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Why are lions the only social cats?


We know that almost all cats are solitary. How did the Lions (Panthera leo) end up social animals? Do we have an explanatory evolutionary path describing how the Lions became social while the rest of the felines remained solitary?

I'm not asking what general rules apply to evolution, but, rather - what evolutionary path has led to this specific outcome. I know a bit of evolutionary game theory. No need to reiterate the obvious. I'm asking if we know the mechanism or the evolutionary pressure in this particular case.


This is not a direct answer to your question, but I want to point out that your basic premise is partially incorrect. Other felines also form social groups. For instance, male cheetahs form coalitions (also see Cheetah outreach at http://www.cheetah.co.za/c_info.html), often for life, which generally makes them more successful in defending territories. Female feral cats also form social groups in some environments (see e.g. Natoli et al, 2007), where females sometimes co-rear kittens. There is even evidence that tigers share kills with related or unrelated individuals (see Wikipedia: Tiger for examples), and tiger home ranges can overlap in complex ways. On the other hand, lions (both males and females) are sometimes solitary, and this partially interacts with their living environment.

My point is mainly that sociality (in general or in felines in particular) is not either/or for a particular species, and other felines also show social behaviours and sometimes form groups (so sociality should be viewed as a sliding scale). Granted, lions are definitely the feline with the strongest social behaviors, and they form the largest social groups. It is therefore interesting to think about why that is the case, and what group dynamics and tradeoffs that determine the social behaviours of lions.


I agree with some comments that have been made on the validity of the wording used by OP. However there is a legitimate thrust to the question. What could drive Lion sociality?

Females are the base unit of lion social groups. Males are generally the nomadic sex. Male lions will try to take over a group of females by killing the current cubs and mating with the females. By having groups of females they can drive off males that are not related to their offspring.

Males are equally rewarded for banding together to defend females and to subdue larger groups of females or other bands of males. Lion packs are therefore formed by these antagonistic interaction between male and female lions. More research is needed!

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/000334729580157X


In brittle environments we often find very large range lands(grasslands, savanna etc) that are inhabited by mixed mega herds of numerous, large, grazing herbivores. It takes pack hunters to successfully predate upon these herds. Note that all the apex predators in the more densely forested biomes of non brittle environments are solitary hunters(Tiger, Jaguar, Bear etc). Remember that various sub species of Panthers leo once roamed from Africa, across Eurasia and into North America. There are many extinct Panthera species too.


The Social Structure of Cat Life

The Felidae or cat family are solitary predators and (with the exception of lions) do not live in socially structured groups.

However, while the wildcat ancestors of domestic cats are solitary animals, the social behaviour of domestic cats is more variable depending primarily on the density of cats and the availability of food sources. Our pet cat, Felis catus has proved to be a remarkably adaptable species, and while retaining its roots as a solitary hunter, in a number of situations (both natural and artificial) will adapt to group-living through the development of social structures. Broadly speaking, the living arrangements of free-living domestic cats can be divided into those in which females form small groups, loosely resembling a pride of lions, and those that remain solitary with individual territories (more typical of most wild felids).


Lion behaviour explained: it’s all about territory

As we all know, the lion is the only truly social cat of the larger felid species. Research upon wild prides has suggested the reason as to why the modern day lion has evolved to become a social mammal is down to territory. Nearly all large felids will hold a territory during a certain period of their life time and this area will contain all the natural resources it needs to survive and thrive. However, holding onto a territory and its resources can be tricky. What if your neighbour, who might be bigger and stronger, decides they prefer your territory to theirs? Do you stand your ground and fight risking injury and even death, or do you run with your tail between your legs and hope to find another territory elsewhere?

It would appear the modern day lions’ ancestors were faced with such a dilemma. Over time those lions that fought alone and roamed alone did not survive, but those that began to team up did. The complexities of behavioural evolution and the effects of environmental pressures eventually led to the formation of prides. Those lions that defended a territory together were far more likely to retain that territory and consequently the resources contained within it. Those lions that are unable to claim a territory and defend it successfully are less likely to survive and breed successfully, so having a chum really does count!

The most common territorial behaviour lions exhibit is of course, roaring. This unique and infamous vocalization advertises a pride’s territory and warns others to stay away. Further research upon wild prides has shed further light upon the complexity of roaring in a pride. It would appear the lionesses of a pride are able to count the number of intruders they may hear roaring. By doing so they are able to assess the probability of winning a conflict should one arise. A playback study was conducted upon two wild populations using the recordings of other lions roaring and their reactions were noted. Those smaller prides hearing the roars of larger prides did not respond, or fled, from the direction of the vocalization. Those within larger prides hearing intruders of smaller groups would approach the “intruders” and/or roar in response. Interesting stuff!

Here in the Ngamo lion release site ( housing a pride of released captive origin lions and their cubs borne post-release) the lions are living a fairly easy-going life, not having to worry about intruders threatening their territory. We often hear the pride roaring in response to other lions at Antelope Park but this appears to be more a habituated response than truly territorial. It seems the Ngamo lions may even consider those other lions at Antelope Park as distant pride members within their territory.

It is a vital component of cub development that they begin to understand the importance of territorial defense. Female cubs will begin to actively partake in territorial defense from just 8 months of age alongside their mothers and aunts. The cubs born in Ngamo will not encounter other lions until Stage 4 of the release program perhaps, but it is crucial they are aware of what it means to protect your home!

It was decided then that our research team should begin to carry out a playback study as conducted upon wild prides. Using 18,000 W speakers, a DC to AC converter, a battery and a solar panel we set out to pilot test our study. With the research vehicle within the release site and in sight of the pride (that was sleeping), a second vehicle was parked outside the site, behind a thicket, c. 200m from the fence line. The sun began to sink and the air began to lift perfect roaring conditions. However light was fading and rigging up the speakers was taking some time. By Murphy’s Law the pride began to move off out of sight before the playback could be started and we daren’t follow for fear of the research vehicle muffling the playback. We had no choice by the time Milo (the pride male) disappeared along Route 66 and we began to slowly follow. Fortunately just then the speakers were switched on and the first play back (of 1 male and 4 females) was played. The playback started out rather softly and neither our researcher, PhD student nor volunteers could hear the roars…but the lions did.

As the roaring from the speakers increased more pride member’s ears twitched and all began to turn back. Suddenly Milo shot like a raging bull towards the sound of these foolish intruders. He bellowed with all his might in response and vanished into the mopane woodland. The females began to follow quickly, though not roaring, with AT1 (the oldest cub) taking a central position amongst the group. Narnia lagged behind as Kenge called to the four younger cubs and began to lead them off elsewhere, to safety. A second playback was sounded sending Milo into a further territorial spin before we sent the speakers back to camp. We observed Milo pacing the area from which the roaring was heard and frequently roaring to warn those unknown lions: ‘dare thee not enter!

This result was more than what we ever hoped to observe. The Ngamo pride, despite having never encountered wild lions, reacted exactly as any wild pride would Milo running to the prides’ defense, the females following in pursuit, the oldest cub partaking in defense and the mothers leading the younger cubs to safety. Should there ever be real intruders in the Ngamo pride’s territory they may find themselves wishing they had kept quiet!

It was a breath-takingly beautiful dawn on the 18 th April as our research team entered the release site. The clouds of Gweru had nestled themselves between the contours of Ngamo and blanketed the dew covered grass of Serengeti East. As we paused to take in this magnificent scene around us a billow of white smoke rose in the distance. It appeared Milo was also mesmorised by his dream-like surroundings, standing regal and proud over his pride lands, his breath dissolving into the mist. We approached him to find the rest of the pride grumbling amongst one another whilst tucking into a fresh zebra kill. As usual Phyre (the dominant female) had already had her fill by this point and decided to have a roll around with some filthy cubs. Her playful antics though were not met with open arms but the vicious claws of KE4.

On the 19 th the pride slept off their zebra kill from the previous day. Apart from a few farts and burps there really wasn’t much to report and all appeared far too fat to move. On the 20 th it appeared the lazy lions ordered a take away to their hangout as all were found in the exact same location feeding upon another zebra kill. By the afternoon any movement was out of the question and all cubs had morphed into footballs unable to even roll to sit up.


