The sand cat (Felis margarita), also known as the sand dune cat, is the only cat living chiefly in true deserts. This small cat is widely distributed in the deserts of North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. Starting in 2002, it was listed as near threatened on the IUCN Red List because the population was considered fragmented and small with a declining trend. It was downlisted to least concern in 2016.
Owing to long hairs covering the soles of its feet, the sand cat is well adapted to the extremes of a desert environment and tolerant of extremely hot and cold temperatures. It inhabits both sandy and stony deserts, in areas far from water sources.
|Distribution of sand cat|
The French soldier and naturalist Victor Loche first described a sand cat specimen found in the area of "Négonça" in the northern Algerian Sahara in 1858. He named it Felis margarita in recognition of Jean Auguste Margueritte, who headed the expedition into the Sahara. This holotype specimen appears to have been lost. In the 20th century, the following zoological specimens of sand cats were described:
In 1974, F. m. margarita, F. m. thinobia and F. m. scheffeli were temporarily recognized as valid taxa. At the time, it was considered possible that sand cats eventually recorded in Afghanistan and Iran might constitute distinct subspecies. In 2005, F. m. margarita, F. m. thinobia, F. m. scheffeli and F. m. harrisoni were recognized as valid, but F. m. meinertzhageni and F. m. aïrensis were considered synonyms of F. m. margarita. The Cat Classification Task Force of the Cat Specialist Group reviewed the existing information and since 2017 has recognized only two subspecies, namely:
Phylogenetic analysis of tissue samples from all Felidae species revealed that the sand cat is part of the domestic cat lineage, which is estimated to have genetically diverged from the leopard cat lineage between 6.7 and 6.2 million years ago. The sand cat probably diverged from the common ancestor of Felis species between 3.67 and 1.72 million years ago. The following cladogram shows the phylogenetic relationships of the sand cat as derived through analysis of nDNA:
The sand cat's fur is of a pale, sandy, light brownish-yellow color. Markings vary between individuals: some have neither spots nor stripes, some are faintly spotted, some have both spots and stripes. There are dark brown to blackish bars on the limbs, and the tail has a black tip with two or three dark rings alternating with buff bands. The head is sandy brown, whereas the lower and upper lips, chin, throat, and belly are white. Some individuals have a yellowish throat. The large, greenish-yellow eyes are ringed with white, and the nose is blackish. The lower part of the face is whitish, and a faint reddish line runs from the outer corner of each eye across the cheeks. The cat's whiskers are white and up to 8 cm (3.1 in) long. The sand cat is a small cat, characterized by a flat, wide head, short legs, and a relatively long tail of 23–31 cm (9.1–12.2 in). It stands 24–36 cm (9.4–14.2 in) at the shoulder and weighs 1.5–3.4 kg (3.3–7.5 lb). The head-and-body length ranges from 39–52 cm (15–20 in). The 5–7 cm (2.0–2.8 in) long ears are set low, giving a broad, flat appearance to the head. The ears are tawny at the base and tipped with black, and more pointed than those of the Pallas's cat (Otocolobus manul).
In Central Asia, the sand cat's winter coat is very long and thick, with hairs reaching up to 2 in (5.1 cm) in length. The sand cat’s claws on the forelimbs are short and very sharp, and claws on the hind feet are small and blunt. The undersides of its paws are protected from extreme temperatures by a thick covering of fur. The long hairs growing between its toes create a cushion of fur over the foot pads, helping to insulate them while moving over hot sand. This feature makes the cat's tracks obscure and difficult to identify and follow.
Its skull is arched in lateral outline with wide zygomatic arches. The pinnae of the ears are triangular, and the ear canal is very wide, giving the cat an enhanced sense of hearing. The auditory bullae and the passages from the external ears to the ear drums are greatly enlarged compared to other small wild cats; the inner parts of the ears are protected from foreign objects by long, closely spaced white hairs. The sand cat's outer ear is similar to that of a domestic cat, but its ear canal is about twice the size. The magnitude of acoustic input-admittance is about five times higher than of a domestic cat. Additionally, hearing sensitivity of the sand cat is about 8 decibels greater than that of the domestic cat. It has a bite force quotient at the canine tip of 136.7.
The sand cat inhabits both sandy and stony deserts. It is widely though not contiguously distributed in the deserts of North Africa, Southwest and Central Asia. It prefers flat or undulating terrain with sparse vegetation, and avoids bare sand dunes, where little prey is available. It retreats into burrows when climatic conditions are extreme such as temperatures of −5 °C (23 °F) or 52 °C (126 °F).
