Rusty-spotted cat

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Rusty-spotted cat
Rusty spotted cat 1.jpg
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Felinae
Genus: Prionailurus
Species:
P. rubiginosus [2]
Binomial name
Prionailurus rubiginosus [2]
Rusty-spottedCat distribution.jpg
     range of the Rusty-spotted cat in 2016 [1]

The rusty-spotted cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus) is one of the cat family's smallest members, of which historical records are known only from India and Sri Lanka. [3] In 2012, it was also recorded in the western Terai of Nepal. [4] Since 2016, the global wild population is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List as it is fragmented and affected by loss and destruction of prime habitat, deciduous forests. [1]

Contents

Taxonomy

Felis rubiginosa was the scientific name used by Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire in 1831 for a rusty-spotted cat specimen from Pondicherry, India. [5] Prionailurus was proposed by Nikolai Severtzov in 1858 as a generic name. [6] Prionailurus rubiginosus phillipsi was proposed by Reginald Innes Pocock in 1939 who described a specimen from Central Province, Sri Lanka and subordinated both to the genus Prionailurus. [3]

Phylogeny

Phylogenetic analysis of the nuclear DNA in tissue samples from all Felidae species revealed that the evolutionary radiation of the Felidae began in Asia in the Miocene around 14.45 to 8.38 million years ago . [7] [8] Analysis of mitochondrial DNA of all Felidae species indicates a radiation at around 16.76 to 6.46 million years ago . [9]

The Prionailurus species are estimated to have had a common ancestor between 8.16 to 4.53 million years ago , [7] and 8.76 to 0.73 million years ago . [9] The rusty-spotted cat possibly genetically diverged from this ancestor between 6.54 to 3.42 million years ago . [7] Both models agree in the rusty-spotted cat having been the first cat of this lineage that diverged, followed by the flat-headed cat (P. planiceps) and the fishing cat (P. viverrinus). [7] [9] The following cladogram shows the phylogenetic relationships of the rusty-spotted cat as derived through analysis of nuclear DNA: [7] [8]

Felidae  
  Felinae  
 Prionailurus 

Leopard cat

Fishing Cat

Flat-headed cat

Rusty-spotted cat

Otocolobus 

Pallas's cat (O. manul)

other Felinae lineages

Pantherinae

Characteristics

Illustration of a skull Rustyspottedcatskull.png
Illustration of a skull

The rusty-spotted cat has a short reddish grey fur over most of the body with rusty spots on the back and flanks. Four blackish lines run over the eyes, and two of them extend over the neck. Six dark streaks are on each side of the head, extending over the cheeks and forehead. Its chin, throat, inner side of the limbs and belly are whitish with tiny brownish spots. It has a rusty band on the chest. Its paws and tail are uniform reddish grey. [5]

It is the smallest wild cat in Asia and rivals the black-footed cat as the world's smallest wild cat. It is 35 to 48 cm (14 to 19 in) in length, with a 15 to 30 cm (5.9 to 11.8 in) tail, and weighs only 0.9 to 1.6 kg (2.0 to 3.5 lb). The bushy tail is about half the length of the body. [10]

Distribution and habitat

Rusty-spotted cat in its natural habitat Rusty spotted cat 2, crop.jpg
Rusty-spotted cat in its natural habitat
Rusty-spotted cat photographed in the Anaimalai Hills in southern India Rustyspottedcat, crop.jpg
Rusty-spotted cat photographed in the Anaimalai Hills in southern India

The distribution of the rusty-spotted cat is relatively restricted. It occurs mainly in moist and dry deciduous forests as well as scrub and grassland, but is likely absent from evergreen forest. [11] It prefers dense vegetation and rocky areas. [12] [13]

In India, it was long thought to be confined to the south, but records have established that it is found over much of the country. [11] It was observed in eastern Gujarat's Gir National Park, in Maharashtra's Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve and along India's Eastern Ghats. [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] Camera trapping revealed its presence in Pilibhit Tiger Reserve in the Indian Terai and in Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharashtra. [18] [19] In western Maharashtra, there is a breeding population of rusty-spotted cats in a human dominated agricultural landscape, where rodent densities are high. [20] In December 2014 and in April 2015, it was photographed by camera traps in Kalesar National Park, Haryana. [21] It was also discovered using camera traps in Mirzapur Forest Division of Uttar Pradesh in 2018. [22] [23] [24]

In March 2012, a rusty-spotted cat was photographed in Bardia National Park for the first time, and in March 2016 also in Shuklaphanta National Park, both in Nepal. [4] [25]

In Sri Lanka, there are a few records from montane and lowland rainforest. There are two distinct populations, one in the dry zone and the other in the wet zone. [26] In 2016, it was recorded for the first time in Horton Plains National Park at elevations of 2,084–2,162 m (6,837–7,093 ft). [27]

Ecology and behaviour

Very little is known about the ecology and behaviour of rusty-spotted cats in the wild. Captive ones are mostly nocturnal but also briefly active during the day. [10] Most wild ones were also recorded after dark. At Horton Plain National Park in Sri Lanka, they were mostly recorded between sunset and sunrise, with limited daytime activity. [27] Several individuals were observed hiding in trees and in caves. [28] [29] [30]

