seen to successfully fight off animals as large as grizzly bears in their defense. Litter size is between one and six kittens, typically two or three. Caves and other alcoves that offer protection are used as litter dens. Born blind, kittens are completely dependent on their mother at first, and begin to be weaned at around three months of age. As they grow, they begin to go out on forays with their mother, first visiting kill sites, and after six months beginning to hunt small prey on their own. Kitten survival rates are just over one per litter. Sub-adults leave their mother to attempt to establish their own territory at around two years of age and sometimes earlier; males tend to leave sooner. One study has shown high morbidity amongst cougars that travel farthest from the maternal range, often due to conflicts with other cougars ("intraspecific" conflict). Research in New Mexico has shown that "males dispersed significantly farther than females, were more likely to traverse large expanses of non-cougar habitat, and were probably most responsible for nuclear gene flow between habitat patches." Life expectancy in the wild is reported at between 8 to 13 years, and probably averages 8 to 10; a female of at least 18 years was reported killed by hunters on Vancouver Island. Cougars may live as long as 20 years in captivity. Causes of death in the wild include disability and disease, competition with other cougars, starvation, accidents, and, where allowed, human hunting. Feline immunodeficiency virus, an endemic AIDS-like disease in cats, is well-adapted to the cougar.

Like almost all cats, the cougar is a solitary animal. Only mothers and kittens live in groups, with adults meeting only to mate. It is secretive and crepuscular, being most active around dawn and dusk. Estimates of territory sizes vary greatly. Canadian Geographic reports large male territories of 150 to 1000 square kilometers (58 to 386 sq mi) with female ranges half the size. Other research suggests a much smaller lower limit of 25 km² (10 sq mi) but an even greater upper limit of 1300 km² (500 sq mi) for males. In the United States, very large ranges have been reported in Texas and the Black Hills of the northern Great Plains, in excess of 775 km² (300 sq mi). Male ranges may include or overlap with those of females but, at least where studied, not with those of other males, which serves to reduce conflict between cougars. Ranges of females may overlap slightly with each other. Scrape marks, urine, and feces are used to mark territory and attract mates. Males may scrape together a small pile of leaves and grasses and then urinate on it as a way of marking territory.Home range sizes and overall cougar abundance depend on terrain, vegetation, and prey abundance. One female adjacent to the San Andres Mountains, for instance, was found with a large range of 215 km² (83 sq mi), necessitated by poor prey abundance. Research has shown cougar abundances from 0.5 animals to as much as 7 (in one study in South America) per 100 km² (38 sq mi). Because males disperse further than females and compete more directly for mates and territory, they are most likely to be involved in conflict. Where a sub-adult fails to leave his maternal range, for example, he may be killed by his father. When males encounter each other, they hiss and spit, and may engage in violent conflict if neither backs down. Hunting or relocation of the cougar may increase aggressive encounters by disrupting territories and bringing young, transient animals into conflict with established individuals.

The cougar has the largest range of any wild land animal in the Americas. Its range spans 110 degrees of latitude, from northern Yukon in Canada to the southern Andes. It is one of only three cat species, along with the bobcat and Canadian lynx, native to Canada. Its wide distribution stems from its adaptability to virtually every habitat type: it is found in all forest types as well as in lowland and mountainous deserts. Studies show that the Cougar prefers regions with dense underbrush, but can live with little vegetation in open areas. Its preferred habitats include precipitous canyons, escarpments, rim rocks, and dense brush. The cougar was extirpated across much of its eastern North American range with the exception of Florida in the two centuries after European colonization and faced grave threats in the remainder. Currently, it ranges across most western American states, the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, and the Canadian Yukon Territory. There have been widely debated reports of possible recolonization of eastern North America. DNA evidence has suggested its presence in eastern North America, while a consolidated map of cougar sightings shows numerous reports, from the mid-western Great Plains through to Eastern Canada. The only unequivocally known eastern population is the Florida panther, which is critically endangered. There have also been sightings in Elliotsville, Maine in the central part of the state. On April 14, 2008 police shot and killed a cougar on the north side of Chicago, Illinois. DNA tests were consistant with cougars from the Black Hills. South of the Rio Grande, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) lists the cat in every Central and South American country except Costa Rica and Panama. While specific state and provincial statistics are often available in North America, much less is known about the cat in its southern range. The cougar's total breeding population is estimated at less than 50,000 by the IUCN, with a declining trend. U.S. state-level statistics are often more optimistic, suggesting cougar populations have rebounded. In Oregon, a healthy population of 5,000 was reported in 2006, exceeding a target of 3,000. California has actively sought to protect the cat and a similar number of cougars has been suggested, between 4,000 and 6,000.

