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Hunter and Barrett’s A Field Guide to the Carnivores of the World

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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For all their popularity as the subject of dedicated books, cats, dogs, bears and their relatives have never previously been the focus of a single, field guide-style volume that treats all of them together. Luke Hunter and Priscilla Barrett’s A Field Guide to the Carnivores of the World (published 2011) is a beautifully illustrated, comprehensive book that treats all 245 or so living carnivoran species in turn. The book is compact (16 x 24 cm) and designed with text on the left-side pages and illustrations on the right-side pages.

Regarding the book’s title, I really wish that people would universally switch to the term carnivoran when referring to members of the group Carnivora. Calling these animals ‘carnivores’ is a frequent source of confusion and ambiguity. Having said this, I fully realise that a great many biologists have no plans to change things, so that needless ambiguity is destined to remain for now.

The book contains >hundreds< of Priscilla Barrett's excellent illustrations. Here, the plate featuring Uncia and Neofelis.

An introductory section depicts an up-to-date carnivoran phylogeny before summarising the history, biology and distribution of the 13 ‘family’-level groups covered here. The up-to-date-ness is demonstrated by the inclusion of separate sections for Mephitidae, Nandiniidae, Prionodontidae and Eupleridae. One minor quibble I have with the book’s layout is that the species are not arranged in the phylogenetic order prompted by the shape of the cladogram. Cat-line carnivorans are treated first, but we go through felids, hyaenids and hespestids before we get to Nandinia, the linsangs or the viverrids. Look, if you’re going to promote tree-based thinking at least be consistent!

And the biggest quibble? Pinnipeds are not included! This is par for the course on books about carnivorans (e.g. Macdonald 1992): I know that authors typically think of the (mostly) marine pinnipeds as somehow being in a separate evolutionary ‘realm’ from the (mostly) terrestrial remainder of Carnivora, but it no longer seems appropriate to ignore pinnipeds when their close relatives within the caniform branch of Carnivora are covered at length. The justification for the non-inclusion of pinnipeds given here is that “pinnipeds are covered in many excellent field guides to marine mammals” (Hunter & Barrett 2011, p. 7). Admittedly, I can see their point: the aim here was to create a field guide for an assemblage of species that didn’t previously have one of their own.

A look inside. One of the three spreads on genets.

On to the main section of the book… the illustrations are beautiful, being highly accurate, depicting realistic life poses, and showing numerous taxa (and variants) not illustrated often, if ever. That’s right: there are good illustrations here of the Central Asian form of the Striped hyaena* Hyaena hyaena, the thin-furred, Saharan form of Cheetah Acinonyx jubatus, as well as such species as the Abyssinian genet Genetta abyssinica, Pousargue’s mongoose Dologale dybowskii, Libyan weasel Ictonyx libyca, Indonesian mountain weasel Mustela lutreolina, and… well, you get the impression: all the others. Barrett’s distinctive illustrations (the book mostly features colour images of the carnivorans, but there are black and white vignettes as well) will look familiar (I mean in style) if you know your mammal books. Some people might buy the book for the pictures alone.

* I am absolutely inconsistent on my use of this term: you will find (if you’re inclined to check, which you’re not) both ‘hyena’ and ‘hyaena’ in the Tet Zoo archives. There is still not an international standard, and I wish there was.

Malabar civet (Viverra civettina) skin obtained in 1990. Despite efforts, this species (thought endemic to the Western Ghats) has not recently been photographed in the wild, if at all (so far as I can tell). Image by Zoological Survey of India, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Camera-traps and the intrepid efforts of researchers, film-makers and photographers mean that many species or variants of species typically missing from books have been captured on film for the first time in recent years. This all means that the number of species as yet unphotographed in the wild is diminishing. A few select rarities remain on the list, however, including Pousargue’s mongoose (no new records since the 1970s), Leighton’s oyan Poiana leightoni (known from old museum specimens and two skin collected in the late 1980s), and (I think) the Malabar civet Viverra civettina (rediscovered in 1990 due to the retrieval of a fresh skin), thought let me know if you know otherwise.

The species accounts provide facts and figures relating to dimensions and weight, brief reviews of distribution, ecology, social behaviour and conservation status. Well-studied species (typically the ones for which various regional forms have been named) get longer accounts, so the Cheetah, Leopard, Jaguar, Lion, Grey wolf, American black bear, Brown bear and several others get pages all to themselves.

Surprisingly, maps showing the ranges of the respective species are absent; this is something of a failing for a book that calls itself a ‘field guide’. “Constraints of space” is the main reason given for the absence: I’m not convinced, since every single colour plate in the book includes empty white areas that could easily have contained miniature maps perhaps but 20 or 30 mm wide. However, specially produced maps can be downloaded from

Stripe-necked mongoose photographed at Karnataka, India: image by Yathin sk, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The text does a brilliant job of summarising key information on the species, with many little-known and recently discovered snippets of natural history and behaviour being mentioned. The occasional ungulate-killing behaviour of the Striped-necked mongoose Herpestes vitticollis [adjacent image of this species by Yathin sk], the possible semi-aquatic habits of the Short-eared dog Atelocynus microtis, a case where an Arctic fox Vulpes lagopus cached over 500 eggs and observations of Banded linsangs Prionodon linsang scavenging on tiger kills, co-operative hunting behaviour in Fossa Cryptoprocta ferox and arboreal hunting (15 m up in a tree!) in a Black-legged mongoose Bdeogale nigripes are among many highlights included in the entries.

