The Felidae

Evolutionary changes are a phenomenon that brings the origin of certain species and the extinction of others. This cycle occurs naturally without any external factor that can't be controlled, this provides a structure e.g pyramid that portrays just how each organism plays a vital role in balancing the ecosystem and building this foundation. But despite us, humans being at the top of this pyramid, we're destroying the very foundation that nature built in accordance to its liking. There have been many creatures that were affected whether they would be flora and fauna, but the fact remains that humans evolving into smarter beings has particularly damaged the planet in one way or another. One such specific fauna that has been affected is the feline family, from deforestation to poaching and other illegal activities that have drastically reduced the population of this majestic megafauna. So, this article aims to address some of the relatively unknown species and some of their extinct relatives.

Evolution of Felids

Cats or Felidae originated from one common ancestor pseudaeleurus that lived from 20 to 8 million years. They are the ancestors of modern-day cats. As mentioned that Pseudaeleurus was the ancestor of modern-day cats and gave rise to 6 families that we'll discuss in the next article.

Now, in general, we know about many cats and when asked there are only a few that come to mind that is quite common such as tigers and lions, but here are some interesting facts that you might not know about them. First of all, Felidae is a family which consists of these beautiful animals. The family Felidae is divided into 2 subfamilies that are: Pantherinae and Felinae, we'll start with Felinae

Rusty Spotted Cat ( Prionailurus rubiginosus)

The smallest member of the feline family, these cute little felines inhabit the forests of India, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Named after their rusty appearance, these cats measure around 78 cm in length and adults weigh around 1.4 kgs making them the smallest feline species in the world, these cats are nocturnal and arboreal, climbing trees to avoid predation. They are nocturnal hunters that prey on insects, rodents, frogs and other small prey.

They reach sexual maturity at 68 weeks and the female usually gives birth to 1 or 2 kittens in spring. With less than 10,000 individuals these animals are listed as near threatened by the IUCN red list, as they suffer from habitat loss and fragmentation, and are also killed as they are mistaken for baby leopards.

Serval (Leptailurus serval)

Also known as Tedi, Servals are one of the most unique cats that are found on the African continent. They are most prominently found in Sub-Saharan African countries like Botswana and Tanzania. Males tend to be larger and slender than females, with both sexes weighing around 8 to 18 kgs. They prey on rodents, and frogs, reptiles. They have the longest legs compared to body size out of all cat family members. Notice the hind limbs and just how massive and stocky they look compared to their forelimbs, that's because these animals are excellent jumpers and can easily jump up to 2 meters( 6 ft 7in), they are very well known to hunt down birds mid-air

Sexual maturity in servals occurs by the ages of 1 to 2, Gestation period stays for around 2 to 3 months after which a litter of 2 to 4 kittens are born. They give birth in secluded places usually burrows that were left abandoned by aardvarks and porcupines. Kittens live with their mother until they are a year old. Servals have a life expectancy of 10 years in the wild and 20 years in captivity.

Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis)

Also called Chinchay by the Quechua people these animals are distributed throughout Central America and South America from South American rainforests to the shrub lands of Texas. Measuring around 145 cms in length and weighing around 15.5 kgs in males and 12 kgs in females, they are longer and larger than the average house cat. They inhabit swamps, mangrove forests, savannahs and thorn forests. Being nocturnal, they hunt in high vegetative areas where they would get a good cover and prey on a plethora of organisms like rodents, reptiles, birds, opossums, and armadillos and also hunt on crustaceans and fish. They usually don't hunt prey that is more than 1 kg but also hunt bigger prey like sheep, peccaries and monkeys.

Gestation in Ocelots take place for 2 to 3 months after which a litter of 1 to 3 ocelot kittens are born, the female gives birth in dens that are located in dense vegetation. The kitten starts hunting with their mother after they've reached 3 months old and stays with its mother till they become a year old. Ocelots have an expected life expectancy of 20 years in captivity. Ocelots are sadly coming under serious threat of decline in population as their habitat are being cleared out for farm use.

