Pallas's cat

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Not to be confused with the Pampas cat
Pallas's cat[1]
Manoel.jpg
Manul at Rotterdam Zoo
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Felinae
Genus: Otocolobus
Brandt, 1841
Species: O. manul
Binomial name
Otocolobus manul
(Pallas, 1776)
Manul map.svg
Pallas's cat range
Synonyms

Felis manul

The Pallas's cat (Otocolobus manul), also called manul, is a small wild cat having a broad but patchy distribution in the grasslands and montane steppe of Central Asia. The species is negatively affected by habitat degradation, prey base decline, and hunting, and has therefore been classified as Near Threatened by IUCN since 2002.[2]

The Pallas’s cat was named after the German naturalist Peter Simon Pallas, who first described the species in 1776 under the binomial Felis manul.[3]

Characteristics[edit]

The ears are set low and wide apart

The Pallas's cat is about the size of a domestic cat, its body is 46 to 65 cm (18 to 26 in) long and its tail is 21 to 31 cm (8.3 to 12.2 in) long. It weighs 2.5 to 4.5 kg (5.5 to 9.9 lb). The combination of its stocky posture and long, dense fur makes it appear stout and plush. Its fur is ochre with dark vertical bars on the torso and forelegs. The winter coat is greyer and less patterned than the summer coat. There are clear black rings on the tail and dark spots on the forehead. The cheeks are white with narrow black stripes running from the corners of the eyes. The chin and throat are also white, merging into the greyish, silky fur of the underparts. Concentric white and black rims around the eyes accentuate their rounded shape. The legs are proportionately shorter than those of other cats, the ears are set very low and wide apart, and it has unusually short claws. The face is shortened compared with other cats, giving it a flattened face. The pupils are circular. The shorter jaw has fewer teeth than is usual among cats, with the first pair of upper premolars missing, and canine teeth are large.[4]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Pallas's cats are native to the steppe regions of Central Asia, where they inhabit elevations of up to 5,050 m (16,570 ft) in the Tibetan Plateau.[5] They inhabit Mongolia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kashmir, and occur across much of western China. They are also found in the Transbaikal regions of Russia, and less frequently in the Altai, Tyva, and Buryatia Republics.[2] In 1997, they were reported for the first time as being present in the eastern Sayan Mountains.[6]

Until the early 1970s, only two Pallas's cats were recorded in the Transcaucasus, both encountered near the Araks River in southeastern Armenia, but no records existed from Azerbaijan.[7] Populations in the Caspian Sea region, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, are thought to be declining and becoming increasingly isolated.[8][9]

In 2008, an individual was camera-trapped in Iran's Khojir National Park for the first time.[10] In 2012, Pallas's cats were recorded by camera traps in Bhutan's Wangchuck Centennial Park. This is the first report of Pallas's cat occurring in the Eastern Himalayas.[11]

In December 2012 and December 2013, Pallas's cats were recorded for the first time in Nepal, viz in the Annapurna Conservation Area above 4,200 m (13,800 ft) altitude.[12][13]

Distribution of subspecies[edit]

Pallas's cat at the Edinburgh Zoo

Three subspecies are recognized:[1]

Ecology and behaviour[edit]

Pallas's cat at the Zurich Zoo

Pallas's cats are solitary. Both males and females scent mark their territory. They spend the day in caves, rock crevices, or marmot burrows, and emerge in the late afternoon to begin hunting. They are not fast runners, and hunt primarily by ambush or stalking, using low vegetation and rocky terrain for cover. They feed largely on diurnally active prey species such as gerbils, pikas, voles and chukar partridges, and sometimes catch young marmots.[4]

Reproduction[edit]

The breeding season is relatively short due to the extreme climate in the cat's native range. Oestrus lasts between 26 and 42 hours, which is also shorter than in many other felids. Pallas's cats give birth to a litter of around two to six kittens after a gestation period of 66 to 75 days, typically in April or May. Such large litters may compensate for a high rate of infant mortality in the harsh environment. The young are born in sheltered dens, lined with dried vegetation, feathers, and fur. The kittens weigh around 90 g (3.2 oz) at birth, and have a thick coat of fuzzy fur, which is replaced by the adult coat after around two months. They are able to begin hunting at four months, and reach adult size at six months. Pallas's cats have been reported to live up to 11 years in captivity.[4]

Threats[edit]

Female manul: Note the "pinhole" shape of its contracted pupil.

The manul has long been hunted for its fur in relatively large numbers in China, Mongolia, and Russia, although international trade in manul pelts has largely ceased since the late 1980s.[15] About 1,000 hunters of Pallas's cats are in Mongolia, with a mean estimated harvest of two cats per year. They are also shot because they can be mistaken for marmots, which are commonly hunted, and trapped incidentally in leghold traps set for wolves and foxes and snares set for marmots and hares. Their fat and organs are used as medicine in Mongolia and Russia, and they are killed by domestic dogs. While Mongolia has not recorded any trophy exports, skin exports have grown since 2000, with 143 reported exported in 2007.[2]

Conservation[edit]

Otocolobus manul is listed in CITES Appendix II. Hunting of this felid is prohibited in all range countries except Mongolia, where it has no legal protection despite being classified as Near Threatened in the country. Since 2009, the felid is legally protected in Afghanistan, banning all hunting and trade in its parts within the country[2] and is listed as an endangered species in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.[citation needed]

In captivity[edit]