The book is also really strong on the information it provides on current conservation status, as you’d expect from a volume produced by the president of the conservation organisation Panthera. Consider supporting Panthera and their work if you can. By focusing on big cats as ‘umbrella species’, they aim to conserve tracts of habitat that are inhabited by thousands or even millions of other species.

Canid phylogeny from Lindblad Toh et al. (2005). Lots of things to note, but look how the Arctic fox is deeply nested within Vulpes foxes.

The use of the name Alopex for the Arctic fox invites comments on how up-to-date the taxonomy is (Alopex is mostly recovered as part of Vulpes these days: Zrzavý & Řičánková 2004, Bardeleben et al. 2005, Lindblad-Toh et al. 2005). As we all know, things are frequently in flux as new phylogenetic hypotheses seemingly trump older classification systems. In short, the volume is fantastically up to date, with recent taxonomic splitting and generic reshufflings being accounted for and alluded to where required. As one random example, the Small Indian mongoose Herpestes auropunctatus and Small Asian mongoose H. javanicus are treated as separate species in view of recently published molecular data that places them far apart (Veron et al. 2007; but see Patou et al. 2009 and Agnarsson et al. 2010). Elsewhere, it is noted that Durrell’s vontsira Salanoia durrelli was described as the book was going to press, and hence couldn’t be given a full-length section of its own.

There are a few places where Hunter & Barrett (2011) either opted for conservatism, or missed taxonomic changes that probably should have been included, however. Hunter & Barrett (2011) get round the unresolved species-level classification of the olingos (Bassaricyon) by illustrating the different morphs and referring to all of them in passing in the same, single entry. Those molecular studies of mongooses alluded to above find the Long-nosed mongoose (conventionally Herpestes naso) to be distinct from the Herpestes species and, instead, especially close to the Marsh mongoose Atilax paludinosus (e.g., Patou et al. 2009, Agnarsson et al. 2010). Hunter & Barrett (2011) hint at this placement by putting the Long-nosed mongoose on the same page as the Marsh mongoose, but they don’t use the name now mooted for this species (Xenogale naso).

One of the many, many pages of skull illustrations from the volume. Brilliant stuff.

Similarly, it now seems that the Asian mongoose species previously lumped into Herpestes are not close kin of the African Herpestes species (the Egyptian mongoose H. ichneumon is the type species for the genus) and hence need a different name. Urva Hodgson, 1837 is available. Less well known is the suggestion that even the reduced, African Herpestes clade should be split to recognise Galerella for the Cape grey mongoose G. pulverulenta and Common slender mongoose G. sanguinea (Patou et al. 2009, Agnarsson et al. 2010).

Among other areas that might warrant mention in future, some (but not all) studies indicate that the Black-backed jackal Canis mesomelas (and maybe Side-striped jackal C. adustus too) is not a member of Canis at all, but is instead outside the canid clade that includes dholes, African hunting dogs and Canis proper (if this is valid, the generic name Lupulella Hilzheimer, 1906 is available for it) (Zrzavý & Řičánková 2004, Bardeleben et al. 2005, Lindblad-Toh et al. 2005, Agnarsson et al. 2010). In their treatment of Eurasian badgers (Meles), Hunter & Barrett (2011) do allude to ideas that the Asian badger M. leucurus and Japanese badger M. anakuma might warrant species-level distinction relative to M. meles, but they presumably weren’t aware of Del Cerro et al.’s (2011) suggestion that M. canescens of south-west Asia should be recognised as well.

For no particular reason, here's a stack of books on carnivorans.

As for errors, this book is so comprehensive and authoritative that I certainly didn’t spot anything that I regarded as incorrect (I am not, however, a carnivoran expert). One minor thing: the Golden jackal Canis aureus is not, within Europe, restricted to the south-east (Hunter & Barrett 2011, p. 104). Believe it or don’t, it now occurs as far north as Sweden (thanks to Markus Bühler for this information), though how it got here and how long it has been living this far north doesn’t seem to be known [UPDATE: be sure to read the comments below!]. I should also note that the reclassification of some African Golden jackals as part of Canis lupus only affects the long controversial ‘subspecies’ C. aureus lupaster.

References are not cited throughout the text (which is fine, this is a field guide) but a bibliography lists most volumes on extant carnivoran diversity and biology. A glossary and index are included, and the volume ends with numerous (as in hundreds) illustrations of skulls and footprints.

I was consistently impressed with the style, editing, content, quality and up-to-dateness of the book. It is a world first and a truly impressive, comprehensive and highly attractive volume. Everybody interested in carnivorans will want to obtain a copy and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Outstanding.

