The early bird might get the worm, but, as scientists have discovered, the bird is also quite likely to become a cat’s meal. In a study recently published in the online Animal Behavior journal, scientists from the US and the Netherlands have examined the impact of predation patterns on prey’s food foraging habits.
The two-year long study on Barro Colorado Island, Panama, focused on the predator-prey relationship between the Central American agouti (Dasyprocta punctata), a common rainforest rodent, and the ocelot (Leopardus pardalis). Agoutis, which look like long-legged guinea pigs, are a common prey item for the ocelot, a medium-sized cat native to the Neotropics.
"The ocelot-agouti relationship is a beautiful example of a predator-prey interaction," Peter Jansen, a researcher with the study, told mongabay.com. "This example was easy to study on Barro Colorado Island, where both species are relatively common."…
Lions are now critically endangered in West Africa.
Although they once ranged continuously from Senegal to Nigeria, new research has revealed only around 250 adult lions survive in the region, and only one of the four isolated populations contains more than 50 individuals.
Snow Leopards, Uncia uncia, are suspected to have declined by at least 20% over the past two generations (16 years) due to habitat loss, prey base depletion, illegal trade, conflict with local people, and lack of conservation capacity, policy and awareness.
New camera trap images are good news for Eastern Russia population
WWF press release
Camera trap images of two snow leopard cubs tussling and tumbling in eastern Russia indicate a potential resurgence of a once-decimated population.
The camera traps—partially financed by WWF—captured the photos in the Argut River Valley, an area nearly 40 snow leopards inhabited two decades ago. A sharp increase in poaching in the 1990s nearly eliminated this population.
In 2011, WWF collaborated with the Altai Project and Snow Leopard Conservancy, among other organizations, to research and restore the Argut River Valley snow leopard population. A crackdown on poaching and an increase in patrol helped boost the number of snow leopards to an estimated five to eight this year.
Researchers believe the cubs in the photos are less than a year old. They indicate snow leopards are breeding…
New Federal Plan Could Bring Small Endangered Cats Back to South Texas
CBD media release
A new federal recovery plan for Gulf Coast jaguarundis — rare and enigmatic felines slightly larger than house cats — calls for reintroducing them to south Texas, provided none can be found to still live there and other conditions are met. Jaguarundis, which have long necks, short legs and elongated tails, have been protected as an endangered species since 1976. The closest known population is 130 miles south of the border, in Mexico.
“Returning jaguarundis to the thickets and grasslands of the Rio Grande Valley to hunt for rodents and reptiles could help protect these fascinating and little-studied animals from extinction,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We sure hope the Fish and Wildlife Service will move forward with getting these beautiful cats back into the United States.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recovery plan calls for ending Endangered Species Act protections for the Gulf Coast jaguarundis after there are 500 animals distributed among three populations with connectivity between them, which is important for genetic health…
The Big Picture, In Stunning Detail: How new imaging technology aids wildlife conservation
There’s a brave new world of image-capturing technologies out there, and conservationists like Defenders’ Senior Southwest Representative Craig Miller are using them to enhance the efficacy of field work, and to share it with the world.
Originally used on the Mars exploration, GigaPan is a new camera-based technology that employs a robot mounted on a tripod. The robot precisely moves a camera vertically and horizontally to take sequential photos, and then stitches them together to produce billion-pixel resolution images. These images can then be “explored” remotely from any computer.
GigaPan, the brainchild of a partnership between Carnegie-Mellon University Robotics Lab, Google Earth, NASA and the FINE Foundation, has produced what science writer Karen A. Frenkel calls “an immersive, interactive experience that can reveal surprising details – an ant on a leaf in a forest, or a hummingbird sipping nectar from a flower in a backyard.”
Armed with the new ability to, as Frenkel says, “[view] nature through a huge magnifying glass,” the organizations next gathered scientists from around the world to test GigaPan’s true colors by exploring field applications of the technology. Miller, one of the FINE fellows, has set up experimental photo-monitoring sites associated with Defenders’ jaguar, wolf and border conservation programs. At the sites, he uses GigaPan to document impediments to wildlife movement and measure ecological changes in response to various landscape treatments, such as livestock removal, erosion control and the eradication of invasive plants…
This shot by Steven Gifford is amazing because bobcats – Lynx rufus – are elusive, nocturnal, mostly solitary – and rarely seen by people. They first appeared about 1.8 million years ago. Today, the beautiful cat – about twice as big as an average housecat – is still found in most of its historic range from southern Canada to northern Mexico. Like most cats, the bobcat is territorial.