Aside from humans, no species preys upon mature Cougars in the wild. The cat is not, however, the apex predator throughout much of its range. In its northern range, the Cougar interacts with other powerful predators such as the Brown Bear and Gray Wolf. In the south, the Cougar must compete with the larger Jaguar. In Florida it encounters the American Alligator. The Yellowstone National Park ecosystem provides a fruitful microcosm to study inter-predator interaction in North America. Of the three large predators, the massive brown bear appears dominant, often although not always able to drive both the gray wolf pack and the cougar off their kills. One study found that Brown or American Black Bears visited 24% of cougar kills in Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, usurping 10% of carcasses. The gray wolf and the cougar compete more directly for prey, especially in winter. While individually more powerful than the gray wolf, a solitary cougar may be dominated by the pack structure of the canines. Wolves can steal kills and occasionally kill the cat. One report describes a large pack of fourteen wolves killing a female cougar and her kittens. Conversely, lone wolves are at a disadvantage, and have been reported killed by cougars. Wolves more broadly affect cougar population dynamics and distribution by dominating territory and prey opportunities, and disrupting the feline's behavior. Preliminary research in Yellowstone, for instance, has shown displacement of the cougar by wolves.One researcher in Oregon notes: "When there is a pack around, cougars are not comfortable around their kills or raising kittens … A lot of times a big cougar will kill a wolf, but the pack phenomenon changes the table." Both species, meanwhile, are capable of killing mid-sized predators such as bobcats and coyotes and tend to suppress their numbers. In the southern portion of its range, the cougar and jaguar share overlapping territory. The jaguar tends to take larger prey and the cougar smaller where they overlap, reducing the cougar's size. Of the two felines, the cougar appears best able to exploit a broader prey niche and smaller prey. As with any predator at or near the top of its food chain, the cougar impacts the population of prey species. Predation by cougars has been linked to changes in the species mix of deer in a region. For example, a study in British Columbia observed that the population of mule deer, a favored cougar prey, was declining while the population of the less frequently preyed-upon white-tailed deer was increasing. The Vancouver Island Marmot, an endangered species endemic to one region of dense cougar population, has seen decreased numbers due to cougar and gray wolf predation.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) currently lists the cougar as a "near threatened" species. It has shifted the cougar's status from "least concern," while leaving open the possibility that it may be raised to "vulnerable" when greater data on the cat's distribution becomes available. The cougar is regulated under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), rendering illegal international trade in specimens or parts. East of the Mississippi, the only unequivocally known cougar population is the Florida panther. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service recognizes both an Eastern cougar and the Florida panther, affording protection under the Endangered Species Act. Certain taxonomic authorities have collapsed both designations into the North American Cougar, with Eastern or Florida subspecies not recognized, while a subspecies designation remains recognized by some conservation scientists. The most recent documented count for the Florida sub-population is 87 individuals, reported by recovery agencies in 2003. The cougar is also protected across much of the rest of their range. As of 1996, cougar hunting was prohibited in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, French Guiana, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and Uruguay. (Costa Rica and Panama are not listed as current range countries by the IUCN.) The cat had no reported legal protection in Ecuador, El Salvador, and Guyana. Regulated cougar hunting is still common in the United States and Canada, although they are protected from all hunting in the Yukon.; it is permitted in every U.S. state from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, with the exception of California. Cougars are generally hunted with packs of dogs, until the animal is 'treed'. When the hunter arrives on the scene, he shoots the cat from the tree at close range. The Cougar cannot be legally killed in California except under very specific circumstances, such as when an individual is declared a public safety threat. However statistics from the Department of Fish and Game indicate that cougar killings in California have been on the rise since 1970s with an average of over 112 cats killed per year from 2000 to 2006 compared to 6 per year in the 1970s. Conservation threats to the species include persecution as a pest animal, degradation and fragmentation of their habitat, and depletion of their prey base. Wildlife corridor and sufficient range areas are critical to the sustainability of cougar populations. Research simulations have shown that the animal faces a low extinction risk in areas of 2200 km² (850 sq mi) or more. As few as one to four new animals entering a population per decade markedly increases persistence, foregrounding the importance of habitat corridors.