In the Western Sahara, sand cats were sighted and photographed in the Dakhla-Oued Ed-Dahab region several times between 2005 and 2016. Sand cat kittens were sighted and photographed in this area in spring 2017 that were hidden beneath a tuft of Panicum turgidum grass. In Algeria, one individual was recorded near a salt cedar (Tamarix aphylla) mound in the Ahaggar Mountains in 2008. No confirmed records are known in Mauritania, Tunisia and Libya. In Mali's Lake Faguibine area, one individual was shortly sighted by night in 2011. In the Ténéré Desert, sand cats were observed in the 1980s and between 2008 and 2015. Sightings in Egypt's rocky Western and Eastern Deserts date to the mid 1980s. In the Sinai peninsula, sand cats were sighted in the mid 1990s.
On the Arabian Peninsula, sand cats were captured in Saudi Arabia's Mahazat as-Sayd Protected Area and encountered trapped in wire mesh fence surrounding the adjacent Saja/Umm Ar-Rimth Protected Area in the country's Najd region. In 2003, a sand cat was sighted in a gravel plain between dunes in the Al-Ain Region, Abu Dhabi. Several sand cats were recorded in a protected area in Abu Dhabi's western region between April and December 2015, after an absence of sightings for ten years.
In the late 1980s, four sand cats were radio-collared and tracked over a few months in southern Israel's Arabah Valley. In 1997, a sand cat was recorded in a Jordanian desert. In 2000 and 2001, sand cats were sighted and photographed by a camera-trap in a protected area near Palmyra in Syria.
In Iran, it occurs in arid flat plains and sandy desert of Abbas'abad Wildlife Reserve, Kavir National Park and Petergan Rural District. Between March 2014 and July 2016, sand cats were also observed at altitudes of 900–1,100 m (3,000–3,600 ft) in Sistan and Baluchestan Province, foremost in black saxaul (Haloxylon ammodendron) dominated habitat. In Pakistan, the first sand cat was detected in 1966 near the Lora River in Balochistan. In the late 1960s, sand cats were also encountered in the Chagai Hills, an extremely arid area comprising rolling sand dunes and stony plains at an altitude of about 1,200 m (3,900 ft).
In Central Asia, the sand cat was known to occur up to the late 1960s in the Karakum Desert from the Ustyurt Plateau in the northwest to the Kopet Dag Mountains in the south, and from the Kyzylkum Desert to the Syr Darya River and the northern border to Afghanistan. In spring 2013 and 2014, adult sand cats with kitten were photographed in the southern Kyzylkum Desert, indicating that the population is breeding.
The sand cat is a solitary cat except during the mating season and when a female has kittens. It communicates using scent and scratch marks on objects in its range and by urine spraying. It makes loud, high-pitched and short rasping sounds, especially when seeking a mate. Its vocalizations are similar to those of the domestic cat.
Its way of moving is distinct: with belly close to the ground, it moves at a fast run punctuated with occasional leaps. It is capable of sudden bursts of speed and can sprint at speeds of 30–40 km (19–25 mi) per hour. It buries its feces, covering it with sand. Four radio-collared sand cats in Israel moved long distances of 5–10 km (3.1–6.2 mi) in a single night. They were generally active throughout the night, hunting and travelling an average distance of 5.4 km (3.4 mi). They retired below ground at dawn and stayed in the burrow during the day. During the survey period, they used several burrows in their home ranges. Burrows are about 1.5 m (4.9 ft) deep and dug in slightly slanting ground with usually only a single entrance. Burrows with two or three entrances have also been observed. These burrows were either abandoned by fox (Vulpes) or porcupines, or dug by gerbils or other rodents. In winter, sand cat stay in the sun during the day, but during the hot season, they are crepuscular and nocturnal.
A male sand cat in Israel had a home range of 16 km2 (6.2 sq mi). In Morocco, a male sand cat travelled 14.1 km (8.8 mi) in 30 hours. A female sand cat moved in an area of 13.4 km2 (5.2 sq mi) during six days, and two males had home ranges of 21.8 and 35.3 km2 (8.4 and 13.6 sq mi).