They feed mainly on rodents and birds, but may also hunt lizards, frogs, and insects. They hunt primarily on the ground, making rapid, darting movements to catch their prey. They apparently venture into trees to escape larger predators. Captive females and males both scent-mark their home range by spraying urine. [10]

Reproduction

A kitten of rusty-spotted cat at the Parc des Felins, France Prionailurus rubiginosus 9-Parc des felins.JPG
A kitten of rusty-spotted cat at the Parc des Félins, France

The female's oestrus lasts five days, and mating is unusually brief. Since the female is likely to be vulnerable during this period, its brevity may be an adaptation to help it avoid larger predators. She prepares a den in a secluded location, and after a gestation of 65–70 days gives birth to one or two kittens. At birth, the kittens weigh just 60 to 77 g (2.1 to 2.7 oz), and are marked with rows of black spots. They reach sexual maturity at around 68 weeks, by which time they have developed the distinctive adult coat pattern of rusty blotches. Rusty-spotted cats have lived for twelve years in captivity, but their lifespan in the wild is unknown. [10]

Threats

Habitat loss and the spread of cultivation are serious problems for wildlife in both India and Sri Lanka. Although there are several records of rusty-spotted cats from cultivated and settled areas, it is not known to what degree cat populations are able to persist in such areas. There have been occasional reports of rusty-spotted cat skins in trade. [11] In some areas, they are hunted for food or as livestock pests. [10]

Conservation

Rusty-spotted cat in Berlin Zoo, 2008 Rostkatze Zoo Berlin.JPG
Rusty-spotted cat in Berlin Zoo, 2008

The Indian population is listed on CITES Appendix I. The Sri Lankan population is included on CITES Appendix II. The species is fully protected over most of its range, with hunting and trade banned in India and Sri Lanka. [1]

As of 2010, the captive population of P. r. phillipsi comprised 56 individuals in eight institutions, of which 11 individuals were kept in the Colombo Zoo in Sri Lanka and 45 individuals in seven European zoos. [31]

Local names

In Sri Lanka, the rusty-spotted cat is known as "kola diviya" or "balal diviya". [32]

Related Research Articles

Felidae Family of mammals

Felidae is a family of mammals in the order Carnivora, colloquially referred to as cats, and constitutes a clade. 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.

Leopard A large cat native to Africa and Eurasia

The leopard is one of the five extant species in the genus Panthera, a member of the Felidae. It occurs in a wide range in sub-Saharan Africa, in small parts of Western and Central Asia, on the Indian subcontinent to Southeast and East Asia. It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List because leopard populations are threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, and are declining in large parts of the global range. In Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuwait, Syria, Libya, Tunisia and most likely in Morocco, leopard populations have already been extirpated. Contemporary records suggest that the leopard occurs in only 25% of its historical global range.

Jungle cat Medium-sized wild cat

The jungle cat, also called reed cat and swamp cat, is a medium-sized cat native to the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia and southern China. It inhabits foremost wetlands like swamps, littoral and riparian areas with dense vegetation. It is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, and is mainly threatened by destruction of wetlands, trapping and poisoning.

Asian golden cat Small wild cat

The Asian golden cat is a medium-sized wild cat native to the northeastern Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and southern China. It has been listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List since 2008, and is threatened by hunting pressure and habitat loss, since Southeast Asian forests are undergoing the world's fastest regional deforestation.

Leopard cat Small wild cat

The leopard cat is a small wild cat native to continental South, Southeast and East Asia. Since 2002 it has been listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List as it is widely distributed although threatened by habitat loss and hunting in parts of its range.

Fishing cat Small wild cat

The fishing cat is a medium-sized wild cat of South and Southeast Asia. Since 2016, it is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Fishing cat populations are threatened by destruction of wetlands and have declined severely over the last decade. The fishing cat lives foremost in the vicinity of wetlands, along rivers, streams, oxbow lakes, in swamps, and mangroves.

Flat-headed cat Small wild cat

The flat-headed cat is a small wild cat native to the Thai-Malay Peninsula, Borneo, and Sumatra. It is an Endangered species, because the wild population probably comprises fewer than 2,500 mature individuals, with small subpopulations of no more than 250 adults. The population inhabits foremost wetlands, which are being destroyed and converted. For these reasons, it is listed on the IUCN Red List since 2008.

Jaguarundi Small wild cat

The jaguarundi is a wild cat native to the Americas. Its range extends from central Argentina in the south to the US–Mexico border in the north, through Central and South America east of the Andes. The jaguarundi is a medium-sized cat of slender build. Its coloration is uniform, similar to that of its closest relative, the much larger cougar, but differing significantly from other neotropical cats. It has an elongated body with relatively short legs, a small, narrow head, small, round ears, a short snout and a long tail, resembling otters and weasels in these respects. It is around twice as large as the domestic cat, reaching nearly 36 cm (14 in) at the shoulder and weighs 3.5–7 kg (7.7–15.4 lb). It has two color morphs — gray and red.