The grace and power of the cougar have been widely admired in the cultures of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. The Inca city of Cusco is reported to have been designed in the shape of a cougar, and the animal also gave their name to both Inca regions and people. The Moche people represented the puma often in their ceramics. The sky and thunder god of the Inca, Viracocha, has been associated with the animal. In North America, mythological descriptions of the cougar have appeared in the stories of the Hotcâk language ("Ho-Chunk" or "Winnebago") of Wisconsin and Illinois and the Cheyenne, amongst others. To the Apache and Walapai of Arizona, the wail of the Cougar was harbinger of death. The cougar continues to be a symbol of strength and stealth. From combat helicopters, motor vehicles (see Ford/Mercury Cougar and Ford Puma) to athletic shoes, both "Cougar" and "Puma" are widely used as brand names. Various sports teams have also adopted the names, including the Argentina national rugby union team, the National Autonomous University of Mexico soccer club as well as US universities, Brigham Young University, The University of Houston, Washington State University, and The University of Vermont. Many places, such as Cougar Mountain, are also named after their association with cougars.








































































уторак, 16. децембар 2008.

Cougar (Puma concolor) part I

The cougar (Puma concolor), also puma, mountain lion, or panther, depending on region, is a mammal of the Felidae family, native to the Americas. This large, solitary cat has the greatest range of any wild terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere, extending from Yukon in Canada to the southern Andes of South America. An adaptable, generalist species, the cougar is found in every major American habitat type. It is the second heaviest cat in the American continents after the jaguar, and the fourth heaviest in the world, along with the leopard, after the tiger, lion, and jaguar, although it is most closely related to smaller felines.

A capable stalk-and-ambush predator, the cougar pursues a wide variety of prey. Primary food sources include ungulates such as deer, elk, and bighorn sheep, as well as domestic cattle, horses, and sheep, particularly in the northern part of its range, but it also hunts species as small as insects and rodents. Moreover, it prefers habitats with dense underbrush and rocky areas for stalking, but it can live in open areas. The cougar is territorial and persists at low population densities. Individual territory sizes depend on terrain, vegetation, and abundance of prey. While it is a large predator, it is not always the dominant species in its range, as when it competes for prey with other predators such as the jaguar, Gray Wolf, American Black Bear, and the Grizzly Bear. It is a reclusive cat and usually avoids people. Attacks on humans remain rare, despite a recent increase in frequency.

Due to persecution following the European colonization of the Americas, and continuing human development of cougar habitat, populations have dropped in many parts of its historical range. In particular, the cougar was extirpated in eastern North America, except an isolated sub-population in Florida; the animal may be recolonizing parts of its former eastern territory. With its vast range, the cougar has dozens of names and various references in the mythology of the indigenous Americans and in contemporary culture.

The cougar has numerous names in English, of which puma and mountain lion are popular. Other names include catamount, panther, and mountain screamer. Lexicographers regard painter as a primarily upper-Southern U.S. regional variant on "panther", but a folk etymology, fancying a resemblance between the typically dark tip of its tail and a paintbrush dipped in dark paint, has some currency. The cougar holds the Guinness record for the animal with the highest number of names, presumably due to its wide distribution across North and South America. It has over 40 names in English alone. "Cougar" is borrowed from the Portuguese çuçuarana, via French; the term was originally derived from the Tupi language. A current form in Brazil is suçuarana. "Puma" comes, via Spanish, from the Quechua language.

