Black-footed cat

The black-footed cat (Felis nigripes), also called small-spotted cat, is the smallest African cat and endemic to the southwestern arid zone of Southern Africa. It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 2002, as the population is suspected to be declining due to bushmeat poaching of prey species, persecution, traffic accidents and predation by domestic animals.[1][2]

Black-footed cat
Zoo Wuppertal Schwarzfusskatze
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Felinae
Genus: Felis
Species:
F. nigripes
Binomial name
Felis nigripes
Burchell, 1824
Black-footedCat distribution
Distribution of the black-footed cat in Southern Africa

Taxonomy

Felis nigripes was the scientific name proposed by William John Burchell in 1824 who described cat skins used by ethnic people for making cloaks.[3] Felis (Microfelis) nigripes thomasi was proposed as a subspecies by Guy Chester Shortridge in 1824 who described skins collected in Griqualand West as being darker.[4] The existence of subspecies was questioned, as no geographical or ecological barriers between populations exist.[5]

Today, the black-footed cat is considered a monotypic species.[6]

The following cladogram shows the phylogenetic relationships of black-footed cat and other species within the Felis lineage. [7]

Felis

Jungle cat (F. chaus)

Black-footed cat (F. nigripes)

European wildcat (F. silvestris silvestris)

Sand cat (F. margarita)

African wildcat (F. silvestris lybica)

Domestic cat (F. catus)

Characteristics

Felis nigripes 9
Close-up of a black-footed cat at the Wuppertal Zoo

The black-footed cat is the smallest wild cat in Africa and rivals the rusty-spotted cat as the world's smallest wild cat. Males reach a head-to-body length of 36.7 to 43.3 cm (14.4 to 17.0 in) with tails 16.4 to 19.8 cm (6.5 to 7.8 in) long. Females are smaller with a maximum head-to-body-length of 36.9 cm (14.5 in) and tails 12.6 to 17.0 cm (5.0 to 6.7 in) long.[8] Adult resident males weigh on average 1.9 kg (4.2 lb) and a maximum of 2.45 kg (5.4 lb). Adult resident females weigh on average 1.3 kg (2.9 lb) and a maximum of 1.65 kg (3.6 lb).[2] The shoulder height is about 25 cm (9.8 in).[9]

Despite its name, only the pads and underparts of the cat's feet are black. The cat has a stocky build with rounded ears, large eyes, and short black-tipped tail. The fur varies in color from cinnamon-buff to tawny, and is patterned with black or brown spots that merge to form rings on the legs, neck, and tail. These patterns provide the animals with camouflage; the backs of their ears, however, are the same color as the background color of their fur. They have six mammae, and unlike other spotted cats, non-pigmented skin.[10]

Distribution and habitat

The black-footed cat is endemic to southern Africa, and primarily found in South Africa, Namibia, marginally into Zimbabwe, and likely in extreme southern Angola. Only historical but no recent records exist in Botswana. It lives in dry, open savanna, grassland and Karoo semidesert with shrub and tree cover at altitudes up to 2,000 m (6,600 ft), but not in the driest and sandiest parts of the Namib and Kalahari Deserts.[1] During the night, they need sparse shrub and tree covers to hunt but spend the daytime in burrows or empty termite mounds.[10][11]

Ecology and behavior

Blackfooted2
Adult black-footed cat resting
Suspicious Black-Footed Cat
Black-footed cat under cover

Black-footed cats are solitary and strictly nocturnal animals, thus rarely seen. They spend the day resting in dense cover in unoccupied burrows of springhares, porcupines, and aardvarks, or in hollow termite mounds. They emerge to hunt after sunset.[5]

They are typically found in dry, open habitat with some degree of vegetation cover. Apparently they get all the moisture they need from their prey, but will drink water when available.[8]

Unlike most other cats, black-footed cats are poor climbers, and will generally ignore tree branches. Their stocky bodies and short tails are not conducive to tree-climbing.[12] They dig vigorously in the sand to extend or modify burrows for shelter.[10]

Black-footed cats are highly unsociable animals that seek refuge at the slightest disturbance. When cornered, they are known to defend themselves fiercely. Due to this habit and their courage, they are called miershooptier (anthill tiger in Afrikaans) in parts of the South African Karoo. They rarely use termite mounds for cover or for bearing their young. A San legend claims that a black-footed cat can kill a giraffe by piercing its jugular. This exaggeration is intended to emphasize the bravery and tenacity of the animal.[13] The only times their solitary behavior changes is during breeding season, and among females with dependent kittens.[2][10]

