|Pampas cat with the third pelage type (see text)|
|Pampas cat range map|
The Pampas cat (Leopardus colocola), also known as the colocolo or Pantanal cat over parts of its range, is a small wild cat native to South America. It is named after the Pampas, but occurs in grassland, shrubland, and dry forest at elevations up to 5,000 m (16,000 ft).
There was a proposal to divide Pampas cat into three distinct species, based primarily on differences in pelage colour/pattern and cranial measurements. Accordingly, three species were recognised in the 2005 edition of Mammal Species of the World: the colocolo (L. colocolo), the Pantanal cat (L. braccatus), and the Pampas cat (L. pajeros) with a more restricted definition. This split at species level was not supported by subsequent genetic work, although some geographical substructure was recognised, and some authorities continued to recognise the Pampas cat as a single species. The recent revision of felid taxonomy by the IUCN Specialist Cat Group recognises the Pampas cat as a single species with seven subspecies.
Pampas cats have not been studied much in the wild and little is known about their hunting habits. There have been reports of the cat hunting rodents and birds at night, and also hunting domestic poultry near farms.
The Pampas cat is a small, but heavy-set cat. There are significant geographical variations in its size; the body length ranges from 46 to 75 cm (18 to 30 in) and the relatively short tail is 23 to 29 cm (9.1 to 11.4 in). Six variants of its pelage occur, but all have two dark lines on each cheek:
- Type 1. Reddish or dark grey with rusty-cinnamon stripes on the flanks and two stripes on each cheek, a cinnamon upper side of the ears with black edges and tips, four or five reddish rings on the tail (outer two are darker), dark brown stripes on the legs, black chest spots, and whitish underparts with rusty-ochraceous stripes. It is found the subspecies L. c. colocolo in central Chile in subtropical, xerophytic forests at altitudes of up to 1,800 m (5,900 ft).
- Type 2A. Flanks with large, reddish-brown, rosette-shaped spots with darker borders, numerous rings on the tail (of the same colour as the flank spots), and very dark brown (almost black) stripes on the legs and spots/stripes on the underparts. This colour and pattern is found in the northern Andes in the subspecies L. c. thomasi and L. colocolo wolffsohni.
- Type 2B. Resembles Type 2A, but the background colour is paler, and the body markings, stripes on the hind legs, and rings on the tail are paler and less distinct.
- Type 2C. Is overall greyish with distinct dark brown stripes on the legs and spots on the underparts, a plain tail (no clear rings), and at most indistinct dark lines on the flanks.
- Type 3A. Almost entirely rusty-brown with faint spots, continuous bands, an unbanded tail with a prominent black tip, and all-black feet. This pattern is found in the subspecies L. c. braccatus.
- Type 3B. Similar to type 3A, but the background color is paler and more yellowish, with flank spots that are browner and more distinct, feet that are only black on the soles, and discontinuous rings and a narrow black tip on the tail. This pattern is found in the subspecies L. c. munoai.
The subtypes of Type 2 show variation according to altitude and latitude. Only the first subtype occurs in the north (around 20°S and northwards), and only the third type occurs in the far south (around 40°S and southwards). In between, the majority are of second subtype, but the first subtype has been recorded as far south as 29°S, and the third subtype as far north as 36°S. At latitudes where both the first and second subtypes are found, the former tends to occur in highlands and the latter in lowlands.
An extensive morphological analysis of Pampas cat species from across its range, with special emphasise on differences in pelage colour/pattern and cranial measurements, led Garcia-Perea (1994) to divide the Pampas cat into three distinct species and 11 subspecies. This species division was recognised in the 2005 edition of Mammal Species of the World, although the number of subspecies was reduced:
- Leopardus colocolo (colocolo)
- Leopardus braccatus (Pantanal cat)
- Leopardus pajeros (Pampas cat, with a more restricted definition)
Based on two specimens, the subspecies L. p. steinbachi is larger and paler than P. l. garleppi. However, this is labelled with uncertainty due to the very small sample, and some treat it as a synonym of L. p. garleppi. Uncertainty also exists for the subspecies L. p. budini, which appears to resemble L. p. crespoi, and was described from lowlands of northwestern Argentina, but may actually be from humid forests in the region. Some recognise it, while other do not. Populations in southern Chile and the southern part of Argentina, included in the nominate in the above list, have been recognised as the subspecies L. p. crucinus based on the large size (the largest Pampas cats) and dull pelage.
More recent work, primarily genetic studies, have failed to find support for a split at species level, although some geographical substructure was recognised. Accordingly, some authorities have continued to recognise the Pampas cat as a single species. and the recent revision of felid taxonomy by the IUCN Specialist Cat Group recognises the Pampas cat as a single species with seven subspecies:
- L. c. colocola (Molina, 1782)
- L. c. braccatus (Cope, 1889)
- L. c. munoai (Ximénez, 1961)
- L. c. budini (Pocock, 1941)
- L. c. garleppi (Matschie, 1912)
- L. c. pajeros (Desmarest, 1816)
- L. c. wolffsohni (Garcia-Perea, 1994)
Distribution and habitat
Despite being named after the Pampas, the Pampas cat occurs in a wide range of habitats in northwestern Argentina, Bolivia, western Ecuador and northwestern Peru. It inhabits elevations between 1,800 and 5,000 m (5,900 and 16,400 ft) in páramo, marginally also in puna and locally in dry forest. Where its range overlaps with the Andean mountain cat in northwestern Argentina, it occurs at lower altitudes on average. In central to northwestern Argentina, the Pampas cat is found at elevations below 1,240 m (4,070 ft) in grassland, mesophytic and dry forest, and shrubland. In southern Argentina and far southern Chile, it is found in Patagonian steppes and shrubland at altitudes below 1,100 m (3,600 ft).
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- Wozencraft, W.C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 538–539. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Cat Specialist Group (2017). "Revised taxonomy of the Felidae. Ocelot lineage". Cat News special issue (11): 76.
- Garcia-Perea, R. (1994). The pampas cat group (Genus Lynchailurus Severertzov 1858) (Carnivora: Felidae): A systematic and biogeographic review. American Museum Novitates 3096: 1–35.
- Johnson, W.E., Slattery, J.P., Eizirik, E., Kim, J.H., Menotti Raymond, M., Bonacic, C., Cambre, R., Crawshaw, P., Nunes, A., Seuánez, H.N. and Martins Moreira, M.A. (1999). "Disparate phylogeographic patterns of molecular genetic variation in four closely related South American small cat species" (PDF). Molecular Ecology 8: S79–94.
- Macdonald, D., & Loveridge, A. (eds.) (2010). The Biology and Conservation of Wild Felids. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-923445-5.
- Lucherini, M.; Eizirik, E.; de Oliveira, T.; Pereira, J.; Williams, R.S.R. (2016). "Leopardus colocolo". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016-3. International Union for Conservation of Nature.
- Sunquist, M. E., & Sunquist, F. C. (2009). "Colocolo (Leopardus colocolo)". In Wilson, D. E.; Mittermeier, R. A. Handbook of the Mammals of the World, Vol. 1. Barcelona: Lynx Ediciones. p. 146. ISBN 978-84-96553-49-1.
- Barstow, A.L. & Leslie, D.M. (2012). "Leopardus braccatus (Carnivora: Felidae)" (PDF). Mammalian Species. 44 (1): 16–25. doi:10.1644/891.1.
- Perovic, P., Walker, S. & Novaro, A. (2003). New records of the Endangered Andean mountain cat in northern Argentina. Oryx 37: 374–377.
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- IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group: Leopardus colocolo; (L. braccatus and L. pajeros are not treated as separate species.)