Habitat and Distribution

The lion may be called the "king of the jungle," but it's actually absent from rainforests. Instead, this cat prefers the grassy plains, savannas, and scrubland of sub-Saharan Africa. The Asiatic lion lives in Gir Forest National Park in India, but its habitat only includes the savanna and scrub forest areas.

Lions are hypercarnivores, which means their diet consists of more that 70% meat. African lions prefer to hunt large ungulates, including zebra, African buffalo, gemsbok, giraffe, and wildebeest. They avoid very large (elephant, rhinoceros, hippopotamus) and very small (hare, monkey, hyrax, dik-dik) prey, but will take domestic livestock. A single lion can take down prey twice its size. In prides, lionesses hunt cooperatively, stalking from more than one direction to capture fleeing animals. Lions kill either by strangling their prey or by enclosing its mouth and nostrils to suffocate it. Usually, prey is consumed at the hunting site. Lions often lose their kills to hyenas and sometimes to crocodiles.

While the lion is an apex predator, it falls prey to humans. Cubs are often killed by hyenas, wild dogs, and leopards.


Hunting

Lions prey on a large variety of animals ranging in size from rodents and baboons to Cape (or African) buffalo and hippopotamuses, but they predominantly hunt medium- to large-sized hoofed animals such as wildebeests, zebras, and antelopes. Prey preferences vary geographically as well as between neighbouring prides. Lions are known to take elephants and giraffes, but only if the individual is young or especially sick. They readily eat any meat they can find, including carrion and fresh kills that they scavenge or forcefully steal from hyenas, cheetahs, or wild dogs. Lionesses living in open savanna do most of the hunting, whereas males typically appropriate their meals from the female’s kills. However, male lions are also adept hunters, and in some areas they hunt frequently. Pride males in scrub or wooded habitat spend less time with the females and hunt most of their own meals. Nomadic males must always secure their own food.

Though a group of hunting lions is potentially nature’s most formidable predatory force on land, a high proportion of their hunts fail. The cats pay no attention to the wind’s direction (which can carry their scent to their prey), and they tire after running short distances. Typically, they stalk prey from nearby cover and then burst forth to run it down in a short, rapid rush. After leaping on the prey, the lion lunges at its neck and bites until the animal has been strangled. Other members of the pride quickly crowd around to feed on the kill, usually fighting for access. Hunts are sometimes conducted in groups, with members of a pride encircling a herd or approaching it from opposite directions, then closing in for a kill in the resulting panic. The cats typically gorge themselves and then rest for several days in its vicinity. An adult male can consume more than 34 kg (75 pounds) of meat at a single meal and rest for a week before resuming the hunt. If prey is abundant, both sexes typically spend 21 to 22 hours a day resting, sleeping, or sitting and hunt for only 2 or 3 hours a day.


Contents

Applying the term homosexual to animals

The term homosexual was coined by Karl-Maria Kertbeny in 1868 to describe same-sex sexual attraction and sexual behavior in humans. [10] Its use in animal studies has been controversial for two main reasons: animal sexuality and motivating factors have been and remain poorly understood, and the term has strong cultural implications in western society that are irrelevant for species other than humans. [11] Thus homosexual behavior has been given a number of terms over the years. According to Bruce Bagemihl, when describing animals, the term homosexual is preferred over gay, lesbian, and other terms currently in use, as these are seen as even more bound to human homosexuality. [12]

Homosexual: in animals, this has been used to refer to same-sex behavior that is not sexual in character (e.g. ‘homosexual tandem running’ in termites), same-sex courtship or copulatory behavior occurring over a short period of time (e.g. ‘homosexual mounting’ in cockroaches and rams) or long-term pair bonds between same-sex partners that might involve any combination of courting, copulating, parenting and affectional behaviors (e.g. ‘homosexual pair bonds’ in gulls). In humans, the term is used to describe individual sexual behaviors as well as long-term relationships, but in some usages connotes a gay or lesbian social identity. Scientific writing would benefit from reserving this anthropomorphic term for humans and not using it to describe behavior in other animals, because of its deeply rooted context in human society.

Animal preference and motivation is always inferred from behavior. In wild animals, researchers will as a rule not be able to map the entire life of an individual, and must infer from frequency of single observations of behavior. The correct usage of the term homosexual is that an animal exhibits homosexual behavior or even same-sex sexual behavior however, this article conforms to the usage by modern research, [12] [13] [14] [15] [ page needed ] [16] applying the term homosexuality to all sexual behavior (copulation, genital stimulation, mating games and sexual display behavior) between animals of the same sex. In most instances, it is presumed that the homosexual behavior is but part of the animal's overall sexual behavioral repertoire, making the animal "bisexual" rather than "homosexual" as the terms are commonly understood in humans. [15] [ page needed ]

Nature

The observation of homosexual behavior in animals can be seen as both an argument for and against the acceptance of homosexuality in humans, and has been used especially against the claim that it is a peccatum contra naturam ("sin against nature"). For instance, homosexuality in animals was cited by the American Psychiatric Association and other groups in their amici curiae brief to the United States Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas, which ultimately struck down the sodomy laws of 14 states. [17] [18]

A majority of the research available concerning homosexual behavior in animals lacks specification between animals that exclusively exhibit same-sex tendencies and those that participate in heterosexual and homosexual mating activities interchangeably. This lack of distinction has led to differing opinions and conflicting interpretations of collected data amongst scientists and researchers. For instance, Bruce Bagemihl, author of the book Biological Exuberence: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity, emphasizes that there are no anatomical or endocrinological differences between exclusively homosexual and exclusively heterosexual animal pairs. [19] [ page needed ] However, if the definition of "homosexual behavior" is made to include animals that participate in both same-sex and opposite-sex mating activities, hormonal differences have been documented among key sex hormones, such as testosterone and estradiol, when compared to those who participate solely in heterosexual mating. [20]

Many of the animals used in laboratory-based studies of homosexuality do not appear to spontaneously exhibit these tendencies often in the wild. Such behavior is often elicited and exaggerated by the researcher during experimentation through the destruction of a portion of brain tissue, or by exposing the animal to high levels of steroid hormones prenatally. [21] [ page needed ] Information gathered from these studies is limited when applied to spontaneously occurring same-sex behavior in animals outside of the laboratory. [21]

Homosexual behaviour in animals has been discussed since classical antiquity. The earliest written mention of animal homosexuality appears to date back to 2,300 years ago, when Aristotle (384–322 BC) described copulation between pigeons, partridges and quails of the same sex. [22] The Hieroglyphics of Horapollo, written in the 4th century AD by the Egyptian writer Horapollo, mentions "hermaphroditism" in hyenas and homosexuality in partridges. [22] The first review of animal homosexuality was written by the zoologist Ferdinand Karsch-Haack in 1900. [22]

Until recent times [ when? ] , the presence of same-sex sexual behavior was not "officially" observed on a large scale, possibly due to observer bias caused by social attitudes to same-sex sexual behavior, [23] innocent confusion, lack of interest, distaste, scientists fearing loss of their grants or even from a fear of "being ridiculed by their colleagues". [24] [25] Georgetown University biologist Janet Mann states "Scientists who study the topic are often accused of trying to forward an agenda, and their work can come under greater scrutiny than that of their colleagues who study other topics." [26] They also noted "Not every sexual act has a reproductive function . that's true of humans and non-humans." [26] Studies have demonstrated homosexual behavior in a number of species, but the true extent of homosexuality in animals is not known.

