Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Cat That Time Forgot

The Pallas's Cat, also called a Manul, is a small wild cat named after German naturalist Peter Simon Pallas, who first described the species in 1776 In 2002, the IUCN classified Pallas's cat as near threatened because of the broad but patchy distribution in the grasslands and montane steppe of Central Asia. The species is negatively affected by habitat degradation, prey base decline, and hunting.

 Pallas's cat is about the size of a domestic cat, with a 46 to 65 centimetres (18 to 26 in) long body and a 21 to 31 centimetres (8.3 to 12 in) long tail. It weighs 2.5 to 4.5 kilograms (5.5 to 9.9 lb). The combination of its stocky posture and long, dense fur makes it appear stout and plushy. Its fur is ochre with dark vertical bars on the torso and forelegs. The winter coat is greyer and less patterned than the summer coat. There are clear black rings on the tail and dark spots on the forehead. The cheeks are white with narrow black stripes running from the corners of the eyes. The chin and throat are also white, merging into the greyish silky fur of the underparts. Concentric white and black rims around the eyes accentuate their rounded shape. The legs are proportionately shorter than those of other cats, the ears are set very low and wide apart, and it has unusually short claws. The face is shortened compared with other cats, giving it a flattened face. The shorter jaw has fewer teeth than is usual among felids, with the first pair of upper premolars being absent.

Pallas's cats are solitary. Both males and femalesscent mark their territory. They spend the day in caves, rock crevices, or marmot burrows, and emerge in the late afternoon to begin hunting. They are not fast runners, and hunt primarily by ambush or stalking, using low vegetation and rocky terrain for cover. They feed largely ondiurnally active prey species such as gerbilspikasvoles and Chukar partridges, and sometimes catch young marmots.

Captive-breeding of Pallas's cat is difficult. Although it breeds well, survival rates are low owing to infection. This has been attributed to an under-developed immune system, as its natural habitat is isolated and it would not normally be exposed to infection.  A female was artificially inseminated for the time at Cincinnati Zoo and gave birth to three kitten in June 2011.

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