The sand cat preys foremost on small rodents, including lesser Egyptian gerbil (Gerbillus gerbillus), lesser Egyptian jerboa (Jaculus jaculus), and young of cape hare (Lepus capensis). Several individuals were also observed hunting greater hoopoe lark (Alaemon alaudipes), desert monitor (Varanus griseus), sandfish (Scincus scincus), horned viper (Cerastes cerastes) and sand viper (C. vipera). If they caught more than they could eat, they buried the remains for later consumption. They satisfied their moisture requirements from their prey but drank readily if water was available. Toubou people in the Ténéré Desert accounted of sand cats coming to their camps at night and drinking fresh milk. In Israel, remains of Egyptian spiny-tailed lizards (Uromastyx aegyptia) were found near burrows used by sand cats. They were observed preying on jirds (Meriones), Cairo spiny mouse (Acomys cahirinus), desert lark (Ammomanes deserti), fringe-toed lizards (Acanthodactylus) and short-fingered geckos (Stenodactylus).
Sand cats were collected in eastern Karakum Desert in the late 1950s. Their faeces and stomachs contained remains of tolai hare (Lepus tolai), yellow ground squirrel (Spermophilus fulvus), great gerbil (Rhombomys opimus), midday gerbil (Meriones meridianus), northern three-toed jerboa (Dipus sagitta), comb-toed jerboa (Paradipus ctenodactylus), great spotted woodpecker (Denorocopos major), collared dove (Streptopelia), Pander's ground jay (Podoces panderi), hoopoe (Upupa epops), crested lark (Galerida cristata), desert sparrow (Passer simplex), spotted rat snake (Spalerosophis diadema), Karelin's snake (Coluber karelini), wonder gecko (Teratoscincus), Tenebrionidae beetles, scorpiones, Phalangiidae and arthropods. In March 2018, a sand cat was recorded feeding on an Asian Houbara Chlamydotis macqueenii in the Kyzylkum Desert.
Oestrus in female sand cats lasts from five to six days, during which they frequently call and scent mark. After a gestation of 59 to 66 days, they give birth to a litter of two to three kittens. They weigh 39 to 80 g (1.4 to 2.8 oz) at birth, and have spotted pale yellow or reddish fur. They grow relatively rapidly, reaching three quarters of the adult size within five months. They are fully independent by the end of their first year and reach sexual maturity not long after. In some areas, sand cats give birth to two litters per year.
Of 228 sand cats born in zoos globally by 2007, only 61% of the kittens lived to day 30. They died primarily due to maternal neglect by first-time mothers. They can live up to 13 years in captivity. The life expectancy of wild sand cats has not been documented.
Habitat degradation is the major threat to the sand cat. Vulnerable arid ecosystems are being rapidly degraded by human settlement and activity, especially livestock grazing. The sand cat's small-mammal prey-base depends on having adequate vegetation, which may experience large fluctuations due to drought or declines due to desertification and loss of natural vegetation. They also may be killed in traps laid out by inhabitants of oases targeting foxes and jackals or in retaliation for killing their chickens. Occasional reports of animals shot in southeast Arabia have been made.
Felis margarita is listed on CITES Appendix II. Hunting is prohibited in Algeria, Iran, Israel, Kazakhstan, Mauritania, Niger, Pakistan, and Tunisia. No legal protection exists in Egypt, Mali, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Previously having been classified as near threatened, it has been downlisted to least concern in 2016, as the estimated size of the global population exceeds the threshold for a threatened category; the extent of decline of the global population is unknown.
The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo started a sand cat reintroduction project in Israel's Arava Desert. Several captive-born individuals from the zoo's population were kept in an acclimatization enclosure, but did not survive subsequent release into the wild.
Captive sand cats are highly sensitive to respiratory diseases and infection of the upper respiratory tract. This is the main cause of death in adults. The most common disease is infectious rhinotracheitis. With sand cats being very susceptible to respiratory infections, they have to be kept in very arid enclosures, where humidity and temperature do not fluctuate.
The captive population kept in European zoos is offspring of 18 founders. As of July 2009, the global captive population comprised 200 individuals in 45 institutions. As of May 2010, 29 sand cats were kept in 12 Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited institutions participating in the Species Survival Plan. In January 2010, the Al Ain Zoo announced the first success of an in vitro fertilisation and embryo transfer procedure on sand cats, resulting in the birth of two kittens at its facilities. In July 2012, four sand cat kittens were born at the Ramat Gan Zoo as part of the European Endangered Species Programme.
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.Caracal (disambiguation)
The caracal is a medium-sized wild cat.