Hunter, L. & Barrett, P. 2011. A Field Guide to the Carnivores of the World. New Holland, London. Hardback, colour, 240 pp, ISBN 978-1-84773-346-7. Here on Panthera; here on amazon; here on

For previous Tet Zoo articles on carnivorans, see…

Refs – -

Agnarsson, I., Kuntner, M. & May-Collado, L. J. 2010. Dogs, cats, and kin: A molecular species-level phylogeny of Carnivora. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 54, 726-745.

Bardeleben, C., Moore, R. L., & Wayne, R. K. 2005. A molecular phylogeny of the Canidae based on six nuclear loci. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 37, 815-831.

Del Cerro, I., Marmi, J., Ferrando, A., Chashchin, P., Taberlet, P. & Bosch, M. 2010. Nuclear and mitochondrial phylogenies provide evidence for four species of Eurasian badgers (Carnivora). Zoologica Scripta 39, 415-425.

Hunter, L. & Barrett, P. 2011. A Field Guide to the Carnivores of the World. New Holland, London.

Lindblad-Toh, K., Wade, C. M., Mikkelsen, T. S., Karlsson, E. K., Jaffe, D. B., Kamal, M, Clamp, M., Chang, J. L., Kulbokas, E. J., Zody, M. C., Mauceli, E., Xie, X., Breen, M., Wayne, R. K., Ostrander, E. A., Ponting, C. P., Galibert, F., Smith, D. R., deJong, P. J., Kirkness, E., Alvarez, P., Biagi, T., Brockman, W., Butler, J., Chin, J.-W., Cook, A., Cuff, J., Daly, M. J., Decaprio, D., Gnerre, S., Grabherr, M., Kellis, M., Kleber, M., Bardeleben, C., Goodstadt, L., Heger, A., Hitte, C., Kim, L., Koepfli, K.-P., Parker, H. G., Pollinger, J. P., Searle, S. M. J., Sutter, N. B., Thomas, R., Webber, C., Broad Institute Genome Sequencing Platform (Baldwin, J., Abebe, A., Abouelleil, A., Aftuck, L., Ait-Zahra, M., Aldredge, T., Allen, N., An, P., Anderson, S., Antoine, C., Arachchi, H., Aslam, A., Ayotte, L., Bachantsang, P., Barry, A., Bayul, T., Benamara, M., Berlin, A., Bessette, D., Blitshteyn, B., Bloom, T., Blye, J., Boguslavskiy, L., Bonnet, C., Boukhgalter, B., Brown, A., Cahill, P., Calixte, N., Camarata, J., Cheshatsang, Y., Chu, J., Citroen, M., Collymore, A., Cooke, P., Dawoe, T., Daza, R., Decktor, K., Degray, S., Dhargay, N., Dooley, K., Dooley, K., Dorje, P., Dorjee, K., Dorris, L., Duffey, N., Dupes, A., Egbiremolen, O., Elong, R., Falk, J., Farina, A., Faro, S., Ferguson, D., Ferreira, P., Fisher, S., Fitzgerald, M., Foley, K., Foley, C., Franke, A., Friedrich, D., Gage, D., Garber, M., Gearin, G., Giannoukos, G., Goode, T., Goyette, A., Graham, J., Grandbois, E., Gyaltsen, K., Hafez, N., Hagopian, D., Hagos, B., Hall, J., Healy, C., Hegarty, R., Honan, T., Horn, A., Houde, N., Hughes. L., Hunnicutt, L., Husby. M., Jester, B., Jones, C., Kamat, A., Kanga, B., Kells, C., Khazanovich, D., Kieu, A. C., Kisner, P., Kumar, M., Lance, K., Landers, T., Lara, M., Lee, W., Leger, J.-P., Lennon, N., Leuper, L., Levine, S., Liu, J., Liu, X., Lokyitsang, Y., Lokyitsang, T., Lui, A., Macdonald, J., Major, J., Marabella, R., Maru, K., Matthews, C., McDonough, S., Mehta, T., Meldrim, J., Melnikov, A., Meneus, L., Mihalev, A., Mihova, T., Miller, K., Mittelman, R., Mlenga, V., Mulrain, L., Munson, G., Navidi, A., Naylor, J., Nguyen, T., Nguyen, N., Nguyen, C., Nguyen, T., Nicol, R., Norbu, N., Norbu, C., Novod, N., Nyima, T., Olandt, P., O’neill, B., O’neill, K., Osman, S., Oyono, L., Patti, C., Perrin, C., Phunkhang, P., Pierre, F., Priest, M., Rachupka, A., Raghuraman, S., Rameau. R., Ray, V., Raymond, C., Rege, F., Rise, C., Rogers, J., Rogov, P., Sahalie, J., Settipalli, S., Sharpe, T., Shea, T., Sheehan, M., Sherpa, N., Shi, J., Shih, D., Sloan, J., Smith, C., Sparrow, T., Stalker, J., Stange-Thomann, N., Stavropoulos, S., Stone, C., Stone, S., Sykes, S., Tchuinga, P., Tenzing, P., Tesfaye, S., Thoulutsang, D., Thoulutsang, Y., Topham, K., Topping, I., Tsamla, T., Vassiliev, H., Venkataraman, V., Vo, A., Wangchuk, T., Wangdi, T., Weiand, M., Wilkinson, J., Wilson, A., Yadav, S., Yang, S., Yang, X., Young, G., Yu, Q., Zainoun, J., Zembek. L., Zimmer, A.) & Lander, E. S. 2005. Genome sequence, comparative analysis and haplotype structure of the domestic dog. Nature 438, 803-819.

