April 23, 2014

Wildlife Wednesday: The Margay


Photo Credit: Google Images
Photo Credit: Google Images
The Margay, aka the long tailed spotted cat is part of the genus leopardus. Margays are medium in size compared to the other members of this genus. The largest member is the Ocelot, weighing up to 35 pounds. The smallest member of the genus is the Kodkod, weighing only 4 pounds. In between these two cats are the Weidi, weighing up to 7 pounds and the Margay, weighing anywhere from 5 to 12 pounds. The Margay is 2 feet tall and 3 feet long, about the same size as a domestic cat. Their tail makes up 70% of their head and body length and is used as a counterweight for balance. These cats have large eyes and a shallower skull than other members of the genus. Along with their tails, their paws are also large in comparison with the rest of their body. The hair on the back of their necks grows backwards toward the head rather than back. Another unique fact is that they only have one pair of nipples instead of two as in other leopardus species. They are gray to golden brown in color with black and brown spots of different shapes covering their body. The spots are black with a brown center and the underbelly of the cats is white. Margays are semi-arboreal, meaning they spend most of their time in the trees. So much time in fact that they eat, sleep, prey, and even give birth in the trees. They only refrain from coming to the ground for nothing more than access to another tree. They are excellent jumpers and they are also crepuscular, meaning that they are active at dawn and dusk. They feed on small mammals like big eared climbing rats, squirrels, opossums, capuchins, three-toed sloths, birds, lizards, frogs, insects, eggs, and some fruit. The Margay can live up to 24 years in captivity and 18 in the wild. These cats can rotate their hind legs 180 degrees enabling them to run head first down a tree just like a squirrel. There is only one other cat in the entire world, that shares this ability and that is the clouded leopard of Asia. The Margay can also hang from a branch by one hind foot.


Photo Credit: Goolgle Images

The female of the species lets out a long moaning call when trying to mate. The male responds with a yelp or trilling sound followed by shaking of his head from side to side, a behavior unique to the Margay species. Copulation lasts for 60 seconds and if successful the gestation period is 76-84 days after which they produce a litter of 1, rarely 2 kittens. Each kitten weighs 3 to 6 ounces, will open their eyes in 14 days, and will reach sexual maturity in 18 to 24 months after birth. Once birthed the kittens suffer a 50% mortality rate. Because of their small size and low numbers the Margay is in danger of becoming extinct. They have difficulty breeding in captivity making the prospect of increasing their population quite hard. These cats are hunted for the fur trade and smuggled across the US Boarder for the pet trade. They are mainly hunted for their fur, resulting in 14,000 deaths a year and they also suffer from deforestation, which is a loss of their natural habitat. Hopefully we will get to enjoy this species for many more years to come.

Photo Credit: Google Images

Photo Credit: Google Images
Photo Credit: Google Images
 
Photo Credit: Google Images

Work Cited:

www.Merium-webster.com/dictionary
www.nhpt.org/natureworks/margay.html
www.wikipedia.org/wiki/margay

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