Caracal may also refer to:
Caracal (genus), a genus of cats comprising the caracal, the African golden cat and the serval
Caracal (album), the 2015 album by Disclosure
Caracal, Romania, a city in historic Oltenia
Caracal Battalion, a unit of the Israel Defense Forces
Plasan Sand Cat, also Caracal APC, an armored vehicle from Plasan Sasa
Caracal pistol, a pistol made in the United Arab Emirates
2007.2 Caracal, a release of the operating system Pardus
variant of the Eurocopter EC725
Caracal, a Caldari cruiser from the MMO Eve OnlineFelinae
The Felinae is a subfamily of the family Felidae that comprises the small cats that have a bony hyoid, because of which they are able to purr but not roar.Other authors proposed an alternative definition for this subfamily: as comprising only the living conical-toothed cat genera with two tribes, the Felini and Pantherini; thus excluding all fossil cat species.Felis
Felis is a genus of small and medium-sized cat species native to most of Africa and south of 60° latitude in Europe and Asia to Indochina.The genus includes the domestic cat. The smallest Felis species is the black-footed cat with a head and body length from 38 to 42 cm (15 to 17 in). The largest is the jungle cat with a head and body length from 62 to 76 cm (24 to 30 in).Felis species inhabit a wide range of different habitats, from swampland to desert, and generally hunt small rodents, birds and other small animals, depending on their local environment. The worldwide introduction of the domestic cat also made it common to urban landscapes around the globe.Genetic studies indicate that Felis, Otocolobus and Prionailurus diverged from a Eurasian progenitor about 6.2 million years ago, and that Felis species split off 3.04 to 0.99 million years ago.Felis margarita margarita
Felis margarita margarita, sometimes called the Saharan sand cat, is a subspecies of the sand cat native to the Sahara.Felis margarita thinobia
Felis margarita thinobia, known as the Turkestan sandcat, Arabian sandcat, and Pakistan sandcat, is a sand cat subspecies native to deserts in the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Pakistan and Central Asia.Jean Auguste Margueritte
Jean Auguste Margueritte (15 January 1823 – 6 September 1870), French General, father of Victor Margueritte and Paul Margueritte.
After an honorable career in Algeria, General Margueritte was mortally wounded in the great cavalry charge at Sedan. He died in Belgium. An account of his life was published by his son, Paul Margueritte as Mon père (1884; enlarged ed., 1897).
The sand cat is named in his honour, being given the binominal name Felis margarita.Lutrogale
Lutrogale is a genus of otters, with only one extant species—the smooth-coated otter.Peter Grubb (zoologist)
Peter Grubb (1942 - 23 December 2006) was an English zoologist. He often collaborated with Colin Groves and described several new mammal taxa including Felis margarita harrisoni (a subspecies of the sand cat), the Bornean yellow muntjac, the Nigerian white-throated guenon, Cephalophus nigrifrons hypoxanthus, the white-legged duiker, Cephalophus silvicultor curticeps, Cephalophus weynsi lestradei, the Kashmir musk deer, and the Niger Delta red colobus.
Grubb was born in Ealing, West London. His father William Grubb was a research chemist at the Imperial Chemical Industries and later worked as a science teacher in Scotland. His mother Anne Sirutis was a school teacher from Lithuania. His younger sister Katrina is an artist.
After his BSc graduation in Zoology at the University College London Grubb was research assistant in the Wellcome Institute of the Zoological Society of London. In the early 1960s he went to St Kilda, Scotland for three years where he studied Soay sheep for his PhD thesis. For this work he received the Thomas Henry Huxley Award of the Zoological Society of London in 1968. In the same year he took part in the Royal Society expedition to Aldabra where he worked particularly on the Giant tortoises. Subsequently, he lectured on the University of Ghana for twelve years. His main research field was the taxonomy and distribution of African mammals.
In 1993 and 2005 he wrote the Artiodactyla and Perissodactyla sections for the publication Mammal Species of the World. He also contributed to Mammalian Species, the journal of the American Society of Mammalogists. He published checklists of West African mammals (for instance for Sierra Leone, Gambia, and Ghana) and wrote several revisions, including on warthogs, gerenuks and buffalo. In 1993 he co-edited the IUCN publication Pigs, Peccaries, and Hippos: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan.
