Posts Tagged 'Small mammals'

Vanishing Species – The Lynx

An article by Mohan Pai
 
 
The Eurasian Lynx
Lynx lynx isabellina

This cat appears in India only in the far north, bordering Tibet. Its recent records are only from Ladakh, where the species may not survive for long.
The Lynx, which occurs within our limits in the upper Indus valley, in Gilgit, Ladakh, and Tibet, is a race of the Lynx of northern Europe and Asia. It is distinctive in its pale sandy-grey or isabelline colouring, hence the racial name Isabellina.
The long erect tufts of hair on the tips of its ears distinguish the Lynx from other cats; From the carcal the Lynx is distinguished by its short tail reaching only half way to the hocks, and by distinct ruff or fringe of pendant hairs framing its face. In summer its coat shows a sprinkling of spots which may persist, but which usually disappear in the heavier winter coat.

Postage Stamp from the Soviet Union 1988

Habits
The Lynx shelters in the dense cover provided by willow scrub patches of reeds, and tall grass. It hunts such animals and birds as it can overcome, hares, marmots, partridges, pheasants, and takes its toll from flocks of sheep and goats. In summer it covers a wide range of altitude having been seen at levels between 9,000 (2,745 m) and 11,000 feet (3,355 m).
Its keen eyesight and hearing is proverbial. It is said to have 2-3 young, the mother usually hiding her litter in a cave or a hole among rocks. Half grown cubs have been seen in August.

Range map of the Lynx (IUCN)

It is a medium-sized cat. The Eurasian lynx is the biggest of the lynxes, ranging in length from 80 to 130 cm (32 to 51 in) and standing about 70 cm (28 in) at the shoulder. Males usually weigh from 18 to 30 kg (40 to 66 lb) and females weigh 18.1 kg (40 lb) on average. The Eurasian lynx is mainly nocturnal and lives solitarily as an adult. Moreover, the sounds this lynx makes are very quiet and seldom heard, so the presence of the species in an area may go unnoticed for years. Remnants of prey or tracks on snow are usually observed long before the animal is seen.

Threats

While China and Russia had annual commercial exports of thousands of skins in the 1970s and 1980s, this trade has ended in recent years. However, illegal skin trade remains the leading threat to the species, together with habitat loss and prey base depletion.

References: S. H. Prater (The Book of Indian Mammals), Wikipedia, IUCN.

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Vanishing Species – The Indian Tree Shrew (Madras Tree Shrew)

An article by Mohan Pai

Indian Tree Shrew
(Also called Madras Tree Shrew)
Anathana ellioti

Pic courtesy: S. Karthikeyan

Is it a primate or a rodent ?
An enigmatic and evolutionarily an unique creature, Madras Tree Shrew is endemic to peninsular India.
There exists a great controversy as to whether Tree Shrews (family Tupaiidae) should be placed in an order with primates or whether they are insectivores.
These creatures are mammals mostly found in south-east Asia. All tree shrews share some common characteristics: relatively small body mass, generally omnivorous (eating arthropods and fruit), the skeleton has an unspecialized placental mammalian pattern, all digits have claws, and the hands and feet are not prehensile. Not all of tree shrews are arboreal, some are mostly terrestrial, and the rest of the subspecies are probably best described as being semi-arboreal. Most tree shrews share many behavioral characteristics with squirrels, so much so that the Malay word tupai is used for both tree-shrews and squirrels.
Tree shrews are also included in the same order with primates by some. Now the characteristics that are shared between tree shrews and primates have been noted as to being primitive amongst placental mammals. Until more evidence can be found the status of where to place the tree-shrew will remain unresolved, so it can not be definitively said that tree shrews are primates. Taxonomists have now assigned it to a separate order – Scandentia.
The Madras Tree shrew (Anathana ellioti), also known as the Indian Tree shrew, is a small mammal that lives in the hilly forests of southern India. The Madras Tree shrew is omnivorous, and has the same kind of unspecified molars as the other Tree shrews in the order Scandentia. They resemble most other tree shrews, however have larger ears, and also are speckled brown, yellow or black over their fur. The main body of fur usually has a reddish tinge and the ventral area is white most of the time – although all these colorations will vary from individual to individual. They are usually 16-18 centimeters in length (6-7 inches) and the tail is usually that same length making the total length about 32-36 (13-17 inches long). On an average they will weigh about 160 grams (5 and a half ounces) although larger specimens have been recorded.
The habitat of the Madras Tree shrew is that of a partially moist to very moist forest habitat, with deciduous trees and shrubs making up the forest floor. However, they can also be found in the southern India slopes, and ravines, along with cultivated fields or pastures. They have proven to adapt to surrounding if the conditions are right and feast on the abundance of insect life in their chosen areas. They eat caterpillars, ants, butterflies, moths, and anything else that will satisfy – they also eat berries and seeds, and have been known to eat the fruit of the Lantana Camara, a very thorny but common shrub. Shrews are mainly nocturnal, but their high metabolic rates can lead to a daily food intake of up to their body weight or more, so they are in constant search of food.
Although the Madras Tree shrew has the word tree in its name, it is in fact uncommon to see one climb a tree, and when they do climb a tree it is usually a means of escape, or of play with younger Tree shrews, and maybe the rare exception of a safe place to self-groom – and to do this they will climb the tree, and then slide down it stretched out. They will repeat this at every angle until they feel sufficiently groomed. The majority of time is spent hidden on the forest floors, travelling under the bush, and inspecting their territories or looking for some insects or seeds to eat.
Madras Trees Shrews also like to build night shelters between soft ground and stones, which can be very complex or very simple. They rarely house more than one, as the tree shrew in general is a solitary species, with the Madras Tree shrew being one that is paired only during certain times of the year if at all. The behavior in regards to mating is not well known, however due to studies of their biology it is assumed that they can produce up to five young at a time. If they are at all similar to other tree shrews they may only spend a short time with their young, and their young will mature rapidly, leaving the nest in three to five months.

A few facts about the Madras Tree shrews
The Madras Tree shrew can be seen as similar to the squirrel, however a difference is that the tree shrew will walk with its tail in an upward curve and a curl that continues but curls the opposite direction.The name Anathana ellioti in which Anathana is the genus comes from the Tamil words Moongil Anathaan, which means â ˜Bamboo Squirrel” while ellioti, the species name, comes from the man who first documented the species – Sir Walter Elliot. The Madras Tree shrew mostly forages in the morning, rather than the evening, as an advantage over other foragers who start later in the day. The Madras tree shrew is listed as Near Threatened (Near Threatened (NT), is close to qualifying for or is likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future, or LR/nt), is close to qualifying for or is likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future, on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
References: “A Field Guide to Indian Mammals” by Vivek Menon, Wikipedia.

 


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