Macdonald, D. 1992. The Velvet Claw: A Natural History of the Carnivores. BBC Books, London.

Patou, M.-L., Mclenachan, P. A., Morley, C. G., Couloux, A., Jennings, A. P. & Veron, G. 2009. Molecular phylogeny of the Herpestidae (Mammalia, Carnivora) with a special emphasis on the Asian Herpestes. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 53, 69-80.

Veron, G., Patou, M. L., Pothet, G., Simberloff, D., Jennings, A. P. 2007. Systematic status and biogeography of the Javan and small Indian mongooses (Herpestidae, Carnivora). Zoologica Scripta 36, 1-10.

Zrzavý, J. & Řičánková, V. 2004. Phylogeny of Recent Canidae (Mammalia, Carnivora): relative reliability and utility of morphological and molecular datasets. Zoologica Scripta 33, 311-333.

Darren Naish About the Author: Darren Naish is a science writer, technical editor and palaeozoologist (affiliated with the University of Southampton, UK). He mostly works on Cretaceous dinosaurs and pterosaurs but has an avid interest in all things tetrapod. His publications can be downloaded at He has been blogging at Tetrapod Zoology since 2006. Check out the Tet Zoo podcast at! Follow on Twitter @TetZoo.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. josimo70 7:10 pm 03/7/2013

    Even with Alopex recovered as part of Vulpes, probably arctic fox must be part of some Vulpes subset clade, that would deserve to be called Alopex (a subgenus?)

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  2. 2. AlexanderBerg 7:59 pm 03/7/2013

    Jackals in Sweden? this is a place where ORLY.jpg would be appropriate…
    Or are you mixing Sweden with Switzerland (common, and quite understandable)?
    How did they get here if its correct, by swimming from Denmark or lubbing it over from the nort via from Finland?

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  3. 3. Cameron McCormick 9:17 pm 03/7/2013

    RE: Swedish (now Swiss!) Golden Jackals, the source is this nature documentary.

    As for how Golden Jackals got over to the Scandinavian peninsula — does the Baltic ever freeze over? It’s certainly relevant that Eastern Coyotes managed to establish themselves on Newfoundland, and it appears they did so by walking over ~100 km of ice! There are even anecdotes of them being seen walking over the ice by ferry passengers and coming ashore in Stephenville.

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  4. 4. Cameron McCormick 9:21 pm 03/7/2013

    Argh, make that *not* Swiss. The Coyote anecdotes can be read here.

    Darren – How many links can I share before being considered spam?

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  5. 5. vdinets 1:56 am 03/8/2013

    So far, “carnivores” get about 100 times more Google results than “carnivorans”. Looks like it will be a difficult thing to achieve.

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  6. 6. Dartian 2:28 am 03/8/2013


    And the biggest quibble? Pinnipeds are not included!

    That’s not a quibble. Considering this book’s stated aims and scope, that’s a serious, non-trivial flaw!

    The justification for the non-inclusion of pinnipeds given here is that “pinnipeds are covered in many excellent field guides to marine mammals”

    But those marine mammal field guides also always include the polar bear and the sea otter – are they excluded from Hunter & Barrett’s book? If they’re not (and I presume that the polar bear at least is not, as it appears on the book’s cover), Hunter & Barrett’s excuse for excluding the pinnipeds from their book becomes even more hollow.

    you will find (if you’re inclined to check, which you’re not) both ‘hyena’ and ‘hyaena’ in the Tet Zoo archives. There is still not an international standard, and I wish there was

    I thought ‘hyaena’ was British and ‘hyena’ was American? (For the record though, I know that I’ve been awfully inconsistent with the spelling too.)

    RE: Swedish (now Swiss!) Golden Jackals, the source is this nature documentary.

    That’s what the narration says indeed (except that they speak of only one jackal, not several); they claim to be showing footage of a male golden jackal filmed in Sweden (they don’t say where in Sweden) in the winter of 2000. However, I am very suspicious about this footage.

    True, the environment and the vegetation look about right for Sweden, as does the presence of moose in the same footage with the jackal. But it’s obvious beyond any real doubt that much of this footage is staged. That’s surely not a wild jackal – a truly wild individual would hardly let the cameraman get that close (in broad daylight, no less). The ‘hunting’ scenes are even more obviously staged. The rodent that appears from a hole in the snow and that’s caught by the jackal is a house mouse Mus musculus. That’s completely atypical behaviour for this species; it doesn’t occur out in the woods in winter in Sweden and it does not normally dig tunnels in the snow (in colder places, such as Sweden, house mice retreat into buildings for the winter – and stay there). There are two* non-commensal** species of mice in Sweden – the yellow-necked mouse Apodemus flavicollis and the wood mouse A. sylvaticus – but the mouse in the documentary is neither of those species.