The Cougar is the largest of the small cats. It is placed in the subfamily Felinae, although its bulk characteristics are similar to those of the big cats in the subfamily Pantherinae.[1] The family Felidae is believed to have originated in Asia approximately 11 million years ago. Taxonomic research on felids remains partial and much of what is known about their evolutionary history is based on mitochondrial DNA analysis, as cats are poorly represented in the fossil record, and there are significant confidence intervals with suggested dates. In the latest genomic study of Felidae, the common ancestor of today's Leopardus, Lynx, Puma, Prionailurus, and Felis lineages migrated across the Bering land bridge into the Americas approximately 8 to 8.5 million years (Ma) ago. The lineages subsequently diverged in that order. North American felids then invaded South America 3 Ma ago as part of the Great American Interchange, following formation of the Isthmus of Panama. The cougar was originally thought to belong in Felis, the genus which includes the domestic cat, but it is now placed in Puma along with the jaguarundi, a cat just a little more than a tenth its weight.

Studies have not indicated that the cougar and jaguarundi are most closely related to the modern cheetah of Africa and western Asia, but the relationship is unresolved. It has been suggested that the cheetah lineage diverged from the Puma lineage in the Americas (see American cheetah) and migrated back to Asia and Africa, while other research suggests the cheetah diverged in the Old World itself.[11] The outline of small feline migration to the Americas is thus unclear.

Recent studies have demonstrated a high level of genetic similarity among the North American cougar populations, suggesting that they are all fairly recent descendants of a small ancestral group. Culver et al. suggest that the original North American population of Puma concolor was extirpated during the Pleistocene extinctions some 10,000 years ago, when other large mammals such as Smilodon also disappeared. North America was then repopulated by a group of South American cougars.

Subspecies

Until the late 1990s, as many as 32 subspecies were recorded; however, a recent genetic study of mitochondrial DNA found that many of these are too similar to be recognized as distinct at a molecular level. Following the research, the canonical Mammal Species of the World (3rd edition) recognizes six subspecies, five of which are solely found in Latin America:

  • Argentine puma (Puma concolor cabrerae) includes the previous subspecies and synonyms hudsonii and puma (Marcelli, 1922);
  • Costa Rican Cougar (Puma concolor costaricensis)
  • Eastern South American cougar (Puma concolor anthonyi)
    includes the previous subspecies and synonyms acrocodia, borbensis, capricornensis, concolor (Pelzeln, 1883), greeni and nigra;
  • North American Cougar (Puma concolor couguar)
    includes the previous subspecies and synonyms arundivaga, aztecus, browni, californica, coryi, floridana, hippolestes, improcera, kaibabensis, mayensis, missoulensis, olympus, oregonensis, schorgeri, stanleyana, vancouverensis and youngi;
  • Northern South American cougar (Puma concolor concolor)
    includes the previous subspecies and synonyms bangsi, incarum, osgoodi, soasoaranna, soderstromii, sucuacuara and wavula;
  • Southern South American puma (Puma concolor puma)
    includes the previous subspecies and synonyms araucanus, concolor (Gay, 1847), patagonica, pearsoni and puma (Trouessart, 1904)
The status of the Florida panther, here collapsed into the North American Cougar, remains uncertain. It is still regularly listed as subspecies Puma concolor coryi in research works, including those directly concerned with its conservation.