Some researchers believe this behavior to have its origin in male social organization and social dominance, similar to the dominance traits shown in prison sexuality. Others, particularly Bagemihl, Joan Roughgarden, Thierry Lodé [27] and Paul Vasey suggest the social function of sex (both homosexual and heterosexual) is not necessarily connected to dominance, but serves to strengthen alliances and social ties within a flock. While reports on many such mating scenarios are still only anecdotal, a growing body of scientific work confirms that permanent homosexuality occurs not only in species with permanent pair bonds, [16] but also in non-monogamous species like sheep. One report on sheep found that 8% of rams exhibited homosexual preferences—that is, even when given a choice, they chose male over female partners. [28] In fact, apparent homosexual individuals are known from all of the traditional domestic species, from sheep, cattle and horses to cats, dogs and budgerigars. [29] [ page needed ]

Physiological basis

A definite physiological explanation or reason for homosexual activity in animal species has not been agreed upon by researchers in the field. Numerous scholars are of the opinion that varying levels (either higher or lower) of the sex hormones in the animal, [30] in addition to the size of the animal's gonads, [20] play a direct role in the sexual behavior and preference exhibited by that animal. Others firmly argue no evidence to support these claims exists when comparing animals of a specific species exhibiting homosexual behavior exclusively and those that do not. Ultimately, empirical support from comprehensive endocrinological studies exist for both interpretations. [30] [21] Researchers found no evidence of differences in the measurements of the gonads, or the levels of the sex hormones of exclusively homosexual western gulls and ring-billed gulls. [31]

Additional studies pertaining to hormone involvement in homosexual behavior indicate that when administering treatments of testosterone and estradiol to female heterosexual animals, the elevated hormone levels increase the likelihood of homosexual behavior. Additionally, boosting the levels of sex hormones during an animal's pregnancy appears to increase the likelihood of it birthing a homosexual offspring. [30]

Genetic basis

Researchers found that disabling the fucose mutarotase (FucM) gene in laboratory mice – which influences the levels of estrogen to which the brain is exposed – caused the female mice to behave as if they were male as they grew up. "The mutant female mouse underwent a slightly altered developmental programme in the brain to resemble the male brain in terms of sexual preference" said Professor Chankyu Park of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Daejon, South Korea, who led the research. His findings were published in the BMC Genetics journal on July 7, 2010. [32] [33] Another study found that by manipulating a gene in fruit flies (Drosophila), homosexual behavior appeared to have been induced. However, in addition to homosexual behavior, several abnormal behaviors were also exhibited apparently due to this mutation. [34]

Neurobiological basis

In March 2011, research showed that serotonin is involved in the mechanism of sexual orientation of mice. [35] [36] A study conducted on fruit flies found that inhibiting the dopamine neurotransmitter inhibited lab-induced homosexual behavior. [37]

Birds

Black swans

An estimated one-quarter of all black swan pairings are of males. They steal nests, or form temporary threesomes with females to obtain eggs, driving away the female after she lays the eggs. The males spent time in each other's society, guarded the common territory, performed greeting ceremonies before each other, and (in the reproductive period) pre-marital rituals, and if one of the birds tried to sit on the other, an intense fight began. [1] [2] More of their cygnets survive to adulthood than those of different-sex pairs, possibly due to their superior ability to defend large portions of land. The same reasoning has been applied to male flamingo pairs raising chicks. [38] [39]

Laysan albatross

Female albatross, on the north-western tip of the island of Oahu, Hawaii, form pairs for co-growing offspring. On the observed island, the number of females considerably exceeds the number of males (59% N=102/172), so 31% of females, after mating with males, create partnerships for hatching and feeding chicks. Compared to male-female couples female partnerships have a lower hatching rate (41% vs 87%) and lower overall reproductive success (31% vs. 67%). [40]

Ibises

Research has shown that the environmental pollutant methylmercury can increase the prevalence of homosexual behavior in male American white ibis. The study involved exposing chicks in varying dosages to the chemical and measuring the degree of homosexual behavior in adulthood. The results discovered was that as the dosage was increased the likelihood of homosexual behavior also increased. The endocrine blocking feature of mercury has been suggested as a possible cause of sexual disruption in other bird species. [41] [42]

Mallards

Mallards form male-female pairs only until the female lays eggs, at which time the male leaves the female. Mallards have rates of male-male sexual activity that are unusually high for birds, in some cases, as high as 19% of all pairs in a population. [29] [ page needed ] Kees Moeliker of the Natural History Museum Rotterdam has observed one male mallard engage in homosexual necrophilia. [43]

Penguins

Penguins have been observed to engage in homosexual behaviour since at least as early as 1911. George Murray Levick, who documented this behaviour in Adélie penguins at Cape Adare, described it as "depraved". The report was considered too shocking for public release at the time, and was suppressed. The only copies that were made available privately to researchers were translated into Greek, to prevent this knowledge becoming more widely known. The report was unearthed only a century later, and published in Polar Record in June 2012. [44] [45]

In early February 2004, The New York Times reported that Roy and Silo, a male pair of chinstrap penguins in the Central Park Zoo in New York City, had successfully hatched and fostered a female chick from a fertile egg they had been given to incubate. [17] Other penguins in New York zoos have also been reported to have formed same-sex pairs. [46] [47]

In Odense Zoo in Denmark, a pair of male king penguins adopted an egg that had been abandoned by a female, proceeding to incubate it and raise the chick. [48] [49] Zoos in Japan and Germany have also documented homosexual male penguin couples. [50] [51] The couples have been shown to build nests together and use a stone as a substitute for an egg. Researchers at Rikkyo University in Tokyo found 20 homosexual pairs at 16 major aquariums and zoos in Japan.

The Bremerhaven Zoo in Germany attempted to encourage reproduction of endangered Humboldt penguins by importing females from Sweden and separating three male pairs, but this was unsuccessful. The zoo's director said that the relationships were "too strong" between the homosexual pairs. [52] German gay groups protested at this attempt to break up the male-male pairs [53] but the zoo's director was reported as saying "We don't know whether the three male pairs are really homosexual or whether they have just bonded because of a shortage of females . nobody here wants to forcibly separate homosexual couples." [54]

A pair of male Magellanic penguins who had shared a burrow for six years at the San Francisco Zoo and raised a surrogate chick, split when the male of a pair in the next burrow died and the female sought a new mate. [55]

Buddy and Pedro, a pair of male African penguins, were separated by the Toronto Zoo to mate with female penguins. [56] [57] Buddy has since paired off with a female. [57]

Suki and Chupchikoni are two female African penguins that pair bonded at the Ramat Gan Safari in Israel. Chupchikoni was assumed to be male until her blood was tested. [58]

In 2014 Jumbs and Hurricane, two Humboldt penguins at Wingham Wildlife Park became the center of international media attention as two male penguins who had pair bonded a number of years earlier and then successfully hatched and reared an egg given to them as surrogate parents after the mother abandoned it halfway through incubation. [59]

In 2018, two female King penguins at Kelly Tarltons in Auckland, New Zealand, called Thelma and Louise (named after the 1991 film) have been in a relationship for eight years, when most of the other eligible penguins switch partners each mating season, regardless of their orientation. The two penguins were both taking care of an egg that Thelma hatched, but is unknown whether it was fertilized. [60]

Vultures

In 1998 two male griffon vultures named Dashik and Yehuda, at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, engaged in "open and energetic sex" and built a nest. The keepers provided the couple with an artificial egg, which the two parents took turns incubating, and 45 days later, the zoo replaced the egg with a baby vulture. The two male vultures raised the chick together. [61] A few years later, however, Yehuda became interested in a female vulture that was brought into the aviary. Dashik became depressed, and was eventually moved to the zoological research garden at Tel Aviv University where he too set up a nest with a female vulture. [62]

Two male vultures at the Allwetter Zoo in Muenster built a nest together, although they were picked on and their nest materials were often stolen by other vultures. They were eventually separated to try to promote breeding by placing one of them with female vultures, despite the protests of German homosexual groups. [63]

Pigeons

Both male and female pigeons sometimes exhibit homosexual behavior. In addition to sexual behavior, same-sex pigeon pairs will build nests, and hens will lay (infertile) eggs and attempt to incubate them. [64]

Mammals

Amazon dolphin

The Amazon river dolphin or boto has been reported to form up in bands of 3–5 individuals engaging in sexual activity. The groups usually comprise young males and sometimes one or two females. Sex is often performed in non-reproductive ways, using snout, flippers and genital rubbing, without regard to gender. [65] In captivity, they have been observed to sometimes perform homosexual and heterosexual penetration of the blowhole, a hole homologous with the nostril of other mammals, making this the only known example of nasal sex in the animal kingdom. [65] [66] The males will sometimes also perform sex with males from the tucuxi species, a type of small porpoise. [65]

American bison

Courtship, mounting, and full anal penetration between bulls has been noted to occur among American bison. The Mandan nation Okipa festival concludes with a ceremonial enactment of this behavior, to "ensure the return of the buffalo in the coming season". [67] Also, mounting of one female by another (known as "bulling") is extremely common among cattle. The behaviour is hormone driven and synchronizes with the emergence of estrus (heat), particularly in the presence of a bull.