    * Well, strictly speaking there are three, as the harvest mouse Micromys minutus has recently been recorded there too, very locally. But the mouse in the video is clearly not a harvest mouse either.

    ** Incidentally, in parts of their range Apodemus mice may sometimes enter buildings too in the winter, and even manage to replace the smaller house mice.

    Those fish look out of place too. I’m not entirely sure of the species, but it looks like bleak Alburnus alburnus – in which case the environment is quite wrong; bleak do not usually occur in such extremely shallow creeks, especially not in the winter. Also, some of those fish individuals look quite moribund, suggesting that somebody placed them there.

    Conclusion: while that footage may, in fact, have been filmed in Sweden, both the suspicious tameness of the jackal and the near-certainty that both those ‘hunting’ scenes are staged (unfortunately, that’s not rare for nature documentaries), suggest that we’re not being shown a wild jackal that got to Sweden on its own. Thus, IMO it’s still rather too soon to consider the golden jackal a member of the Swedish fauna. That extraordinary claim needs stronger evidence than what’s here been presented.

    does the Baltic ever freeze over?

    In the northern parts, almost every winter. In the southern parts, very rarely (and, as mentioned, we’re not told in what part of Sweden this footage was supposedly shot).

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  7. 7. Dartian 4:52 am 03/8/2013

    A further comment on the mouse in the jackal documentary: It seems much darker in colour than what typical ‘wild’-type house mice do (and it also looks a bit obese to me), suggesting that it comes from some lab strain. One more reason to regard that footage as staged.

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  8. 8. barndad 5:49 am 03/8/2013

    This is totally going on my wish list!
    Happy to note that I own six of the books in your pile.

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  9. 9. Jerzy v. 3.0. 6:51 am 03/8/2013

    I wonder what is status of recently described ferret-badger from Vietnam?

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  10. 10. naishd 7:10 am 03/8/2013

    Thanks for comments. Good call on the alleged Golden jackal in Sweden. It’s all very, very odd but not necessarily ridiculous. Consider that the species has undergone major expansions in Croatia and Bulgaria in recent years, it bred in Austria in 2007, and it seems to be spreading northwards from south-eastern Europe. We also know from mid-20th century record that it is sometimes capable of sudden and long-distance migrations. See…

    Arnold, J., Humer, A., Heltai, M., Murariu, D., Spassov, N. & Hacklander, K. 2011. Current status and distribution of golden jackals (Canis aureus L., 1758) in Europe. Mammal Review 1-11.

    Cameron (comment 4): I think that two links or more makes a message destined for the spam folder. I try to keep on top of things, but a delay of a few hours at least is inevitable.

    Vietnamese ferret-badgers (comment 9): Melogale cucphuongensis was published in 2011, and hence is of course not included (the book went to press in 2010, as noted above). They include four ferret-badgers: M. moschata, M. personata, M. everetti and M. orientalis.


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  11. 11. Dartian 8:11 am 03/8/2013

    See… Arnold, J., Humer, A., Heltai, M., Murariu, D., Spassov, N. & Hacklander, K. 2011. Current status and distribution of golden jackals (Canis aureus L., 1758) in Europe. Mammal Review 1-11.

    I have (nitpick: the year of publication is 2012, not 2011; the early online publication thingy is causing confusion again). There is no mention in that paper of any occurrence of golden jackals in Sweden. I also did an online search for more information on this alleged Swedish jackal; it turned up absolutely nothing of relevance. Which is extremely suspicious by itself. Spontaneous dispersal of a golden jackal to Sweden would be sensational news in mammalogical circles (and would surely guarantee for its reporters a nice, fairly high-impact publication) and also of general interest to the wider public (including, e.g., hunters and owners of livestock). If this case was genuine it would be completely inexplicable that there seems to be no technical or popular literature whatsoever about it!

    My take on this case, therefore, is that the ‘Swedish’ jackal should be ignored until and unless some solid evidence for its authenticity is published.

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  12. 12. naishd 8:27 am 03/8/2013

    I think it’s pretty clear from comment 10 that I was citing Arnold et al. (ahem) (2012) because it reviews the distribution of the Golden jackal and its possible dispersal abilities, not because it mentions jackals in Sweden. I agree with you that the absence of the case from the internet and literature strengthens your appropriate scepticism (which I totally share, by the way). Of course, that’s not good enough to demolish the case entirely…


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  13. 13. David Marjanović 10:27 am 03/8/2013

    the species are not arranged in the phylogenetic order prompted by the shape of the cladogram. Cat-line carnivorans are treated first, but we go through felids, hyaenids and he[r]pestids before we get to Nandinia, the linsangs or the viverrids.

    If we get to Nandinia last, that would be fine… but we don’t, do we?

    Even with Alopex recovered as part of Vulpes, probably arctic fox must be part of some Vulpes subset clade, that would deserve to be called Alopex (a subgenus?)

    See above: that would be just the Arctic fox and the kit fox.

    “carnivores” get about 100 times more Google results than “carnivorans”

    Of course, many of these do in fact mean carnivores.

    Also, I come up empty trying to translate “carnivoran” unambiguously into German or French.

    I thought ‘hyaena’ was British and ‘hyena’ was American?

