Science-- there's something for everyone

Friday, July 16, 2010

Cat mimics monkey

















Yes, you read that right. In a study that began in 2005, researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and UFAM (Federal University of Amazonas) have documented a case of a feline mimicking a primate.

The feline in question was a margay (top right), a small spotted wild cat indigenous to Central and South America. One of its main food sources is a small primate called a pied tamarin (top left). Margays weigh up to eight pounds, whereas the tiny tamarins weigh less than a pound.

The team of researchers observed a margay making calls similar to those emitted by baby tamarins. The calls were so persuasive that the adult tamarins were enticed to investigate. Fortunately for the monkeys, the ruse did not work. The tamarins realized they were being duped in time to escape. However, the very fact that the wildcat used a mimicking strategy was fascinating.

Apparently, there have been reports of jaguars and pumas copying the sounds of their prey, including primates and agoutis. Until now, this sort of behavior had not been confirmed.