In June 2006 he was honored with the Stamford Raffles Award of the Zoological Society of London.After two surgeries Peter Grubb died from cancer in December 2006. He was married and had two children.Plasan
Plasan (Hebrew: פלסן) (incorporated as Plasan Sasa Ltd. and formerly as Plasan Sasa (ACS) Ltd.) is an Israeli based vehicle manufacturer.Plasan Sand Cat
The SandCat (Hebrew: פלסן קרקל) is a composite armored vehicle designed by the then Plasan Sasa (now Plasan) of Israel. The SandCat, which is presented as a single bi-capitalised word, was shown publicly for the first time at AUSA during October 2005. The latest models were shown for the first time at Eurosatory 2018. The SandCat is based on a commercial Ford F-Series chassis. Approximately 700 SandCats have been produced since 2004, and while Plasan has never released complete details, these are known to be in service with at least 16 users across five continents, and in a wide variety of roles that range from Police/internal security to combat/patrol.Spike (ATGM)
Spike is an Israeli fire-and-forget anti-tank guided missile and anti-personnel missile with a tandem-charge HEAT warhead, currently in its fourth-generation. It was developed and designed by the Israeli company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. It is available in man-portable, vehicle-launched, and helicopter-launched variants.
As well as engaging and destroying targets within the line-of-sight of the launcher ("fire-and-forget"), some variants of the missile are capable of making a top-attack profile through a "fire, observe and update" guidance method; the operator tracking the target, or switching to another target, optically through the trailing fiber-optic wire (or RF link in the case of the vehicle-mounted, long-range NLOS variant) while the missile is climbing to altitude after launch. This is similar to the lofted trajectory flight profile of the US FGM-148 Javelin.Victor Loche
Victor Loche (1806 – 1863) was a French soldier and naturalist.
In 1856–1857, he participated in an expedition to the Algerian part of the Sahara, and described the mammals and birds of Algeria in the book Catalogue des mammifères et des oiseaux published in 1858.
He first described the sand cat Felis margarita from a specimen found in the area of Négonça in the Sahara, and proposed to name the cat in recognition of Jean Auguste Margueritte who headed the expedition.Wildlife of Iraq
The wildlife of Iraq includes its flora and fauna and their natural habitats. Iraq has multiple biomes which include the mountainous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq to the wet marshlands along the Euphrates river. The western part of the country comprises desert and some semi-arid regions. As of 2001, seven of Iraq's mammal species and 12 of its bird species are endangered. The endangered species include the northern bald ibis and Persian fallow deer. The Syrian wild ass is extinct, and the Saudi Arabian dorcas gazelle was declared extinct in 2008.Wildlife of Kazakhstan
The wildlife of Kazakhstan includes its flora and fauna, and their natural habitats.Wildlife of Saudi Arabia
The wildlife of Saudi Arabia is substantial and varied. Saudi Arabia is a very large country forming the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula. It has several geographic regions, each with a diversity of plants and animals adapted to their own particular habitats. As well as high mountains and deserts, there is a coastal plain and long coastline on the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea to the west and a rather shorter coastline on the Persian Gulf to the east.Yotvata Hai-Bar Nature Reserve
The Yotvata Hai-Bar Nature Reserve is a 3,000-acre (12 km2) breeding and reacclimation center administered by the Israel Nature Reserves & National Parks Authority, situated in the Southern Arabah near Yotvata.
The Yotvata Hai-Bar is the desert counterpart of the Carmel Hai-Bar Nature Reserve which operates in the country's Northern Mediterranean forest.
Endangered and locally extinct animals mentioned in the Bible are bred here for possible reintroduction to the Negev desert. The Asian wild ass has already been reintroduced in the Makhtesh Ramon into the wild. In addition the park has some rare desert animals, which are not native to Israel, like the scimitar oryx and the Red-necked ostrich from northern Africa.
Some of the species bred here are:
Arabian oryx (Oryx leucoryx)
Scimitar oryx (Oryx dammah)
Red-necked ostrich (Struthio camelus camelus)
Addax (Addax nasomaculatus)
Asian wild ass (hybrids of Equus hemionus kulan and Equus hemionus onager)
Somali wild ass (Equus africanus somaliensis)
Caracal (Caracal caracal schmitzi)
Arabian sand cat (Felis margarita harrisoni)
Arabian leopard (Panthera pardus nimr)
South African cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus jubatus)
Arabian wolf (Canis lupus arabs)
Dorcas gazelle (Gazella dorcas)
Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus)
Nubian ibex (Capra nubiana)
Persian leopard (Panthera pardus ciscaucasica)
Striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena)
Extant Carnivora species