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A lynx, shot dead in England in c. 1903

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


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Ab4458 the Edwardian lynx. Aww, cute! Photo (c) Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.

For over 100 years, a potentially significant dead cat has been sat in storage in a British museum. Specifically, the specimen – the lynx Ab4458 – has been at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery ever since it was added to the collections there in February 1903, and what makes it significant is that it was shot dead after living wild in Devon, southern England. As revealed in a new paper published by Aberystwyth* University’s Max Blake and a team of colleagues (myself, Greger Larson, Charlotte King, Geoff Nowell, Manabu Sakamoto and Ross Barnett), the specimen represents a historic ‘British big cat’, though with ‘big cat’ being used very much in the vernacular sense, not the technical one (Blake et al. 2013).

* For you non-Brits who haven’t seen this place-name before, it’s pronounced something like ‘A-bur-risst-with’.

The Northern lynx shot by a farmer in Norfolk (not Suffolk, as we say in the paper) in 1991. He was told by the police not to discuss the case.

As is well known, people across the UK routinely report encounters with animals that they describe as ‘big cats’. I’m one of several researchers who thinks that at least some of these reports really do describe encounters with non-native felids: Puma Puma concolor, Leopard Panthera pardus, Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx and Jungle cat Felis chaus among them. There are numerous misidentifications and hoaxes, for sure, but the probable genuine presence of these animals is verified by photographic evidence, tooth pit data (Coard 2007), tracks, scat, kills, hairs, DNA, and by carcasses belonging to Eurasian lynx, Jungle cat and Leopard cat (Shuker 1989, 1995, McGowan 2007, Minter 2011, Blake et al. 2013). Some of this copious data (especially that from the scat, hairs and DNA) remains unpublished as of right now, but we’re working on it (ha. You want something done, you gotta do it yourself, I guess).

It's sometimes said that all the carcasses said to be 'British big cat kills' look nothing like real felid kills and can instead be attributed to dogs. This is not correct: many of the relevant British cases really do look like genuine felid kills. This Roe deer was photographed in Woodchester, Gloucestershire, in January 2012.

Seeing as feral animals of just about every conceivable sort have been abroad in the British countryside, seeing as non-native cats are sought after for collections and are consummate escape-artists, and seeing as even exotic, tropical cats are indisputably able to survive in the wild in the UK without difficulty, the occasional and perhaps even persistent presence of non-native cat species in the UK is not especially surprising. Some of the more extreme scepticism directed at the idea of ‘British big cats’ comes from people who think that nebulous stories of black monster moggies are all there is to this phenomenon.

Why are non-native cats of several species living wild in the UK? As just indicated, they must be escapees or even deliberate releases, and a popular explanation for their presence is that they were set loose by their owners following the introduction of the 1976 Dangerous Wild Animals Act (a piece of legislation which meant that owners of certain ‘dangerous’ species now had to pay for the privilege of ownership. And, yes, there really were – and still are – private individuals in possession of such animals as pumas, leopards and lynxes).

Needless to say, a wild-living lynx shot in England in or prior to 1903 pretty much demonstrates that non-native cats were present, on occasion at least, in the UK long before the implementation of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act. We’re certainly not saying that the specimen demonstrates the persistence of a breeding or persistent lynx colony in Edwardian England or anything like that but, rather, are using it as “further support for the proposal that non-native felids have been an occasional but continuous presence in Britain for decades” (Blake et al. 2013, p. 7).

Map of Devon (SE England): Newton Abbot marked by black star (white star = Bristol, black circle = Plymouth, white circle = Exeter). From Blake et al. (2013).

What do we actually know about the specimen’s history? Accession documents at the museum describe how it was shot dead by a ‘Mr Heb’ (the handwriting in the accession catalogue is difficult to read and this name might be wrong) after killing two dogs. It was then donated to the museum by a Mr J. Niblet of Newton Abbot, Devon. The geographical origin of the specimen is given as ‘Newton Abbot’. Foreign specimens are clearly marked with a place of origin, so we have to conclude that the cat really did come from Devon.

Max Blake and Ab4458 back in 2010 or so. I never did figure out the image on Max's t-shirt.

The specimen seems to have gone unremarked on until just a few years ago when Max (then a biology student at the University of Bristol) encountered it during volunteer curatorial work. Working together with felid and ancient DNA expert Ross Barnett and others, Max and me set about describing and analysing the specimen and gave a lecture on it at a cryptozoology conference in 2011. To our mild displeasure, the BBC leaked news of the discovery for their 2010 series Autumnwatch Unsprung and, annoyingly, failed to note that the animal was under study at the time. However, I don’t think enough people saw this for it to make a difference (sorry, Autumnwatch).

What sort of lynx?