Horton Plains National Park National park in Sri Lanka

Horton Plains National Park is a national park in the central highlands of Sri Lanka that was designated in 1988. It is located at an elevation of 2,100–2,300 m (6,900–7,500 ft) and encompasses montane grassland and cloud forest. It is rich in biodiversity and many species found here are endemic to the region. It is also a popular tourist destination and is situated 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) from Ohiya, 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) from the world-famous Ohiya Gap/Dondra Watch and 32 kilometres (20 mi) from Nuwara Eliya.

<i>Prionailurus</i> genus of mammals

Prionailurus is a genus of spotted, small wild cats native to Asia. Forests are their preferred habitat; they feed on small mammals, reptiles and birds, and occasionally aquatic wildlife.

Khathiar-Gir dry deciduous forests

The Khathiar-Gir dry deciduous forests is a mostly arid ecoregion in northwestern India that stretches over 103,100 sq mi (267,000 km2) across Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The dry deciduous forests in the region are dominated by teak, and thorny trees and scrub in drier areas.

Felinae subfamily of mammals

The Felinae are a subfamily of the family Felidae. This subfamily comprises the small cats having a bony hyoid, because of which they are able to purr but not roar.

Bardiya National Park National Park of Nepal

Bardiya National Park is a protected area in Nepal that was established in 1988 as Royal Bardia National Park. Covering an area of 968 km2 (374 sq mi) it is the largest and most undisturbed national park in Nepal's Terai, adjoining the eastern bank of the Karnali River and bisected by the Babai River in the Bardiya District. Its northern limits are demarcated by the crest of the Siwalik Hills. The Nepalgunj-Surkhet highway partly forms the southern boundary, but seriously disrupts the protected area. Natural boundaries to human settlements are formed in the west by the Geruwa, a branch of the Karnali River, and in the southeast by the Babai River.

Sri Lankan leopard Leopard subspecies

The Sri Lankan leopard is a leopard subspecies endemic to Sri Lanka. It was first described in 1956 by the Sri Lankan zoologist Paules Edward Pieris Deraniyagala.

Bundala National Park National Park in Sri Lanka

Bundala National Park is an internationally important wintering ground for migratory water birds in Sri Lanka. Bundala harbors 197 species of birds, the highlight being the greater flamingo, which migrate in large flocks. Bundala was designated a wildlife sanctuary in 1969 and redesignated to a national park on 4 January 1993. In 1991 Bundala became the first wetland to be declared as a Ramsar site in Sri Lanka. In 2005 the national park was designated as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO, the fourth biosphere reserve in Sri Lanka. The national park is situated 245 kilometres (152 mi) southeast of Colombo.

Lahugala Kitulana National Park

Lahugala Kitulana National Park is one of the smallest national parks in Sri Lanka. Despite its land area, the park is an important habitat for Sri Lankan elephant and endemic birds of Sri Lanka. The national park contains the reservoirs of Lahugala, Kitulana and Sengamuwa and they are ultimately empties to Heda Oya river. Originally it was designated as a wildlife sanctuary on July 1 of 1966. Then the protected area was upgraded to a national park on October 31 of 1980. Lahugala Kitulana is situated 318 km east of Colombo.

Shuklaphanta National Park wildlife reserve

Shuklaphanta National Park is a protected area in the Terai of the Far-Western Region, Nepal, covering 305 km2 (118 sq mi) of open grassland, forests, riverbeds and tropical wetlands at an altitude of 174 to 1,386 m. It was gazetted in 1976 as Royal Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve. A small part of the reserve extends north of the East-West Highway to create a corridor for seasonal migration of wildlife into the Sivalik Hills. The Syali River forms the eastern boundary southward to the international border with India, which demarcates the reserve’s southern and western boundary.

Shoolpaneshwar Wildlife Sanctuary is a protected area in India's Gujarat state, located in the western Satpura Range south of the Narmada River and is 607.7 km2 (234.6 sq mi) large. It shares a common boundary with Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. It encompasses mixed dry deciduous forest, riverine forest, few pockets of moist teak forest, agricultural fields and two water reservoirs. It was established in 1982.

Small Cat Conservation Alliance organization

The Small Cat Conservation Alliance (SCCA) was founded in 1996, to address the conservation needs of small wild cats and their habitat worldwide. Small Cat Conservation Alliance seeks out local scientists and volunteers that are working to protect small cats in remote regions worldwide. They collect data that can be used to seek endangered species classification. SCCA operates in Kalimantan (Borneo), Sumatra, Chile, and China; and works with partners in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, India, Sarawak, Suriname and Vietnam. The Small Cat Conservation is also partnered with the Wildlife Conservation Network.

Sunda leopard cat Small wild cat

The Sunda leopard cat is a small wild cat species native to the Sundaland islands of Java, Bali, Borneo, Sumatra and the Philippines that is considered distinct from the leopard cat occurring in mainland South and Southeast Asia.

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