More than 20 species of bat have been documented to engage in homosexual behavior. [22] [68] Bat species that have been observed engaging in homosexual behavior in the wild include: [22]

  • the grey-headed flying fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)
  • the Bonin flying fox (Pteropus pselaphon) [68]
  • the Indian flying fox (Pteropus giganteus) (Corynorhinus rafinesquii)
  • the common bent-wing bat (Miniopterus schreibersii)
  • the serotine bat (Eptesicus serotinus) (Myotis bechsteinii)
  • the long-fingered bat (Myotis capaccinii) (Myotis daubentonii)
  • the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus)
  • the greater mouse-eared bat (Myotis myotis)
  • the whiskered bat (Myotis mystacinus) (Myotis nattereri)
  • the common noctule (Nyctalus noctula) (Nyctalus leisleri)
  • the common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus)
  • the brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus)
  • the barbastelle (Barbastella barbastellus)
  • the greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum)
  • the lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros)

Bat species that have been observed engaging in homosexual behavior in captivity include the Comoro flying fox (Pteropus livingstonii), the Rodrigues flying fox (Pteropus rodricensis) and the common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus). [22]

Homosexual behavior in bats has been categorized into 6 groups: mutual homosexual grooming and licking, homosexual masturbation, homosexual play, homosexual mounting, coercive sex, and cross-species homosexual sex. [22] [68]

In the wild, the grey-headed flying fox (Pteropus poliocephalus) engages in allogrooming wherein one partner licks and gently bites the chest and wing membrane of the other partner. Both sexes display this form of mutual homosexual grooming and it is more common in males. Males often have erect penises while they are mutually grooming each other. Like opposite-sex grooming partners, same-sex grooming partners continuously utter a “pre-copulation call”, which is described as a "pulsed grating call", while engaged in this activity. [22] [68]

In wild Bonin flying foxes (Pteropus pselaphon), males perform fellatio or 'male-male genital licking' on other males. Male–male genital licking events occur repeatedly several times in the same pair, and reciprocal genital licking also occurs. The male-male genital licking in these bats is considered a sexual behavior. Allogrooming in Bonin flying foxes has never been observed, hence the male-male genital licking in this species does not seem to be a byproduct of allogrooming, but rather a behavior of directly licking the male genital area, independent of allogrooming. [68] In captivity, same-sex genital licking has been observed among males of the Comoro flying fox (Pteropus livingstonii) as well as among males of the common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus). [22] [68]

In wild Indian flying foxes (Pteropus giganteus), males often mount one another, with erections and thrusting, while play-wrestling. [22] Males of the long-fingered bat (Myotis capaccinii) have been observed in the same position of male-female mounting, with one gripping the back of the other's fur. A similar behavior was also observed in the common bent-wing bat (Miniopterus schreibersii). [22]

In wild little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus), males often mount other males (and females) during late autumn and winter, when many of the mounted individuals are torpid. [22] 35% of matings during this period are homosexual. [69] These coercive copulations usually include ejaculation and the mounted bat often makes a typical copulation call consisting of a long squawk. [22] Similarly, in hibernacula of the common noctule (Nyctalus noctula), active males were observed to wake up from lethargy on a warm day and engage in mating with lethargic males and (active or lethargic) females. The lethargic males, like females, called out loudly and presented their buccal glands with opened mouth during copulation. [22]

Vesey-Fitzgerald (1949) observed homosexual behaviours in all 12 British bat species known at the time: “Homosexuality is common in the spring in all species, and, since the males are in full possession of their powers, I suspect throughout the summer. I have even seen homosexuality between Natterer's and Daubenton's bats (Myotis nattereri and M. daubentonii)." [22]

Bottlenose dolphins

Dolphins of several species engage in homosexual acts, though it is best studied in the bottlenose dolphins. [29] [ page needed ] Sexual encounters between females take the shape of "beak-genital propulsion", where one female inserts her beak in the genital opening of the other while swimming gently forward. [70] Between males, homosexual behaviour includes rubbing of genitals against each other, which sometimes leads to the males swimming belly to belly, inserting the penis in the other's genital slit and sometimes anus. [71]

Janet Mann, Georgetown University professor of biology and psychology, argues that the strong personal behavior among male dolphin calves is about bond formation and benefits the species in an evolutionary context. [72] She cites studies showing that these dolphins later in life as adults are in a sense bisexual, and the male bonds forged earlier in life work together for protection as well as locating females to reproduce with. Confrontations between flocks of bottlenose dolphins and the related species Atlantic spotted dolphin will sometimes lead to cross-species homosexual behaviour between the males rather than combat. [73]

Elephants

African and Asian male elephants will engage in same-sex bonding and mounting. Such encounters are often associated with affectionate interactions, such as kissing, trunk intertwining, and placing trunks in each other's mouths. Male elephants, who often live apart from the general herd, often form "companionships", consisting of an older individual and one or sometimes two younger males with sexual behavior being an important part of the social dynamic. Unlike heterosexual relations, which are always of a fleeting nature, the relationships between males may last for years. The encounters are analogous to heterosexual bouts, one male often extending his trunk along the other's back and pushing forward with his tusks to signify his intention to mount. Same-sex relations are common and frequent in both sexes, with Asiatic elephants in captivity devoting roughly 45% of sexual encounters to same-sex activity. [74]

Giraffes

Male giraffes have been observed to engage in remarkably high frequencies of homosexual behavior. After aggressive "necking", it is common for two male giraffes to caress and court each other, leading up to mounting and climax. Such interactions between males have been found to be more frequent than heterosexual coupling. [75] In one study, up to 94% of observed mounting incidents took place between two males. The proportion of same sex activities varied between 30 and 75%, and at any given time one in twenty males were engaged in non-combative necking behavior with another male. Only 1% of same-sex mounting incidents occurred between females. [76]

Marmots

Homosexual behavior is quite common in wild marmots. [77] In Olympic marmots (Marmota olympus) and hoary marmots (Marmota caligata), females often mount other females as well as engage in other affectionate and sexual behaviors with females of the same species. [77] They display a high frequency of these behaviors especially when they are in heat. [77] [78] A homosexual encounter often begins with a greeting interaction in which one female nuzzles her nose on the other female's cheek or mouth, or both females touch noses or mouths. Additionally, a female may gently chew on the ear or neck of her partner, who responds by raising her tail. The first female may sniff the other's genital region or nuzzle that region with her mouth. She may then proceed to mount the other female, during which the mounting female gently grasps the mounted female's dorsal neck fur in her jaws while thrusting. The mounted female arches her back and holds her tail to one side to facilitate their sexual interaction. [77] [79]

Lions

Both male and female lions have been seen to interact homosexually. [80] [81] Male lions pair-bond for a number of days and initiate homosexual activity with affectionate nuzzling and caressing, leading to mounting and thrusting. About 8% of mountings have been observed to occur with other males. Pairings between females are held to be fairly common in captivity but have not been observed in the wild.

Polecat

European polecats (Mustela putorius) were found to engage homosexually with non-sibling animals. Exclusive homosexuality with mounting and anal penetration in this solitary species serves no apparent adaptive function. [82] [ page needed ]

Primates

Bonobo

Bonobos form a matriarchal society, unusual among apes. They are fully bisexual: both males and females engage in hetero- and homosexual behavior, being noted for female–female sex in particular, [83] including between juveniles and adults. [84] Roughly 60% of all bonobo sexual activity occurs between two or more females. While the homosexual bonding system in bonobos represents the highest frequency of homosexuality known in any primate species, homosexuality has been reported for all great apes (a group which includes humans), as well as a number of other primate species. [85] [86] [87] [88] [89]

Dutch primatologist Frans de Waal, who extensively observed and filmed bonobos, believed that sexual activity is the bonobo's way of avoiding conflict. Anything that arouses the interest of more than one bonobo at a time, not just food, tends to result in sexual contact. If two bonobos approach a cardboard box thrown into their enclosure, they will briefly mount each other before playing with the box. Such situations lead to squabbles in most other species. But bonobos are quite tolerant, perhaps because they use sex to divert attention and to defuse tension. [84] [90]

Bonobo sex often occurs in aggressive contexts totally unrelated to food. A jealous male might chase another away from a female, after which the two males reunite and engage in scrotal rubbing. Or after a female hits a juvenile, the latter's mother may lunge at the aggressor, an action that is immediately followed by genital rubbing between the two adults. [84]