Cougars are slender and agile cats. Adults stand about 60 to 76 cm (2.0 to 2.5 ft) tall at the shoulders. The length of adult males is around 2.4 m (8 ft) long nose to tail, with overall ranges between 1.5 and 2.75 meters (5 and 9 ft) nose to tail suggested for the species in general. Males have an average weight of about 53 to 72 kilograms (115 to 160 pounds). In rare cases, some may reach over 118 kg (260 lb). Female average weight is between 34 and 48 kg (75 and 105 lb). Cougar size is smallest close to the equator, and larger towards the poles. The head of the cat is round and the ears erect. Its powerful forequarters, neck, and jaw serve to grasp and hold large prey. It has five retractable claws on its forepaws (one a dewclaw) and four on its hind paws. The larger front feet and claws are adaptations to clutching prey. Cougars can be almost as large as jaguars, but are less muscled and powerful; where their ranges overlap, the cougar tends to be smaller than average. The cougar is on average as heavy as the leopard. Despite its size, it is not typically classified among the "big cats," as it cannot roar, lacking the specialized larynx and hyoid apparatus of Panthera.[18] Like domestic cats, cougars vocalize low-pitched hisses, growls, and purrs, as well as chirps and whistles. They are well known for their screams, referenced in some of its common names, although these may often be the misinterpreted calls of other animals. Cougar coloring is plain (hence the Latin concolor) but can vary greatly between individuals and even between siblings. The coat is typically tawny, but ranges to silvery-grey or reddish, with lighter patches on the under body including the jaws, chin, and throat. Infants are spotted and born with blue eyes and rings on their tails; juveniles are pale, and dark spots remain on their flanks. Despite anecdotes to the contrary, all-black coloring (melanism) has never been documented in cougars.

Cougars have large paws and proportionally the largest hind legs in the cat family. This physique allows it great leaping and short-sprint ability. An exceptional vertical leap of 5.4 m (18 ft) is reported for the cougar. Horizontal jumping capability is suggested anywhere from 6 to 12 m (20 to 40 ft). The cougar can run as fast as 55 km/h (35 mph), but is best adapted for short, powerful sprints rather than long chases. It is adept at climbing, which allows it to evade canine competitors. Although it is not strongly associated with water, it can swim.

A successful generalist predator, the cougar will eat any animal it can catch, from insects to large ungulates. Like all cats, it is an obligate carnivore, feeding only on meat. The Mean weight of vertebrate prey (MWVP) was positively correlated (r=0.875) with puma body weight and inversely correlated (r=-0.836) with food niche breadth in all America. In general, MWVP was lower in areas closer to the Equator. Its most important prey species are various deer species, particularly in North America; mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, and even the large moose are taken by the cat. Other species such as Bighorn Sheep, wild horses of Arizona,domestic horses, and domestic livestock such as cattle and sheep are also primary food bases in many areas. A survey of North America research found 68% of prey items were ungulates, especially deer. Only the Florida Panther showed variation, often preferring feral hogs and armadillos. Investigation in Yellowstone National Park showed elk followed by mule deer were the cougar's primary targets; the prey base is shared with the park's gray wolves, with whom the cougar competes for resources. Another study on winter kills (November–April) in Alberta showed that ungulates accounted for greater than 99% of the cougar diet. Learned, individual prey recognition was observed, as some cougars rarely killed bighorn sheep, while others relied heavily on the species. In the Central and South American cougar range, the ratio of deer in the diet declines. Small to mid-size mammals are preferred, including large rodents such as the capybara. Ungulates accounted for only 35% of prey items in one survey, approximately half that of North America. Competition with the larger jaguar has been suggested for the decline in the size of prey items. Other listed prey species of the cougar include mice, porcupine, and hares. Birds and small reptiles are sometimes preyed upon in the south, but this is rarely recorded in North America. Though capable of sprinting, the cougar is typically an ambush predator. It stalks through brush and trees, across ledges, or other covered spots, before delivering a powerful leap onto the back of its prey and a suffocating neck bite. The cougar is capable of breaking the neck of some of its smaller prey with a strong bite and momentum bearing the animal to the ground. It has a flexible spine which aids its killing technique.

Kills are generally estimated at around one large ungulate every two weeks. The period shrinks for females raising young, and may be as short as one kill every three days when cubs are nearly mature at around 15 months.
The cat drags a kill to a preferred spot, covers it with brush, and returns to feed over a period of days. It is generally reported that the cougar is a non-scavenger and will rarely consume prey it has not killed; but deer carcasses left exposed for study were scavenged by cougars in California, suggesting more opportunistic behavior.






























































понедељак, 15. децембар 2008.