A female roams in an average home range of 10 km2 (3.9 sq mi) in a year, and a resident male of 22 km2 (8.5 sq mi). The range of an adult male overlaps the ranges of one to four females.[2] On average, an adult animal travels 8 km (5.0 mi) per night in search of prey. The cats use scent marking throughout their ranges, with males spraying urine up to twelve times an hour. Other forms of scent marking include rubbing objects, raking with claws, and depositing faeces in visible locations. Their calls are louder than those of other cats of their size, presumably to allow them to call over relatively large distances. When close to each other, however, they use quieter purrs or gurgles, or hiss and growl if threatened.[10]

Diet and hunting

Wuppertal - Zoo - Felis nigripes 01 ies
Captive black-footed cat with a mouse

Due to their small size, black-footed cats hunt mainly small prey species, such as rodents and small birds, but may also take the white-quilled bustard and the Cape hare, the latter being heavier than itself. Insects and spiders provide less than 1% of the prey mass consumed.[14][15] They are known occasionally to scavenge the lambs of springboks. They are unusually active hunters, killing up to fourteen small animals in a night. Their energy requirements are very high, with about 250 g (9 oz) of prey per night consumed, which is about a sixth of its average body weight.[10]

Black-footed cats hunt mainly by stalking, rather than ambush, using the cover of darkness and all available traces of cover to approach their prey before the final pounce. They have been observed to hunt by moving swiftly to flush prey from cover, but also to stalk slowly through tufts of vegetation. Less commonly, they wait outside rodent burrows, often with their eyes closed, but remaining alert for the slightest sound.[5] In common with the big cats, but unlike most other small species, black-footed cats have been observed to hide some of their captured prey for later feeding, rather than consuming it immediately.[14][10]

Reproduction and lifecycle

Black-footed cats have lived for ten years in captivity. Females reach sexual maturity after eight to twelve months. They come into estrus for only one or two days at a time, and are receptive to mating for a few hours, requiring males to locate them quickly. Copulation occurs frequently during this period. Gestation lasts from 63 to 68 days. A litter consists usually of two kittens, but may vary from one to four young. Kittens weigh 60 to 84 g (2.1 to 3.0 oz) at birth. They are born blind and relatively helpless, although they are able to crawl about after just a few hours. They are able to walk within two weeks, begin taking solid food after about a month, and are fully weaned by two months of age.[16]

Females may have up to two litters during the course of spring, summer, and autumn. They rear their kittens in a burrow, moving them to new locations regularly after the first week. In general, kittens develop more rapidly than other similarly sized cats, quickly adapting to a relatively hostile environment. They become independent by five months of age, but may remain within their mother's range.[10]

Threats

Known threats include methods of indiscriminate predator control, such as bait poisoning and steel-jaw traps, habitat deterioration from overgrazing, intraguild predation, diseases, declining springhare populations and unsuitable farming practices. Distribution data indicate that the majority of protected areas may be too small to conserve adequately viable sub-populations.[1]

Conservation

Felis nigripes is included on CITES Appendix I and protected by national legislation across most of its range. Hunting is banned in Botswana and South Africa.[1]

Field research

The Black-footed Cat Working Group carries out a research project at Benfontein Nature Reserve and Nuwejaarsfontein Farm near Kimberley, Northern Cape, where seven black-footed cats have been radio-collared. This project is part of a multidisciplinary effort to study the distribution, ecology, health, and reproduction of black-footed cats over an extended period.[17] In November 2012, this project was extended to Biesiesfontein Farm located in the Victoria West area.[18] Camera traps are used in the research to collect behavioural data without disturbing them. In particular the cats' interaction with aardwolves is observed.[19]

In captivity

Wuppertal Zoo acquired black-footed cats as long ago as 1957, and succeeded in breeding them in 1963. In 1993, the European Endangered Species Programme was formed to coordinate which animals are best suited for pairing to maintain genetic diversity and to avoid inbreeding. The International Studbook for the black-footed cat is kept in the Wuppertal Zoo in Germany.[20] As of July 2011, detailed records exist for a total of 726 captive cats since 1964; worldwide, 74 individuals were kept in 23 institutions in Germany, United Arab Emirates, USA, UK, and South Africa.[21]

A range of zoos have reported breeding successes, including the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo,[22] Fresno Chaffee Zoo,[23] the Brookfield Zoo[24] and Philadelphia Zoo.[25]