Gorillas

Homosexual behavior among male gorillas has been studied. [91] This behavior occurs more often in all-male bachelor packs in the wild and it is believed to play a role in social bonding. Homosexual behavior among female mountain gorillas has also been documented. [92]

Japanese macaque

With the Japanese macaque, also known as the "snow monkey", same-sex relations are frequent, though rates vary between troops. Females will form "consortships" characterized by affectionate social and sexual activities. In some troops up to one quarter of the females form such bonds, which vary in duration from a few days to a few weeks. Often, strong and lasting friendships result from such pairings. Males also have same-sex relations, typically with multiple partners of the same age. Affectionate and playful activities are associated with such relations. [93]

Orangutans

Homosexual behavior forms part of the natural repertoire of sexual or sociosexual behavior of orangutans. Male homosexual behavior occurs both in the wild and in captivity, and it occurs in both adolescent and mature individuals. Homosexual behavior in orangutans is not an artifact of captivity or contact with humans. [94]

Monkeys

Among monkeys [ clarification needed ] , Lionel Tiger and Robin Fox conducted a study on how Depo-Provera contraceptives lead to decreased male attraction to females. [95]

Sheep

Ovis aries has attracted much attention due to the fact that around 8–10% of rams have an exclusive homosexual orientation. [8] [28] [96] [97] [98] [99] Such rams prefer to court and mount other rams only, even in the presence of estrous ewes. [8] Moreover, around 18–22% of rams are bisexual. [97]

Several observations indicate that male–male sexual preference in rams is sexually motivated. Rams routinely perform the same courtship behaviors (including foreleg kicks, nudges, vocalizations, anogenital sniffs and flehmen) prior to mounting other males as observed when other rams court and mount estrous females. Furthermore, pelvic thrusting and ejaculation often accompany same-sex mounts by rams. [99]

A number of studies have reported differences in brain structure and function between male-oriented and female-oriented rams, suggesting that sexual partner preferences are neurologically hard-wired. [99] A 2003 study by Dr. Charles E. Roselli et al. (Oregon Health and Science University), states that homosexuality in male sheep is associated with a region in the rams' brains which the authors call the "ovine Sexually Dimorphic Nucleus" (oSDN) which is half the size of the corresponding region in heterosexual male sheep. [28] Scientists found that, "The oSDN in rams that preferred females was significantly larger and contained more neurons than in male-oriented rams and ewes. In addition, the oSDN of the female-oriented rams expressed higher levels of aromatase, a substance that converts testosterone to estradiol, a form of estrogen which is believed to facilitate typical male sexual behaviors. Aromatase expression was no different between male-oriented rams and ewes [. ] The dense cluster of neurons that comprise the oSDN express cytochrome P450 aromatase. Aromatase mRNA levels in the oSDN were significantly greater in female-oriented rams than in ewes, whereas male-oriented rams exhibited intermediate levels of expression." These results suggest that ". naturally occurring variations in sexual partner preferences may be related to differences in brain anatomy and its capacity for estrogen synthesis." [28] As noted before, given the potential unagressiveness of the male population in question, the differing aromatase levels may also have been evidence of aggression levels, not sexuality. It should also be noted that the results of this particular study have not been confirmed by other studies.

The Merck Manual of Veterinary Medicine appears to consider homosexuality among sheep as a routine occurrence and an issue to be dealt with as a problem of animal husbandry. [100]

Studies have failed to identify any compelling social factors that can predict or explain the variations in sexual partner preferences of domestic rams. [99] Homosexual orientation and same-sex mounting in rams is not related to dominance, social rank or competitive ability. Indeed, male-oriented rams are not more or less dominant than female-oriented rams. [101] [99] Homosexual orientation in rams is also not affected by rearing conditions, i.e., rearing males in all-male groups, rearing male and female lambs together, early exposure of adolescent males to females and early social experiences with females do not promote or prevent homosexual orientation in rams. [101] [99] Male-oriented partner preference also does not appear to be an artifact caused by captivity or human management of sheep. [99]

Homosexual courtship and sexual activity routinely occur among rams of wild sheep species, such as bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis), thinhorn sheep (Ovis dalli), mouflons and urials (Ovis orientalis). [102] Usually a higher ranking older male courts a younger male using a sequence of stylized movements. To initiate homosexual courtship, a courting male approaches the other male with his head and neck lowered and extended far forward in what is called the 'low-stretch' posture. He may combine this with the 'twist,' in which the courting male sharply rotates his head and points his muzzle toward the other male, often while flicking his tongue and making grumbling sounds. The courting male also often performs a 'foreleg kick', in which he snaps his front leg up against the other male's belly or between his hind legs. He also occasionally sniffs and nuzzles the other male's genital area and may perform the flehmen response. Thinhorn rams additionally lick the penis of the male they are courting. In response, the male being courted may rub his cheeks and forehead on the courting male's face, nibble and lick him, rub his horns on the courting male's neck, chest, or shoulders, and develop an erection. Males of another wild sheep species, the Asiatic mouflons, perform similar courtship behaviors towards fellow males. [102]

Sexual activity between wild males typically involves mounting and anal intercourse. In Thinhorn sheep, genital licking also occurs. During mounting, the larger male usually mounts the smaller male by rearing up on his hind legs and placing his front legs on his partner's flanks. The mounting male usually has an erect penis and accomplishes full anal penetration while performing pelvic thrusts that may lead to ejaculation. The mounted male arches his back to facilitate the copulation. Homosexual courtship and sexual activity can also take place in groups composed of three to ten wild rams clustered together in a circle. These non-aggressive groups are called 'huddles' and involve rams rubbing, licking, nuzzling, horning, and mounting each other. Female Mountain sheep also engage in occasional courtship activities with one another and in sexual activities such as licking each other's genitals and mounting. [102]

Spotted hyena

The family structure of the spotted hyena is matriarchal, and dominance relationships with strong sexual elements are routinely observed between related females. Due largely to the female spotted hyena's unique urogenital system, which looks more like a penis rather than a vagina, early naturalists thought hyenas were hermaphroditic males who commonly practiced homosexuality. [103] [ failed verification ] Early writings such as Ovid's Metamorphoses and the Physiologus suggested that the hyena continually changed its sex and nature from male to female and back again. In Paedagogus, Clement of Alexandria noted that the hyena (along with the hare) was "quite obsessed with sexual intercourse". Many Europeans associated the hyena with sexual deformity, prostitution, deviant sexual behavior, and even witchcraft.

The reality behind the confusing reports is the sexually aggressive behavior between the females, including mounting between females. Research has shown that "in contrast to most other female mammals, female Crocuta are male-like in appearance, larger than males, and substantially more aggressive," [104] and they have "been masculinized without being defeminized". [103] [ failed verification ]

Study of this unique genitalia and aggressive behavior in the female hyena has led to the understanding that more aggressive females are better able to compete for resources, including food and mating partners. [103] [105] Research has shown that "elevated levels of testosterone in utero" [106] contribute to extra aggressiveness both males and females mount members of both the same and opposite sex, [106] [107] who in turn are possibly acting more submissive because of lower levels of testosterone in utero. [104]

Reptiles

Lizards

Several species of whiptail lizard (especially in the genus Aspidoscelis) consist only of females that have the ability to reproduce through parthenogenesis. [108] Females engage in sexual behavior to stimulate ovulation, with their behavior following their hormonal cycles during low levels of estrogen, these (female) lizards engage in "masculine" sexual roles. Those animals with currently high estrogen levels assume "feminine" sexual roles. Some parthenogenetic lizards that perform the courtship ritual have greater fertility than those kept in isolation due to an increase in hormones triggered by the sexual behaviors. So, even though asexual whiptail lizards populations lack males, sexual stimuli still increase reproductive success. From an evolutionary standpoint, these females are passing their full genetic code to all of their offspring (rather than the 50% of genes that would be passed in sexual reproduction). Certain species of gecko also reproduce by parthenogenesis. [109]

Some species of sexually reproducing geckos have also been found to display homosexual behavior, e.g. the day geckos Phelsuma laticauda and Phelsuma cepediana. [110]

Tortoises

Jonathan, the world's oldest tortoise (an Aldabra giant tortoise), had been mating with another tortoise named Frederica since 1991. In 2017, it was discovered that Frederica was actually probably male all along, and was renamed Frederic. [111]

Insects and arachnids

There is evidence of same-sex sexual behavior in at least 110 species of insects and arachnids. [112] Scharf et al. says: "Males are more frequently involved in same-sex sexual (SSS) behavior in the laboratory than in the field, and isolation, high density, and exposure to female pheromones increase its prevalence. SSS behavior is often shorter than the equivalent heterosexual behavior. Most cases can be explained via mistaken identification by the active (courting/mounting) male. Passive males often resist courting/mating attempts". [112]

Scharf et al. continues: "SSS behavior has been reported in most insect orders, and Bagemihl (1999) provides a list of

100 species of insects demonstrating such behavior. Yet, this list lacks detailed descriptions, and a more comprehensive summary of its prevalence in invertebrates, as well as ethology, causes, implications, and evolution of this behavior, remains lacking". [112]

Dragonflies

Male homosexuality has been inferred in several species of dragonflies (the order Odonata). The cloacal pinchers of male damselflies and dragonflies inflict characteristic head damage to females during sex. A survey of 11 species of damsel and dragonflies [113] [114] has revealed such mating damages in 20 to 80% of the males too, indicating a fairly high occurrence of sexual coupling between males.