    That’s what I always thought… it’s after all a pattern…

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  14. 14. naishd 11:54 am 03/8/2013

    Hello readership. I’ve just been chatting with Luke Hunter about the book and my review of it (like all good people, he’s a massive Tet Zoo fan and regular reader). He notes the following errors (some introduced by editors)…

    – the Sundaland clouded leopard is incorrectly termed ‘Diardi’s clouded leopard’ (which should be ‘Diard’s clouded leopard’, anyway)
    – the gestation time for the Spotted hyaena is given as 90-91 days instead of 110 days
    – in the Arctic fox entry, a new species termed the ‘Arctic Goose’ is referred to – the text originally said ‘Arctic geese’ (meaning a diversity of species that breed in the Arctic)

    So.. a challenge. Can anybody find any additional ‘significant’ errors (that is, not minor typos or missing apostrophes, but technical gaffs)? Luke is offering a free copy of the book to whoever can. Of course, there might not >be< any additional errors, but what the hey… Post responses here in the comments.


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  15. 15. evksg 5:38 pm 03/8/2013

    regarding the case of the malabar civet, R.Nandini and Divya Mudappa have developped quite convincing arguments against the Malabar Civet being a wild taxon of the genus Viverra from southern India. One can read their study here.

    Nandini, R., Mudappa, Divya, 2010, Mystery or myth: a review of history and conservation status of the Malabar Civet Viverra civettina Blyth, 1862 Small Carnivore Conservation 43, 47–59.

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  16. 16. Jerzy v. 3.0. 9:41 am 03/9/2013

    For me tropical carnivores have too long and thick fur.

    These animals are also rather plump, full bellied and not muscular. Maybe the models were zoo animals?

    I like to spot “continuity mistakes” in books, but seriously, identification of wild mammals is not easy and heavily relies on shape and fur quality. When your normal view of a wild carnivore is something indistinct crossing the forest path in half darkness.

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  17. 17. Jerzy v. 3.0. 9:43 am 03/9/2013

    I think DNA testing should solve this problem. I remember also talk that color phases of palm civets in Sri Lanka might be different species.

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  18. 18. Jerzy v. 3.0. 12:54 pm 03/10/2013

    I just noticed the paper that there can be 3 or 4 endemic golden palm civets in Sri Lanka.

    This is by Mr Groves, and, naturally, his earlier publication was criticized that he calls “species” animals different on the level of subspecies or ecotype.

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  19. 19. Patrik B 3:42 pm 03/10/2013

    Regarding Golden jackals in Sweden:
    If my very rusty german serves me right, that part of the nature documentary seems to reenact an eye-witness description.

    The film is clearly not shot in Sweden, at least not the part with the stream. We usually don’t have those limestone-looking gravel in streams here, and where we get that, it is in the south. And in the south we don’t have those kinds of mountains nor that much snow.

    And why would an eye-witness identify an animal as something most swedes haven’t heard of, let alone seen? Perhaps this eye-witness was an immigrant, and not familiar with our red fox or wolf?

    Lastly, there isn’t even anything written in swedish newspapers or magazines regarding a jackal in Sweden. Where did these documentary makers get hold of this eye-witness?

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  20. 20. Dartian 3:55 am 03/11/2013

    We usually don’t have those limestone-looking gravel in streams here, and where we get that, it is in the south. And in the south we don’t have those kinds of mountains nor that much snow.

    But it’s not hinted at where in Sweden this jackal was supposed to be, is it? As for the mountains, note that the footage switches quite abruptly from Sweden (or ‘Sweden’) to somewhere in the Balkans (Slovenia?).

    But, as I hope to have made clear in my previous comments, I quite share your scepticism about the authenticity of this so-called Swedish jackal.

    I do have one more odd thing to note about this case: In the end credits of that German documentary (which is from 2007), one of the scientific advisors listed is Miklós Heltai. And Heltai is one of the authors of the review paper on the current distribution of the golden jackal in Europe that Darren cited in comment #10. Thus, at least one of the authors of that paper was aware of the documentary and surely also of the claims made therein – and yet there is not even a passing mention of a Swedish golden jackal sighting in Arnold et al. (2012)!

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  21. 21. naishd 5:36 am 03/11/2013

    Jerzy (comment 16) writes…

    “For me tropical carnivores have too long and thick fur.

    These animals are also rather plump, full bellied and not muscular. Maybe the models were zoo animals?”

    I assume here that Jerzy is referring to Barrett’s illustrations. This – sorry!- sounds like one of those smarty-pants comments made by someone who thinks they understand real animals better than others :) I completely disagree: Barrett’s illustrations look absolutely realistic to me, and I’ll bet you that she took care to use wild animals as the models for her illustrations (there are exceptions of course: some species have been reconstructed based on museum specimens).