In 2010, there were 47 Pallas’s cats in 19 institutions that are members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and four litters were expected. No births and three deaths occurred in 2009. Pallas’s cats have the highest percentage of 30-day mortality of any small cat at 44.9%. The seasonality of their reproduction makes it difficult to control reproductive cycles.[16] Keeping Pallas's cats healthy in captivity is difficult. They breed well, but survival rates are low owing to infections, which are attributed to an underdeveloped immune system. In their natural high-altitude habitat, they would normally not be exposed to viruses causing infection.[17]

In June 2010, five kittens were born in the Red River Zoo in Fargo.[18] A female was artificially inseminated for the first time at Cincinnati Zoo, and gave birth to three kittens in June 2011.[19] In May 2013, three kittens were born in the Nordens Ark in Sweden.[20]

Taxonomic history[edit]

The Pallas's cat was initially placed in the genus Felis.[3] In 1858, the Russian explorer and naturalist Nikolai Severtzov proposed the name Otocolobus for the species.[21] The zoologist Reginald Innes Pocock recognized the taxonomic classification of Otocolobus in 1907, described several skulls in detail, and considered the manul being an aberrant form of Felis.[22]

Following genetic studies, the monotypic genus Otocolobus has been proposed to be placed with the genera Felis and Prionailurus in the tribe Felini, because of a close phylogenetic relationship.[23] Otocolobus manul is estimated to have diverged from a leopard cat ancestor about 5.19 million years ago.[24]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Wozencraft, W. C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 535. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Ross, S., Murdoch, J., Mallon, D., Sanderson, J., Barashkova, A. (2008). "Otocolobus manul". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. 
  3. ^ a b Pallas, P. S. (1811). Felis Manul. In: Zoographia Rosso-Asiatica, sistens omnium Animalium in extenso Imperio Rossico et adjacentibus maribus observatorum recensionem, domicillia, mores et descriptiones, anatomen atque icones plurimorum. Petropoli, in officina Caes. Acadamiae scientiarum. Vol. 1 : 20–23.
  4. ^ a b c Sunquist, Mel; Sunquist, Fiona (2002). Wild cats of the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 219–224. ISBN 0-226-77999-8. 
  5. ^ Fox, J. L. and Dorji, T. (2007). High elevation record for occurrence of the manul or Pallas cat on the northwestern Tibetan plateau, China. Cat News 46: 35.
  6. ^ Koshkarev, E. (1998). Discovery of manul in eastern Sayan. Cat News 29: 12–13.
  7. ^ Geptner, V. G., Sludskii, A. A. (1972). Mlekopitaiuščie Sovetskogo Soiuza. Vysšaia Škola, Moskva (in Russian); English translation: Heptner, V. G., Sludskii, A. A., Komarov, A., Komorov, N.; Hoffmann, R. S. (1992). Mammals of the Soviet Union. Volume II, Part 2: Carnivora (Hyaenas and Cats). Smithsonian Institute and the National Science Foundation, Washington DC. pp. 665–696.
  8. ^ Belousova, A. V. (1993). Small Felidae of Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Far East. Survey of the state of populations. Lutreola 2: 16.
  9. ^ Habibi, K. (2003). Mammals of Afghanistan. Zoo Outreach Organisation/ USFWS, Coimbatore, India.
  10. ^ Chalani, M., Ghoddousi, A., Ghadirian, T., Goljani, R. (2008). First Pallas’s Cat Photo-trapped in Khojir National Park, Iran. Cat News 49: 7.
  11. ^ WWF Bhutan (2012). Near threatened Pallas’ Cat found in WCP. Wangchuck Centennial Park and WWF, 16 October 2012.
  12. ^ Pokharel, S. 2014. New wild cat species found in ACAP area. República, 12 February 2014.
  13. ^ Himalayan News Service 2014. Rare wild cat found in Annapurna region. The Himalayan Times, 12 February 2014.
  14. ^ a b c Ellerman, J. R., Morrison-Scott, T. C. S. (1966). Checklist of Palaearctic and Indian mammals 1758 to 1946. Second edition. British Museum of Natural History, London.
  15. ^ Nowell, K., Jackson, P. (1996) Manul Octobulus manul (Pallas, 1776) In: Wild Cats: status survey and conservation action plan. IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland
  16. ^ Bray, S. (2010). Pallas’ Cat PMP . Felid TAG Times: 3.
  17. ^ Smith, S. (2008). "Himalayan kitten at park" (Video). BBC News. 
  18. ^ Associated Press (August 2010). "ND zoo officials boast litter of 5 Pallas kitten". WDAY News. 
  19. ^ CREW (June 2011). "Pallas' cats born from artificial insemination". Cincinnati Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife. 
  20. ^ Bohusläningen (June 2013). "pallaskatterna har fått ungar". Bohusläningen. 
  21. ^ Severtzow, M. N. (1858). Notice sur la classification multisériale des Carnivores, spécialement des Félidés, et les études de zoologie générale qui s'y rattachent. Revue et Magasin de Zoologie Pure et Appliquée 2e Série, T. X Séptembre 1858: 386.
  22. ^ Pocock, R. I. (1907). Exhibition of a photograph and the skull of a specimen of the Manul or Pallas’ cat (Felis manul) that had recently died in the Society's Menagerie with some remarks on the species. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 1907: 299–306.
  23. ^ Johnson, W., Eizirik, E., Pecon-Slattery, J., Murphy, W. J., Antunes, A., Teeling, E., O'Brien, S. J. (2006). "The Late Miocene Radiation of Modern Felidae: A Genetic Assessment". Science 311 (5757): 73–77. doi:10.1126/science.1122277. PMID 16400146. 
  24. ^ O'Brien, S. J., Johnson, W. E. (2007). The evolution of cats. Scientific American July: 68–75.

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