Fruit flies

Male Drosophila melanogaster flies bearing two copies of a mutant allele in the fruitless gene court and attempt to mate exclusively with other males. [115] The genetic basis of animal homosexuality has been studied in the fly D. melanogaster. [116] Here, multiple genes have been identified that can cause homosexual courtship and mating. [117] These genes are thought to control behavior through pheromones as well as altering the structure of the animal's brains. [118] [119] These studies have also investigated the influence of environment on the likelihood of flies displaying homosexual behavior. [120] [121]

Bed bugs

Male bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are sexually attracted to any newly fed individual and this results in homosexual mounting. This occurs in heterosexual mounting by the traumatic insemination in which the male pierces the female abdomen with his needle-like penis. In homosexual mating this risks abdominal injuries as males lack the female counteradaptive spermalege structure. Males produce alarm pheromones to reduce such homosexual mating.


Key: Profile Photos Video Audio

African Golden Cat - Caracal aurata
The African golden cat is about twice the size of a large domestic cat.
Source: Arkive Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

African Golden Cat - Caracal aurata
African golden cats are found throughout much of equatorial Africa.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

African Lion - Panthera leo
Lions are the only members of the cat family to have males and females that look distinctly different.
Source: San Diego Zoo Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

African Lion - Panthera leo
The male African lion has a thick mane.
Source: Arkive Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

African Lion - Panthera leo
The African lion is the only truly social cat species. They live in prides of 5-37 individuals.
Source: Phoenix Zoo Intended Audience: Students Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

African Lion - Panthera leo
Lions may rest or sleep about 20 hours each day to conserve their energy.
Source: Los Angeles Zoo Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

African Lion - Panthera leo
African lions live in most of Sub-Saharan Africa.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Andean Cat - Leopardus jacobita
The Andean mountain cat is considered to be one of the most endangered wild cats in the world.
Source: Arkive Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Andean Cat - Leopardus jacobita
Andean cats are found in the Andean mountain region of southern Peru and Bolivia to northern Chile and northwestern Argentina.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Asiatic Golden Cat - Pardofelis temminckii
The Asian golden cat is found throughout southeast Asia
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Black-footed Cat - Felis nigripes
The black-footed cat is the smallest wild cat in Africa.
Source: Arkive Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Black-footed Cat - Felis nigripes
The black-footed cat is found in the dry steppe and savannah regions of South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Bobcat - Lynx rufus
The bobcat has a 2-8 inch long tail.
Source: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Intended Audience: Students Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Bobcat - Lynx rufus
Rabbits and hares make of a large part of the bobcat's diet.
Source: The Living Desert Intended Audience: Students Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Bobcat - Lynx rufus
Bobcats were once found throughout most of North America from northern Mexico to southern Canada.
Source: Defenders of Wildlife Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: No

Bobcat - Lynx rufus
Bobcats are solitary animals.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Borneo Bay Cat - Pardofelis badia
The bay cat is found island of Borneo.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Canada Lynx - Lynx canadensis
About 75% of the lynx's diet is made up of the snowshoe hare.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Caracal - Caracal caracal
Caracals can jump up to 10 feet in the air to catch flying birds.
Source: San Diego Zoo Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Caracal - Caracal caracal
Carcals have long, black-tufted ears.
Source: Arkive Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Caracal - Caracal caracal
Caracals hunt small birds, rodents and other small mammals.
Source: The Living Desert Intended Audience: Students Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Caracal - Caracal caracal
The caracal is found over much of Africa, Central Asia and southwestern Asia.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Cheetah - Acinonyx jubatus
Cheetahs don&rsquot need to drink water. They get the moisture they need from the bodies of their prey
Source: San Diego Zoo Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Cheetah - Acinonyx jubatus
The cheetah is the fastest land mammal in the world.
Source: Arkive Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Cheetah - Acinonyx jubatus
Cheetah hide in the tall grasses when hunting.
Source: Defenders of Wildlife Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: No

Cheetah - Acinonyx jubatus
Unlike most other cats, the cheetah usually hunts during daylight, preferring early morning or early evening.
Source: African Wildlife Foundation Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: No