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  22. 22. Chabier G. 7:18 am 03/11/2013

    Here in Spain, we have another strange case of suposed Golden Jackal. Some hunters in Asturias (Northern Cantabric Mountains), told that they had killed a Golden Jackal, and that more individuals had been seen by peasants. Nobody knows where is the carcass of that “jackal”, and there were no more reports. I think the whole case was a mixture of misidentification (perhaps some odd coloured fox or even a dog), imagination and a little more proof-drinking than desirable.
    Curiously, another German doc, about Spanish Pyrenees Wildlife, showed images of Lynx lynx, talking about this species as if it were present. Well, actually,the occurrence of Lynx lynx in the Pyrenees has’nt been proved, we know they roamed these mountains, perhaps until some decades ago, but now it’s a matter of cryptozoology.

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  23. 23. BrianL 12:28 pm 03/11/2013

    @Chabier G.:
    This reminds me of the mystery surrounding lynxes and wolves showing up in the Netherlands in recent years. There definately are wolves about a hundred kilometers across the German border and there are lynxes at about the same distance in the Belgian Ardennes, but so far reports of either wolves or lynxes turning up in the Netherlands have gone unverified. Fact is that the reappearance of wolves is expected in years to come, though this may only make misidentification of foxes or dogs all the more likely, as people are more inclined to report wolves. As for lynxes, these are much more low profile for the public so they do not stir the imagination quite as much. That being said, fairly recently there was an uproar about lynx footprints and so on being found. This turned out to be a hoax. In 2005 there was also a rumour about a puma in the Netherlands, though the photograph probably shows a big and skinny domestic cat or a hybrid domestic cat/wildcat. The latter would still be interesting as wildcats are also considered extinct in the Netherlands. The picture can be seen here:

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  24. 24. naishd 12:40 pm 03/11/2013

    Wow, people thought >that< was a puma?


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  25. 25. vdinets 1:38 pm 03/11/2013

    Doesn’t look like a housecat, either, and there’s nothing to suggest wildcat. I have four possible explanations (all take into account hundreds of reports of large black cats in southeastern USA).
    (1) Feral cats can hybridize with loneliness-striken escaped pumas in the wild, but only large black tomcats are capable of that, as melanin gives them the courage.
    (2) There is an undescribed cat species in both Europe and North America; many purported cave paintings of cave lions actually show this species, as there is never a mane.
    (3) Someone intentionally bred/genetically engineered an extra-large cat breed and released it on both continents; the project is kept sectret to prevent passing of laws making the dangerous new breed illegal.
    (4) Feral cats have blitz-evolved large size (probably as a single-allele mutation, since there seem to be no intermediates) independently in both places. It is linked to melanism and extreme shyness (a bit contradictory, I know).
    Any more suggestions?

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  26. 26. Heteromeles 2:09 pm 03/11/2013

    uh, e) that monochromatism is a decent “dazzle” camouflage, in that it makes it hard to get a proper size of and distance to an animal?

    As for the puma/wolf/coyote thing, I heard a bunch of it in the Midwest about a decade ago. My general take, having grown up in coyote and mountain lion country, is that people living with either animal rarely see them, even when (as with coyotes) they may be checking your yard every day for food. Given this tendency, absence of evidence is definitely not evidence of absence. That said, camera traps are getting cheap, to the point that any high school could run an annual student study in a nearby woodland to see what carnivores are present. As with sasquatch, I’d suggest that decent citizen science is definitely called for.

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  27. 27. Chabier G. 4:34 am 03/12/2013

    Yes, it’s amazing how little people (even peasants) knows about common animals, living close to them.
    There was a case here, in the countryside near Zaragoza: in the 50′s, when people still lived “close to wild”, a peasant killed an animal that he describes as “a very strange animal, never seen before in the zone, something doglike, with very long claws, and head of viper (!?)”. Well, the animal was, in fact, a badger!!, one of the commonest mammals everywhere in Spain.
    A recent “report” of an Iberian Lynx in NE Spain (Teruel), was indeed a roadkilled domestic cat, normal-sized, but with a curious striped coat, but nothing to do with a lynx. Fortunately, the carcass was sent to our Wildlife Rescue Center and we could notice the mistake.
    Definitively, I don’t believe anything about lynxes or Wolves anywhere if there are not “touchable” evidences (or a decent picture, at least). Eye-witnesses have failed too many times.

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  28. 28. naishd 5:07 am 03/12/2013

    On the subject of Palaearctic ‘crypto’-lynxes, a couple of years ago (2011 or so) some geologists told me that they saw and photographed a Northern/Eurasian lynx in Morocco. The photos were clearly of a feral domestic cat.

    Eurasian lynxes are definitely present in the UK, at least on occasion. One was shot in 1991 on the Norfolk-Suffolk border and a few others have been shot or captured. Then there are the Jungle cats and Leopards cats (I’m actually going to see the Hayling Island Jungle cat again this weekend). With colleagues, I’ve just submitted the final version of a manuscript that discusses a lynx shot here in the UK many years ago. More on that later…


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  29. 29. Jerzy v. 3.0. 6:03 am 03/12/2013

    Probably just Kzinti agents planning to invade Earth.

    But, of course Asian elephants are present in Alps and Ireland, at least on occassion. news/ worldnews/ europe/ switzerland/7809002/Elephant-escapes-in-Zurich.html

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  30. 30. naishd 6:15 am 03/12/2013

    Ah yes, Asian elephants in the Alps and Ireland: exactly the same sort of thing [sarcasm]. At least some non-native cats are short-term escapees, for sure.