Fishing Cat (Prionailurus viverrinus)

The Fishing Cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) is a medium-sized cat whose habitat range extends through Indochina, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sumatra and Java. Its fur has an olive-grey color and dark spots roughly arranged in longitudinal stripes. The face has a distinctly flat-nosed appearance. The size is variable; while in India it is 80 cm, or 32 in, (and 30 cm, 12 in, tail), in Indonesia, it is only 65 cm, or 26 in, (25 cm, 10 in, tail). Indian individuals usually range up to 11.7 kg (26 lbs), while in Indonesia common weights are approximately 6 kg (13 lbs). They are stocky of build with medium short legs, and a short muscular tail of one half to one third of their head and body length.

Like its closest relative, the Leopard Cat, the Fishing Cat lives along rivers, brooks and mangrove swamps. It is perhaps better adapted to this habitat, since it swims often and skillfully.

As the name implies, fish is the main prey of this cat, of which it hunts about 10 different species. It also hunts other aquatic animals such as frogs or crayfish, and terrestrial animals such as rodents and birds. The inter-digital webs on its paws help the cat gain better traction in muddy environments and water, like other mammals in semi-aquatic environments.

The Fishing Cat is endangered due to its dependance on wetlands, which are increasingly being settled and converted for agriculture, and also due to human overexploitation of local fish stocks. It is believed extinct in Afghanistan, may already be gone from Malaysia and China, and has become rare throughout its remaining distribution

Captive Fishing Cats can be seen at 22 different North American institutions. By December 2005, there were 72 Fishing Cats in these institutions.

In Sri Lanka, the Fishing Cat is known as Handun Diviya or Kola Diviya. The terms 'Handun Diviya' and 'Kola Diviya' are also used by the local community to refer to the Rusty-spotted Cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus), another little-known small cat in suburban habitats of Sri Lanka. Both animals are nocturnal and elusive and therefore distinct identity as to which one is referred as 'Handun Diviya' is arguable.






















































недеља, 14. децембар 2008.

Rusty-spotted Cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus)

The Rusty-spotted Cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus) is a very small wild cat of southern India and Sri Lanka. It is 35-48 cm (14-17 in) in length, plus 15-25 cm (6-10 in) tail, weighing in at only approximately 1.5 kg (3.3 lbs). Since adult females can weigh as little as 1 kg (2.2 lbs) or less, this species rivals (and may exceed) the Black-footed Cat (Felis nigripes) as the world's smallest wild cat. The color of the fur is grey, with rusty spots all over the back and the flanks, while the underbelly is white with large dark spots. The tail, thick and about half the length of the body, is darker in color than the body and the spots are less distinct.

In India, the Rusty-spotted Cat mainly occurs in tropical dry forests and dry grasslands, but in Sri Lanka rainforests are the preferred habitat. The reason for this difference may be the competition with the Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis), which occupies the rainforests of the mainland, but does not live in Sri Lanka.

This cat is nocturnal and partly arboreal, and feeds on rodents, birds and lizards. It is hunted for food and pelts in some areas by local human populations

The Rusty-spotted Cat faces a high risk of extinction in the wild and is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. More specifically, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) lists the Indian population in Appendix I (threatened with extinction where trade in the specimens is only allowed in exceptional circumstances) and the other populations in Appendix II (not necessarily threatened with extinction, but where trade in the furs is strictly controlled).

There are two subspecies:
  • Prionailurus rubiginosus rubiginosus (India)
  • Prionailurus rubiginosus phillipsi (Sri Lanka)
In Sri Lanka, the Rusty-spotted Cat is known as Handun Diviya or Kola Diviya. The terms 'Handun Diviya' and 'Kola Diviya' are also used by the local community to refer to the Fishing Cat (Prionailurus viverrinus), another little-known small cat in suburban habitats of Sri Lanka. Both animals are nocturnal and elusive and therefore distinct identity as to which one is referred as 'Handun Diviya' is arguable. Some authors note the existence of two distinct populations in Sri Lanka, one in the dry zone and the other in the wet zone.