Cheetah - Acinonyx jubatus
The cheetah is solitary, except when raising cubs.
Source: Phoenix Zoo Intended Audience: Students Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Cheetah - Acinonyx jubatus
Cheetahs hunt medium-sized animals like gazelles and impala, and a variety of small mammals.
Source: The Living Desert Intended Audience: Students Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Cheetah - Acinonyx jubatus
The cheetah is found in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Clouded Leopard - Neofelis nebulosa
In Malaysia, this arboreal cat is known as the &ldquotree tiger.&rdquo In China it is called the "mint leopard" because its spots look like mint leaves.
Source: San Diego Zoo Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Clouded Leopard - Neofelis nebulosa
The clouded leopard is named after the 'clouds' on its coat - ellipses partially edged in black, with the insides a darker color than the background color of its coat.
Source: Arkive Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Clouded Leopard - Neofelis nebulosa
Clouded leopards are found south of the Himalayas in Nepal, Bhutan. They are also found in northeastern India, Myanmar, southern China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and mainland Malaysia.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Clouded Leopard - Neofelis nebulosa
The clouded leopard is found from Nepal, Bangladesh and eastern India through Indochina to Sumatra and Borneo and northeastward to southern China.
Source: Nashville Zoo Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Eurasian Lynx - Lynx lynx
Eurasian lynx are found throughout Europe and Siberia.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Eurasian Lynx - Lynx lynx
The Eurasian lynx is native to Central Asian, European, and Siberian forests.
Source: Nashville Zoo Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Fishing Cat - Prionailurus viverrinus
The fishing cat like water and likes to fish!
Source: Arkive Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Fishing Cat - Prionailurus viverrinus
Fishing cats are found in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand, Java, and Pakistan.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Flat-headed Cat - Prionailurus planiceps
The flat-headed cat has a flattened head and small, rounded ears.
Source: Arkive Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Flat-headed Cat - Prionailurus planiceps
The historical range of the flat-headed cat is restricted to the islands of Borneo and Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Geoffroy's Cat - Leopardus geoffroyi
Geoffroy's cat is found throughout most of the southern half of South America.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Guigna - Leopardus guigna
The guigna is the size of a tiny house cat.
Source: Arkive Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Guigna - Leopardus guigna
The guigna is also known as the kodkod. It is found in central and southern Chile and Argentina.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Iberian Lynx - Lynx pardinus
The Iberian lynx is also known as the Spanish lynx.
Source: Arkive Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Iberian Lynx - Lynx pardinus
The Spanish lynx is found in the Iberian Peninsula in Spain.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Jaguar - Panthera onca
Jaguars are completely at home in the water, and are seldom far from a river or lake.
Source: San Diego Zoo Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Jaguar - Panthera onca
The jaguar's name comes from the native Indian name &lsquoyaguara', meaning &lsquoa beast that kills its prey with one bound.
Source: Arkive Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Jaguar - Panthera onca
Jaguars are found from southern Arizona and New Mexico south toward northern Argentina and northeastern Brazil.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Jaguar - Panthera onca
The jaguar&rsquos strong legs make its a great climber and swimmer.
Source: Los Angeles Zoo Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Jaguarundi - Puma yagouaroundi
The jaguarundi is long and slender, with short legs, a small, flattened head, short, rounded ears, and a long tail.
Source: Arkive Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Jaguarundi - Puma yagouaroundi
The rusty-spotted cat is only found in the southern parts of India, Gujarat, Jammu, and Kashmir, and in Sri Lanka.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Jungle Cat - Felis chaus
The jungle cat is found in Asia and North Africa.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Leopard - Panthera pardus
Leopards are the largest cats to climb trees on a regular basis.
Source: San Diego Zoo Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Leopard - Panthera pardus
Leopards are found in Africa and some parts of Asia.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Amur Leopard - Panthera pardus orientalis
The Amur leopard is considered to be one of the most critically endangered big cats in the world, with just 35 remaining in the wild, all in the Russian Far East.
Source: Arkive Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Leopard Cat - Prionailurus bengalensis
The leopard cat is found from Java and Bali, north to southeastern Siberia and Manchuria, as far east as India, and westward to Korea and the Philippines.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Marbled Cat - Pardofelis marmorata
This small spotted cat has an extremely long tail.
Source: Arkive Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Marbled Cat - Pardofelis marmorata
Marbled cats are found in Nepal and Sikkim through northern Myanmar to Thailand, Indochina, Malaya, Sumatra, and Borneo.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Margay - Leopardus wiedii
Margays are found in forested regions from Northern Mexico to Uruguay and northern Argentina.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Mountain Lion - Puma concolor
Mountain lions can jump 18 feet from the ground into a tree!
Source: San Diego Zoo Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Mountain Lion - Puma concolor
The mountain lion is also known as the puma or the cougar.
Source: Arkive Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Mountain Lion - Puma concolor
Mountain lions are solitary, except during mating season.
Source: Phoenix Zoo Intended Audience: Students Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Mountain Lion - Puma concolor
With a running start, the mountain lion can leap 45 feet.
Source: The Living Desert Intended Audience: Students Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Mountain Lion - Puma concolor
Mountain lions are very territorial.
Source: Aquarium of the Pacific Intended Audience: Students Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Mountain Lion - Puma concolor
Historically, mountain lions had the most extensive distribution of all American terrestrial mammals. They ranged from coast to coast in North America, and from southern Argentina and Chile to southeastern Alaska.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Ocelot - Leopardus pardalis
Ocelots pluck off all the feathers and fur from animals that they catch before they eat them!
Source: San Diego Zoo Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Ocelot - Leopardus pardalis
The ocelot's spots help camouflage it.
Source: Arkive Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Ocelot - Leopardus pardalis
Ocelots are solitary, but a male and female pair may share the same territory.
Source: Phoenix Zoo Intended Audience: Students Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Ocelot - Leopardus pardalis
Ocelots hunt at night.
Source: The Living Desert Intended Audience: Students Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Ocelot - Leopardus pardalis
Ocelots are powerful climbers, and their webbed forepaws make them good swimmers.
Source: Los Angeles Zoo Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Ocelot - Leopardus pardalis
The ocelot is found from Southwestern Texas to northern Argentina.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Oncilla - Leopardus tigrinus
The little spotted cat have been reported as far north as Costa Rica and Panama south to southeastern Brazil and northern Argentina.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Pallas' Cat - Otocolobus manul
Pallas' cat is about the size of a domestic cat.
Source: Arkive Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Pallas' Cat - Otocolobus manul
The Pallas' cat is found throughout Central Asia, from western Iran to western China.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Pampas Cat - Leopardus colocolo
The colocolo is also known as the Coloco.
Source: Arkive Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Pampas Cat - Leopardus colocolo
Colocolo are found in the forested slopes of the Andes in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia the cloud forests of Chile the Paraguayan chaco open woodland areas of central, western, northeastern, and southern Brazil and the the pampas of Argentina and Uruguay, and southern Patagonia.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Rusty-spotted Cat - Prionailurus rubiginosus
The rusty-spotted cat is one of the smallest cat species in the world.
Source: Arkive Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Rusty-spotted Cat - Prionailurus rubiginosus
The rusty-spotted cat is only found in the southern parts of India, Gujarat, Jammu, and Kashmir, and in Sri Lanka.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Sand Cat - Felis margarita
The sand cat is well adapted to its arid desert habitat. It gets all the water it needs from its food.
Source: Arkive Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Sand Cat - Felis margarita
The sand cat is found in three distinct areas of the world: Sahara Desert of Africa in the countries of Algeria, Niger and Morocco throughout the Arabian Peninsula and in parts of Central Asia including Turkmenistan, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Sand Cat - Felis margarita
The sand cat eats small mammals, birds, insects and reptiles.
Source: The Living Desert Intended Audience: Students Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Serval - Leptailurus serval
The serval has the longest legs and largest ears for its body size of any cat.
Source: San Diego Zoo Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Serval - Leptailurus serval
The serval has a long, narrow head with very large ears.
Source: Arkive Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Serval - Leptailurus serval
Servals are found throughout the savannas of Africa.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Serval - Leptailurus serval
The serval primarily eats small rodents and ground birds.
Source: The Living Desert Intended Audience: Students Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Snow Leopard - Panthera uncia
Snow leopards have been seen at altitudes as high as 18,000 feet.
Source: San Diego Zoo Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Snow Leopard - Panthera uncia
Snow leopards inhabit the mountain ranges of Central Asia stretching from northwestern China to Tibet and the Himalayas.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Tiger - Panthera tigris
Each tiger has its very own stripe pattern!
Source: San Diego Zoo Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Tiger - Panthera tigris
The tiger is easily recognized by its orange coat and broad black stripes.
Source: Arkive Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Tiger - Panthera tigris
Tigers are found in China, Korea, Russia, and parts of India and the Himalayan region.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Sumatran Tiger - Panthera tigris sumatrae
Sumatran tigers are solitary, except during mating season and when raising young.
Source: Phoenix Zoo Intended Audience: Students Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Sumatran Tiger - Panthera tigris sumatrae
Sumatran tigers may travel more than 20 miles to find suitable prey.
Source: Los Angeles Zoo Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Elementary/Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Wild Cat - Felis silvestris
Wild cats are found throughout continental Europe, southwestern Asia, and the savannah regions of Africa.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle /High School Teacher Section: Yes

Wild Cat - Felis silvestris
Wild cats are larger than domestic cats.
Source: Arkive Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes


Why Cats Have Vertical Pupils

Have you ever wondered why your cat's eyes have those creepy vertical slits for pupils? A new study suggests the reason may lie in cats' preferred mode of hunting.

Vertical-slit pupils are most common among nocturnal predators that ambush their prey, according to the new research, published today (Aug. 7) in the journal Science Advances. Most likely, this pupil shape provides the sharpest way to gauge distance for a prey-snatching leap, the study found.

The new research doesn't only demystify the housecat, however it also reveals that the bizarre horizontal, rectangular pupils sported by goats and sheep likely help these prey animals scan the horizon for predators &mdash and watch the terrain when sprinting from danger. Moreover, circular pupils tend to be found on tall, active predators that are awake during the day. (Sound familiar, humans?) [Video: Why Goats Have Rectangle Eyes]

The observation that predators tend to have vertical pupils and prey horizontal ones dates back to the 1940s, but no one had ever quantified that difference, said Martin Banks, a vision researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. To find out if there was truth behind the casual observations, Banks and his team assembled a database of 214 land-based species. Then, they analyzed the pupil shape of each species in relation to the animal's foraging habits and day or nighttime activity. (The team left out birds and fish in order to limit the complications of varying visual environments.)

Ambush predators, like many cats and snakes, were most likely to sport vertical-slit pupils, particularly when those animals were active at night. The reason for this correlation most likely has to do with the mechanics of the eye, Banks told Live Science. Ambush hunters need to be very good at gauging depth so they can effectively leap out at their prey.

There are two ways to gauge depth without moving. In one method, stereopsis, the brain compares the distance between the two images returned by each eye to gauge depth. (Hold out your finger, focus on it and close each eye in succession. That "jump" you see is the distance used in stereopsis.) [Images: See the World From a Cat's Eye]

The other method, blur, takes advantage of the fuzziness of objects behind and in front of the spot on which you're focusing.

As it turns out, the side-to-side displacement used in stereopsis is easier to gauge using vertical lines and contours than it is with horizontal ones. Thus, Banks said, the vertical pupil provides the best view for stereopsis.

