Posts Tagged ‘tamarin’

Margay cat of Brasil mimics primates to lure prey

// September 1st, 2010 // 3 Comments » // Science Communication

Altered image, original by Malene Thyssen

At some point in this post I’m going to be tempted to say “copy cat,” so I’m just going to say it now. Copy Cat. There, it’s out of my system, now let’s move on.

On fieldwork in Brasil (so jealous right now) a group of researchers saw a large cat called a margay making some weird noises. It sounded like a pied tamarin pup, a small, supercute primate species, and I recommend you click through that link so you can bask in the cuteness.

In pied tamarin society only the alpha female gives birth, usually to twins, and the pups are looked after mostly by the father. So when the margay made some pup-like mewls, an adult male pied tamarin came down to see what the deal was.


The pied tamarin stayed in the area for a good half hour while the male was keeping an eye out. But as he was watching, the margay made his move. Across some branches… almost… almost… but at the last moment the pied tamarin saw the cat and raised the alarm. All the pied tamarins in the group high tailed outta there quicker than a pirate on shore leave.

In this instance, the margay went without its meal, but a cat using noises to attract prey is unusual. In fact, this was the first time (report came out June 2009) a feline from the neotropical region was found to mimic animal cries. What’s really interesting about the report is that it says local Amazon jungle inhabitants had already told them that the margay and other cats in the area mimicked animals to catch prey. But we don’t accept it scientifically until some scientists witness it and write a report. Just strikes me as unnecessary. Maybe I’m being unscientific, I don’t know.

The margay is an interesting feline. It spends most of its time in trees. It is one of only two cats with the ankles needed to climb down trees head first, the other one being the clouded leopard. It’s been seen dangling from trees hanging by only one foot. I wonder if that observation was made by a scientist?






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