The Audubon Nature Institute' Center for Research of Endangered Species is working on advanced genetics involving cats.[26] In February 2011, a female kept there gave birth to two male kittens – the first black-footed cats to be born as a result of in vitro fertilization using frozen and thawed sperm and frozen and thawed embryos. In 2003, the sperm was collected from a male and then frozen. It was later combined with an egg from a female, creating embryos in March 2005. Those embryos were frozen for almost six years before being thawed and transferred to a surrogate female in December 2010, which carried the embryos to term, resulting in the birth of the two kittens.[27] The same center reported that on 6 February 2012, a female black-footed cat kitten, Crystal, was born to a domestic cat surrogate after interspecies embryo transfer.[28]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e Sliwa, A.; Wilson, B.; Küsters, M. & Tordiffe, A. (2016). "Felis nigripes". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2018-1. IUCN: e.T8542A50652196. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T8542A50652196.en.
  2. ^ a b c d Sliwa, A. (2004). "Home range size and social organization of black-footed cats (Felis nigripes)". Mammalian Biology. 69 (2): 96–107.
  3. ^ Burchell, W. J. (1824). "Felis nigripes". Travels in the Interior of Southern Africa, Vol. II. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green. p. 592.
  4. ^ Shortridge, G. C. (1931). "Felis (Microfelis) nigripes thomasi subsp. nov". Records of the Albany Museum. 4 (1): 119–120.
  5. ^ a b c Olbricht, G.; Sliwa, A. (1997). "In situ and ex situ observations and management of black-footed cats Felis nigripes". International Zoo Yearbook (35): 81–89.
  6. ^ Kitchener, A. C.; Breitenmoser-Würsten, C.; Eizirik, E.; Gentry, A.; Werdelin, L.; Wilting, A.; Yamaguchi, N.; Abramov, A. V.; Christiansen, P.; Driscoll, C.; Duckworth, J. W.; Johnson, W.; Luo, S.-J.; Meijaard, E.; O’Donoghue, P.; Sanderson, J.; Seymour, K.; Bruford, M.; Groves, C.; Hoffmann, M.; Nowell, K.; Timmons, Z.; Tobe, S. (2017). "A revised taxonomy of the Felidae: The final report of the Cat Classification Task Force of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group" (PDF). Cat News. Special Issue 11: 13.
  7. ^ Mattern, M. Y.; McLennan, D. A. (2000). "Phylogeny and speciation of felids". Cladistics. 16 (2): 232–253. doi:10.1111/j.1096-0031.2000.tb00354.x.
  8. ^ a b Smithers, R.H.N. (1983). The mammals of the southern African subregion. Pretoria: University of Pretoria.
  9. ^ Stuart, C. T., Wilson, V. J. (1988). The cats of southern Africa. Chipangali Wildlife Trust, Bulawayo.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h Sunquist, M.; Sunquist, F. (2002). "Black-footed cat Felis nigripes (Burchell, 1824)". Wild cats of the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 76–82. ISBN 0-226-77999-8.
  11. ^ Nowell, K. and Jackson, P. (1996) Wild Cats Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
  12. ^ Armstrong, J. (1977). "The development and hand-rearing of black-footed cats". In Eaton, R. L. The World's cats; the proceedings of an International Symposium. Volume 3 (3). Oregon: Winston Wildlife Safari. pp. 71–80.
  13. ^ Sliwa, A. (2006). Atomic Kitten BBC Wildlife (November 2006): 36–40
  14. ^ a b Sliwa, A. (1994). "Black-footed cat studies in South Africa". Cat News. 20: 15–19.
  15. ^ Sliwa, A. (2006). "Seasonal and sex-specific prey composition of black-footed cats Felis nigripes". Acta Theriologica. 51 (2): 195–204. doi:10.1007/BF03192671.
  16. ^ Leyhausen, P.; Tonkin, B. (1966). "Breeding the black-footed cat (Felis nigripes) in captivity". International Zoo Yearbook (6): 178–182.
  17. ^ Sliwa, A., Wilson, B., Lawrenz, A. (2010). Report on surveying and catching Black-footed cats (Felis nigripes) on Nuwejaarsfontein Farm / Benfontein Nature Reserve 4–20 July 2010. Black-footed Working Group, July 2010
  18. ^ Sliwa, A.; Wilson, B.; Lamberski, N.; Lawrenz, A. (2013). Report on surveying, catching and monitoring Black-footed cats (Felis nigripes) on Benfontein Nature Reserve, Nuwejaarsfontein Farm, and Biesiesfontein in 2012 (PDF). Black-footed Cat Working Group.
  19. ^ Sliwa, Alexander; Wilson, Beryl; Lawrenz, Arne; Lamberski, Nadine; Herrick, Jason; Küsters, Martina (December 2018). "Camera trap use in the study of black-footed cats ( )". African Journal of Ecology. 56 (4): 895–897. doi:10.1111/aje.12564.
  20. ^ Olbricht, G., Schürer, U. (1994). International Studbook for the Black-footed Cat 1994. Zoologischer Garten der Stadt Wuppertal
  21. ^ Stadler, A. (2011). International studbook for the black-footed cat (Felis nigripes) Volume 15. Zoologischer Garten der Stadt Wuppertal, Wuppertal
  22. ^ Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. (2012). Animal News Archived 20 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine Press Release 26 April 2011
  23. ^ Condoian, L. (2011). General Meeting of the Board of Directors Archived 14 November 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Fresno Chaffee Zoo Corporation, 9 June 2011.
  24. ^ Chicago Zoological Society. (2012). Black-footed cats born – a first at Brookfield Zoo Archived 31 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine Press Release 27 March 2012
  25. ^ Rearick, Kristie (8 June 2014). "Philadelphia Zoo visitors 'paws' to gush over Black-footed Cat kittens". South Jersey Times. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  26. ^ Jeffries, A. (2013). "Where Cats glow green: weird feline science in New Orleans". The Verge, 6 November
  27. ^ Burnette, S. (2011). Rare cats born through amazing science at Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species. Audubon Nature Institute, Press release of 10 March 2011.
  28. ^ Waller, M. (2012). – Audubon center in Algiers logs another breakthrough in genetic engineering of endangered cats New Orleans Net LLC, 13 March 2012