To judge horizontal distances, though, cats and other slit-pupil predators likely use blur, Banks said. To maximize blur, the pupil must open wide. And to maximize blur for horizontal lines, the pupil must open wide from top to bottom. In other words, the ideal shape is narrow horizontally and wide vertically &mdash precisely the arrangement of a cat's eye.

"This is the right arrangement to maximize stereo and blur as cues to distance simultaneously," Banks said.

Pupils for prey

On the other side of the spectrum are the weird rectangular pupils of goats, sheep, horses and some toads. Banks and his colleagues found that, of 42 herbivorous prey animals in their database, 36 had horizontal pupils. To find out why, they created a computer model of a sheep's eye and measured its optics. [Vision Quiz: What Can Animals See?]

The results revealed that a horizontal pupil minimizes input from above and below, and maximizes input from the front and back of an animal, creating a panoramic view. Plus, most of these prey animals have eyes on the sides of their heads, further improving that view.

"It allows them to see better in front and behind, and maybe not to be dazzled by sunlight from above," Banks said.

Even more interesting, Banks said, was the discovery that these pupils also minimize the blur of horizontal contours, creating a sharper image of the ground and upcoming terrain. That's pretty important for an animal that might need to drop everything and run if a mountain lion pounces &mdash especially an animal with its eyes on the side of its head, Banks said.

"Imagine your eyes were looking 70 degrees [off] from where you're running," he said. "You'd be terrible at it."

Partway through developing this theory, Banks and his colleagues realized they might have a problem, he said. A goat's horizontal eyes would have to stay in line with the horizon for the animal to benefit from this additional clarity. If the animal's pupils didn't line up when it was grazing, head down, "there goes our idea," Banks said.

He "dashed off" to a local zoo while one of his colleagues headed to a farm near his home in England, each with a video camera in hand. What they saw put their theory back in the game: Goats, sheep and horses all rotate their eyes &mdash one clockwise and one counterclockwise &mdash to keep their pupils in line with the horizon when grazing.

Banks could find no reference to this talent in the scientific literature but said he and his team "kind of doubt" they discovered it. "I can't imagine that this missed everyone's attention for the last couple hundred years," he said.

Eye evolution

If vertical pupils are for hunting and horizontal pupils are for fleeing, where does that leave round pupils like the ones humans have? Those results, Banks said, are a bit less clear. Animals with round pupils tend to be active predators or foragers that are awake both day and night. But the correlation between pupil shape and these traits was not as strong as it was for vertical and horizontal pupils.

Finally, the researchers created some family trees of cats and canids (a group that includes dogs and foxes), to find out whether pupil shape evolved only once in these families or whether it pops up independently on multiple occasions. They found that strange pupil shapes have evolved many times.

"It's just kind of come and gone depending on their niche," Banks said. "We think that whatever pressure there was to evolve a certain pupil shape happened multiple times, not just once."

Distance judgments aren't the only reason animals might evolve a certain pupil shape, Banks added. Other factors, such as color vision and pattern recognition, probably play a role.

The researchers now want to study the interaction between the retina and the pupil, particularly in horizontal eyes. Many animals with horizontal pupils have a "smear" retina, Banks said, with higher densities of light receptors in a horizontal streak across the retina. (Humans, by contrast, have a circular area called the fovea that is particularly dense.)

The team also wants to look at even odder eyes. Some lizards, for example, have pupils that narrow into three or four vertically stacked pinholes. Cephalopods like cuttlefish have truly bizarre, "W"-shaped pupils. And some skates and rays have pupils shaped like crescent moons.


Secrets of a Lion’s Roar

Not all cats roar (which is probably a good thing for those of us who own housecats), but those that do fascinate us with their mysterious and frightening sounds. Research published this week in PLoS ONE gives us new insight into the inner workings of the roars of lions and tigers—the secret is in the cats’ vocal folds.

A group of biologists and speech scientists studied how lions and tigers roar by examining and testing tissue from the larynges of three lions and three tigers from the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha that had been euthanized because they were old and sick. The researchers were particularly interested in the vocal fold tissues, soft connective tissues made of collagen, elastin, a lubricant and fat.

Vocal folds are just another name for vocal cords, and they are a bit different in lions and tigers than in other species. In most species, the vocal folds are shaped like triangles where they protrude into the animal’s airway. But in lions and tigers, the protrusions are flat and shaped like a square, courtesy of the fat deep within the vocal fold ligament. This shape allows the tissue to respond more easily to passing air, letting the kitties roar louder with less lung pressure. A lion or tiger can roar as loud as 114 decibels, about 25 times louder than a gas-powered lawn mower.

The cats are also aided by the strength of their vocal folds, which can withstand stretching and shearing as air moves past them and the folds vibrate. The size of the animal or the vocal fold, or the frequency of the sound, didn’t matter. Elk have vocal folds about the same size, but they make high-pitched sounds. And humans speak in a range of sound frequencies similar to those of lions’ and tigers’ roars, but obviously our voices are much softer.

This study “is confirmation that the frequencies of phonation are described by mechanical properties of the vocal folds and not by nerve impulses from the brain,” says study senior author Ingo Titze, executive director of the National Center for Speech and Voice.

But Titze also says that there are some similarities between a lion’s roar and a baby’s cry. Both have “very loose and gel-like” vocal folds that make irregular vibrations that create rough sounds (low-frequency in the cats, high-pitched in the babies) and draw our attention.


Cat or Lion: Differences Between Wild and Domestic Cats

Although we have been sharing our lives with cats for thousands of years, which may have originated with their rodent control abilities, our modern day house cats are still considered to be semi-domesticated. This characteristic is quite different from dogs, which are considered fully domesticated and probably have been since caveman times.

While we know that the kitty curled up in front of your fireplace is obviously different from a lion stalking the Serengeti, the similarities between the two may actually surprise you.

First, How Wild and Domestic Cats Differ

According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2014, many of the differences between wild and domestic cats are in the genes that govern their personality traits, such as aggression. Wild cats are much more aggressive by nature, whereas, house cats are more likely to form memories and learn through reward based stimuli, as well as tolerate and even enjoy human interaction and contact, and living with the family dog.

Other differences include:

  • Brain size – Although nearly identical in structure, wildcats have slightly larger brains (for their size) than domestic cats.
  • Pupil shape – Unlike the vertical, slit pupils of our domesticated felines, large cats have round pupils. According to a study published in the journal Science Advances, this difference is related to lifestyle.
  • The purr – Domesticated cats purr but don’t roar, whereas, lions roar but don’t purr due the anatomical differences in throat anatomy between the two.

Similarities Between Wild and Domestic Cats

Differences aside, genome sequencing reveals that tigers and housecats share around 95 percent of the same DNA. Tigers are closely related to other big cats, so it goes without saying that there are plenty of ways in which the housecat is similar to its wild cousins.

Some of the shared attributes include:

  • Sleep –Both wild and domestic cats spend between 16 to 20 hours a day sleeping.
  • Smell – Wild and domesticated cats have great senses of smell and both will use their open mouths to smell better.
  • Food – Both wild and domestic cats are obligatory carnivores, which means they rely, primarily, on a meat diet, being much better able to digest meat proteins over plant material.
  • Self-grooming – Wild and domesticated cats both groom themselves a lot, anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of their waking hours.
  • Stalking – All cats, big and small, will stalk their prey and generally confine their hunting to dusk, nighttime, and dawn.
  • Playing – Cats of all shapes and sizes enjoy a good session of laser pointer chase, unraveling a role of string or toilet paper, and even playing in boxes.
  • Catnip – Although mostly due to the genetics of certain family lines, half of both wild and domesticated cat populations will react strongly to and enjoy catnip.
  • Territory marking – All types of cats use similar methods to mark their respective territories, including, spraying, face rubbing to distribute their scent via the glands on their faces, to scratching — a tree trunk if you’re a lion, the couch if you’re a cat.
  • Vocalizing – Much like the meowing and chirping you hear from your cat, big cats have their own ways of “talking” to one another that can sound similar.
  • Food Games – Domesticated cats often play with their food or hide it (after catching a mouse). Wild cats will often hide their kill by moving it somewhere else or burying it, in order to save it for a later meal.
  • Kneading – No one knows for certain why cats knead, perhaps, it’s a carry-over from nursing and a show of contentment, but we do know that wild felines also engage in this endearing behavior.

Your team at Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center is committed to helping you provide the best possible life for your cat. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with your questions or concerns.


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