The Mysterious Origins of cat Domestication Uncovered in China
by Joseph Bennington-Castro
Researchers studying a 5,000-year-old archaeological site in China have discovered that wildcats first came to ancient villages to feed on rodents, which were stealing farmers’ grains. The research shows, for the first time, how the process of cat domestication started.
Over the years, there have been a number of different thoughts as to how domestication of various animals came about. Some people proposed that early domestication involved a kind of master-subject relationship, where humans guided wild animals to domestication through selective breeding and other techniques. On the opposite end of the spectrum, one theory holds that some domesticates manipulated humans into relationships that benefited the animals, at, possibly, the expense of people.
Species most frequently became domesticated through the commensal pathway, Marshall told io9. Here, animals, including dogs, pigs and chicken, came to human settlements to eat refuse or prey on other animals. At some point, the animals developed closer bonds with humans, which eventually grew into a domestic relationship. Researchers have reasoned that Near Eastern Wildcats (Felis silvestris lybica; below) — which are thought to be the ancestors of all domestic cats — became domesticated through a commensal pathway, after they began visiting human settlements to eat rodents. Surprisingly, however, there has been little archaeological evidence to back up this idea…
Top image: zaimoku_woodpile/Flickr; mid images: Some of the cat specimens unearthed: A. left mandible; B. right humerus; C. left pelvis; D. left tibia. Via PNAS; bttm image: Near Eastern Wildcat via Péter Csonka/Wikimedia Commons.
Keratin barbs on the tongue and glans of the domestic housecat.
You may have heard that cats have “spiked penises”, which is true, to an extent. The barbs on the glans of the male consist of the same backward-facing keratin barb structures that are present on the tongue, though clearly they’re not used for the same purposes.
While many male mammals have similar spines on their genitals, the purpose of them is not universally known. In felines, however, it’s believed that the barbs raking the inside of the vagina induces ovulation in the queen (female cat). [read more on why cats don’t menstruate but humans do]
It’s less understood why our ape bretheren, who have cyclical ovulation similar to humans, also have keratin spikes on their penises. It may be an evolutionary holdover from a common ancestor with prosimians, who have much more complex penis barbs, and who appear to have similarly triggered ovulation as felines.
Somewhere along the line, the genes that create these keratin spikes were lost in humans, but in some people, the non-barbed keratin (“pearly”) papules around the glans or shaft are a benign throwback to an ancient ancestor. Luckily, even though we have the genes to create the papules (generally not activated), we’ve literally lost the genes that create the spiked barbs on top of them.
P.S. When a cat is neutered, its penis loses its barbs. One of the ways to detect if a stray cat who appears to have been fixed actually has one or more retained testes (where the testicle does not descend into the scrotum) is to check the glans of its penis for barbs.
When we received a call that a wild bobcat was found tangled in a backyard fence, Big Cat Rescuers rushed to the property to help!
The bobcat, later named Fencer was sedated and transported to ACT (Animal Coalition of Tampa) to be examined. Amazingly Fencer had no major injuries, but he did have a broken toe which required 6 weeks of rest at Big Cat Rescue before we could release him back into the wild!
BIG CAT TV is a close look into our day-to-day operations, the conservation efforts we support, and the 100+ feline residents of “Big Cat Rescue” in Tampa, FL. USA. Big Cat Rescue is an educational non-breeding sanctuary and a registered non-profit 501c3 so your donations are tax deductible!
Karis is a young lion cub at Scotland’sÂ Blair Drummond Safari Park. Recently, as her keepers were raking leaves to tidy up her enclosure, one of them thought it might be fun to leave a pile for Karis to play in. Karis agreed. Yes, that would be fun…
Good News: New Camera Trap Photos Prove That Critically Endangered Amur Leopards Are Breeding in China
by Jeremy Hance
Good news today about one of the world’s rarest mammals today: camera traps in China’s Wangqing Nature Reserve have captured the first proof of breeding Amur leopards in the country, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The photos show a mother Amur leopard with two cubs. A recent survey by WWF-Russia estimated the total wild population of Amur leopards at just 50 individuals, but that’s a population on the rise (from a possible nadir of 25) and expanding into long-unused territory.
“This incredible find is important for two reasons,” notes Joe Walston, WCS Executive Director for Asia Programs. “Firstly, it shows that our current efforts are paying off but, secondly, it shows that China can no longer be considered peripheral to the fate of both wild Amur leopards and tigers.”
Amur leopards and Amur—or Siberian—tigers (Panthera tigris altaica) share much of the same ecosystem, and both big cats hunt large large hoofed prey like deer and boar. Yet both species were also pushed to the very edge of extinction by decades of poaching, until conservationists and countries responded. Amur leopards are currently listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List, while Amur tigers are considered Endangered with around 360 animals surviving in the wild…