External links

Asiatic linsang

The Asiatic linsang (Prionodon) is a genus comprising two species native to Southeast Asia: the banded linsang (Prionodon linsang) and the spotted linsang (Prionodon pardicolor). Prionodon is considered a sister taxon of the Felidae.

Egyptian weasel

The Egyptian weasel (Mustela subpalmata) is a species of weasel that lives in northern Egypt. It is rated "Least Concern" by the IUCN Red List.

Felidae

Felidae is a family of mammals in the order Carnivora, colloquially referred to as cats. A member of this family is also called a felid. The term "cat" refers both to felids in general and specifically to the domestic cat (Felis catus).Reginald Innes Pocock divided the extant Felidae into three subfamilies: the Pantherinae, the Felinae and the Acinonychinae, differing from each other by the ossification of the hyoid apparatus and by the cutaneous sheaths which protect their claws.

This concept has been revised following developments in molecular biology and techniques for analysis of morphological data. Today, the living Felidae are divided in two subfamilies, with the Pantherinae including seven Panthera and two Neofelis species. The Felinae include all the non-pantherine cats with 10 genera and 34 species.The first cats emerged during the Oligocene, about 25 million years ago, with the appearance of Proailurus and Pseudaelurus. The latter species complex was ancestral to two main lines of felids: the cats in the extant subfamilies and a third major group of extinct cats of the subfamily Machairodontinae. The machairodonts included the saber-toothed cats such as the Smilodon. The "false sabre toothed cats", the Barbourofelidae and Nimravidae, are not true cats, but are closely related and together with Felidae and other cat-like carnivores (hyaenas, viverrids and mongooses) make up the feliform carnivores.The characteristic features of cats have evolved to support a carnivorous lifestyle, with adaptations for ambush or stalking and short pursuit hunting. They have slender muscular bodies, strong flexible forelimbs and retractable claws for holding prey, dental and cranial adaptations for a strong bite, and often have characteristic striped or spotted coat patterns for camouflage.

Feliformia

Feliformia (also Feloidea) is a suborder within the order Carnivora consisting of "cat-like" carnivorans, including cats (large and small), hyenas, mongooses, civets, and related taxa. Feliformia stands in contrast to the other suborder of Carnivora, Caniformia ("dog-like" carnivorans).

The separation of the Carnivora into the broad groups of feliforms and caniforms is widely accepted, as is the definition of Feliformia and Caniformia as suborders (sometimes superfamilies). The classification of feliforms as part of the Feliformia suborder or under separate groupings continues to evolve.

Systematic classifications dealing with only extant taxa include all feliforms into the Feliformia suborder, though variations exist in the definition and grouping of families and genera. Indeed, molecular phylogenies suggest that all extant Feliformia are monophyletic.The extant families as reflected in the taxa chart at right and the discussions in this article reflect the most contemporary and well-supported views (as at the time of writing this article).

Systematic classifications dealing with both extant and extinct taxa vary more widely. Some separate the feliforms (extant and extinct) as: Aeluroidea (superfamily) and Feliformia (suborder). Others include all feliforms (extant, extinct and "possible ancestors") into the Feliformia suborder. Some studies suggest this inclusion of "possible ancestors" into Feliformia (or even Carnivora) may be spurious. The extinct (†) families as reflected in the taxa chart are the least problematic in terms of their relationship with extant feliforms (with the most problematic being Nimravidae).

Felinae

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Felis

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the golden palm civet (P. zeylonensis)

the brown palm civet (P. jerdoni)In 2009, it was proposed to also include the golden wet-zone palm civet (P. aureus), the Sri Lankan brown palm civet (P. montanus) and the golden dry-zone palm civet (P. stenocephalus), which are endemic to Sri Lanka.

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