Marbled Cat (Pardofelis marmorata)

Little much is known about this species, Marbled Cats are one of the most mysterious feline members of the Felidae family. Found in the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas to Southeast Asia, they measure around 66 cm from head to the body, with a long tail of around 33 cm long they have an arboreal lifestyle to mainly avoid predators, and they possess unusually large canines that they use to hunt on rodents, reptiles and birds.

The breeding of Marbled Cats in the wild is not very well documented but some specimens that were bred in captivity with gestation periods of a maximum of 82 days have been observed with females giving birth to a litter of 2 to 4 kittens, they become sexually mature by the age of 2.

Jaguar (Panthera Onca)

Now we'll head towards the Pantherinae subfamily starting with Jaguars, the apex predator of the South American continent. Jaguars are one of the most fascinating predators of their domain, measuring 2ft 1in in length and weighing up to 158 kg they are the largest cat species in the Americas. They are excellent swimmers and tree climbers but they don't climb that much due to their heavy weight. They are apex predators of their domain as mentioned before, preying upon deers, capybaras, tortoises, caimans and many small birds and reptiles.

Jaguars don't technically have a breeding season and would mate any time of the year, females would reach sexual maturity around the age of 2 or 3 and males at around 3 to 4 years of age. The female would give birth to a litter of 2 to 4 cubs after a gestation period of around 100 days, the mother stays with their infant until they are at least 1 year old but would stay with them for an additional year.

Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa)

One of the most mysterious members of the Pantherinae family, Clouded Leopards are the most intriguing animals. They are quite interesting animals that are pretty much distributed throughout the foothills of the Himalayas and Southeast Asia. Clouded leopards measure around 100 or 120 cm long and weigh near 22 kg with males being larger than females. Their name is derived from the cloudy blotches on their fur. Despite their size, they have the longest canines out of all the big cats compared to their body size. They prey on anything smaller than their size.

Breeding in Clouded Leopards that were in captivity was observed between December and March. The mother would give birth to a litter of 2 or 3 kittens after a gestation period of between 85 to 93 days. They reach sexual maturity at around the ages of 2 years and they become independent at around 1.5 to 2 years of age.

Snow Leopard (Panthera Uncia)

Another mysterious member of this family is the Snow Leopard, this predator lives as its name suggests in Mountain regions of the Himalayas and the mountain ranges of Southern Russia. These animals are pretty reclusive and are rarely seen in the wild. They prefer steep rugged terrains with rocky outcrops and use their fur to camouflage with their surroundings and use their tail to cover sensitive parts of their body during severe mountain chills. They mainly feed on Ibex, Bharal (Blue Sheep), marmots and game birds.

Breeding season in Snow Leopards starts from January to mid-March when the female will give birth to a litter of 2 to 3 cubs after a gestation period that is 93 to 115 days long. Cubs become independent by the age of 22 months and start hunting leaving their mother's protection. Males reach sexual maturity around 4 years of age with females reaching sexual maturity by age of 3.

Tiger (Panthera Tigris)

The biggest cat of the Pantherinae family, Tigers are one of the most majestic and intriguing animals on our planet. The big cat resides in Southeast Asia and is the apex predator of its domain hunting a plethora of herbivores from Chital to baby Elephants. Tigers as mentioned above are the largest cat species on our planet measuring up to 10 feet and weighing around 250 kgs. Represented by 9 species out of which 3 are extinct, The Amur Tiger is the largest tiger subspecies on the planet weighing around 430 kgs and measuring around 3 metres 10 feet 7 inches.

Breeding in Tigers occurs depending on their geographical area and climate around them. In tropical regions, tigers breed during colder months from November to April and in temperate regions, tigers breed during winter months. Female tigers usually give birth to a litter of 2 to 3 cubs after a gestation period of 110 days. The cubs stay with their mother until they are 18 months to 3 years of age, Female tigers reach sexual maturity around the age of 3 and males around the age of 4.

This is my take on some of the members of the Felidae family, if you'll like it and want to learn more about the amazing gems that you want to learn about then follow my medium handle to read such amazing articles and as always stay safe and take it easy.



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Abhidyu Ajila

A zoology student who talks animals, conservation, evolution and geography