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  31. 31. Dartian 6:33 am 03/12/2013

    At least some non-native cats are short-term escapees, for sure.

    But aren’t they all effectively ‘short-term escapees’ as long as they don’t manage to establish self-sustaining wild populations?

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  32. 32. Chabier G. 6:45 am 03/12/2013

    There are some Eurasian lynxes as pets, here in Aragón, and some pumas, too. The owners go often to the field with these “domestic cats”, I’ve even seen pictures of a rather snob guy hunting hares with an Eurasian lynx in the Moncayo Range (Province of Zaragoza). Then, it wouldn’t be rare to see a escaped big cat one of these days. The scenario is becoming fairly complicated, putative Iberian lynxes in localities where there weren’t previous reports, wild Eurasian lynxes that may or not be, escaped captive Eurasian lynxes, misidentification of cats or whatever,…

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  33. 33. Boesse 7:44 am 03/12/2013

    I’m glad to see someone else bugged by pinnipeds being ignored as carnivores. It’s not a trivial problem to be sure – many papers which bill themselves as examining functional changes (in dentition, locomotion, brain size, what have you) across all Carnivora often totally leave out pinnipeds, without stating any rationale for why they’ve been left out. I get the impression from the literature that aside from some who work on carnivore phylogeny, terrestrial carnivore specialists don’t really know how to approach pinniped function/ecology/morphology, and just don’t bother. It’s a real shame, because I have an interest in both pinniped and cetacean evolution, but don’t really have the background to evaluate the broader context of pinniped evolution amongst carnivorans. So you can imagine it’s a bit disappointing when I see new studies come out claiming to provide wide-ranging implications/observations for the “whole” clade Carnivora and leave out the weirdest group. Anybody care to shed any light on this?

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  34. 34. naishd 8:34 am 03/12/2013

    Dartian (comment 31): the thing is, are we sure that they >haven’t< established breeding populations?; actually, they might have. In the UK, lynxes and jungle cats are discovered frequently enough to suggest the existence of cryptic breeding populations, and people have reported den sites and observations of cubs (this is also true of pumas and leopards in the UK). I want better evidence before we can say that the animals really are breeding and established, but the idea that they are is certainly not crackpot nonsense. More on this when I get round to reviewing Minter's Big Cats: Facing Britain’s Wild Predators.


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  35. 35. Chabier G. 9:24 am 03/12/2013

    I only know Britain by books, but Scottish Highlands look like a good place for a thriving lynx population, with lots of rabbits, hares, roe deers, and a low human density. The only problem would be sheep herders, but lynx is not all that prone to attack livestock.

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  36. 36. vdinets 2:00 pm 03/12/2013

    Well, there were sightings of big cats by zoologists in southeastern US, too. By the way, the continuing presence of Eastern pumas was cosidered a myth for a long time, but now there is genetic evidence from Quebec, a video shot by three zoologists in southern Louisiana, and a specimen from northern Louisiana. The latter was mounted and now stands in Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries office lobby; that didn’t prevent US Fish & Wildlife from declaring “Eastern Cougar” extinct last year :-)

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  37. 37. naishd 6:48 am 03/13/2013

    Boesse (comment # 33): regarding the non-inclusion of pinnipeds in carnivoran studies, I wonder if it’s a vestige of adherence to that damned Linnaean system again. Until just a few decades ago, people were still thinking of Pinnipedia as being a sort of separate radiation from Fissipedia… could it be that this logic allows people to compartmentalize pinnipeds as being somehow separate from other carnivorans? You and I might think of animals as being arranged in a tree, but those not interested in phylogeny might imagine animals in the ‘pinniped box’ to be irrelevant to the animals in the ‘fissiped box’. I find that some biologists interested in the ecology, distribution and habits of living taxa still think of things in terms of ‘Linnaean boxes’.


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  38. 38. Jerzy v. 3.0. 7:23 am 03/13/2013

    Wikipedia tells stories of live woolly mammoths allegedly seen in Siberia from flyover planes during WW2. I wonder if you can say more about this legend?

    (just interested in modern Russian folklore).

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  39. 39. vdinets 10:15 am 03/13/2013

    Jerzy: mammoth tales have been the favorite subject of various pranks in Siberia for decades; one popular joke is telling them to ignorant journalists from Moscow. No wonder some are still in circulation.

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  40. 40. leecris 12:49 am 03/16/2013

    “…Can anybody find any additional ‘significant’ errors (that is, not minor typos or missing apostrophes, but technical gaffs)?…”

    Don’t you mean gaffe? A gaff is something you use to haul a big fish out of the water, right? (Drat that miserable language, English!)

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  41. 41. leecris 1:02 am 03/16/2013

    Darren, the link to amazon in the U.S. produces a book cover that looks different – it’s a paperback with just canids on the cover – is this the same book?

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  42. 42. naishd 7:22 am 03/16/2013

    leecris (comment # 40): gaff vs gaffe… ok, I didn’t know that until now.

    As for the book – I have’t seen it, but seems that there’s an edition (the US one?) with hunting dogs on the cover. Definitely the same book though.


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