While Ab4458 is obviously a lynx, what sort of lynx is it? The Eurasian or Northern lynx is a British native that survived here until at least the 5th or 6th century, but Ab4458 clearly does not belong to this species (the Eurasian lynx is long-legged, tawny and usually prominently spotted. Ab4458 is short-legged, silvery and mostly unspotted). Based on its silvery-brown pelt and the black markings on the ventral parts of its facial ruff, Ab4458 resembles a Canada lynx L. canadensis. However, it resembles a plain-coated Bobcat L. rufus in having a proportionally long, ventrally whitish tail and dark facial streaks just beneath its eyes. This combination of features (combined with other areas of ambiguity) means that we weren’t able to identify the mounted specimen with absolute confidence (Blake et al. 2013).

Different views of Ab4458: Canada lynx or Bobcat? Photos by Max Blake. From Blake et al. (2013).

In order to resolve this issue, hair samples were analysed at Durham University’s Ancient DNA laboratory. To our surprise, we were unable to successfully extract DNA. We assume this is something to do with the method used to treat the pelt during its preparation (Blake et al. 2013).

There are bones as well

However, we don’t just have a mounted skin – there are bones as well, accessioned under the same code and assumed to belong to the same individual. If it seems odd having both a mounted skin and a set of bones, there are many different ways of mounting a treated skin such that you end up with what looks like a posed, ‘live’ animal and the history of taxidermy basically shows that people have used any and every method imaginable. Most commonly, a taxidermy mount is actually a 3D model (made of wood, metal and parts of the animal’s skeleton) over which the treated skin is mounted.

Skull of Ab4458 in (A) right lateral and (B) anterior views. From Blake et al. (2013).

Working out the specific history of a specimen can be difficult and people most usually use x-raying to work out what happened. We haven’t yet finished our investigation of the specimen’s history, but we’re confident at the moment that it does not contain any original bone. Bizarrely, the teeth in the mount, for example, are made from some sort of wax or resin. The bones do, therefore, seem to belong to the same individual as the pelt. We analysed 29 measurements from the skull within the context of a large and taxonomically thorough dataset of extant cat diversity – the results showed with a high degree of confidence that the skull is that of a Canada lynx (Blake et al. 2013).

Wild in England, but for how long?

Finally, a major question we have about the specimen concerns the duration of its residency in the UK. Did it escape just a few weeks/days/hours prior to its demise, or had it been living wild in the Devonshire countryside for some extended period of time? Here we come to an interesting problem, since how exactly do you determine this sort of thing when all you have is bones and a skin? We used two techniques: we looked at the wear and tear on the bones and teeth, and we also examined the Strontium isotope ratios of the specimen’s tissues. Isotope ratios can – theoretically – show how long an animal has been living (and eating and drinking) in a given area.

When it comes to wear and tear on bones and teeth, wild animals sometimes or often have more prominent tooth wear than captive ones, and captive ones sometimes or often have oddly shaped skulls or diseased teeth and alveoli relative to their wild relatives (Haberstroh et al. 1984, Watson 1994, Duckler 1998, O’Regan 2001, Glatt et al. 2008). In fact, you can even age captive cats (very approximately) by the amount of dental calculus they have on their teeth.

Oblique view of Ab4458's skull. Note the complete lack of incisors. Photo (c) Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.

Examined with all of this in mind, Ab4458 lost its incisors during its lifetime. New bone then overgrew the alveoli*. Thick build-ups of calculus are present on its lower and upper premolars. Based on this data, we conclude that Ab4458 suffered from periodontal disease and – based on all that calculus – lived a life of 10 or 11 (or so) years in captivity during which it fed on soft, non-abrasive foods. In conclusion, we couldn’t find any evidence here that the animal lived for a long time in the wild. Rather, it had been a captive animal for years (Blake et al. 2013).

* Those who recall the infamous saga of the rabbit-headed cats procured by Di Francis will note that this explains the supposed significant feature of missing teeth and absent alveoli in one of the specimens (the Dufftown cat).

What about the Strontium isotope data? While we obtained good results, the values we obtained are – annoyingly – consistent with residence in either western Canada or the Newton Abbot region (Blake et al. 2013). So, inconclusive results. However, it’s good to at least try to learn something from this sort of data, and the method obviously has enormous potential for analysing the provenance of controversial specimens.

How do the Strontium isotope values from our lynx compare to those of possible areas of residence? Annoyingly, the results are ambiguous and consistent with both western Canadian origins and with a mix of Dartmore granite/local marine sediments. From Blake et al. (2013).

Despite the outcome of these tests, we conclude in our study that the Newton Abbot lynx is still worthy of note as a ‘historic British big cat’ that dates to the early 1900s: it was a non-native that lived wild in southern England for a time, though for exactly how long remains uncertain. All in all, our study can be seen as a test case showing the sorts of things you can – and should – do with problematical historical taxiderm specimens. Indeed, similar studies are going to be done on other potentially interesting dead animals. What remains to be done? As I said above, and as I’ve said before, the DNA, scat, hair and trackway evidence that now exists regarding other non-native British cat species really needs publishing in the technical literature. Stay tuned, there might be some surprises…

For previous Tet Zoo articles on cats (exotic and non-native or otherwise), see…

Refs – -

Blake, M., Naish, D., Larson, G., King, C. L., Nowell, G., Sakamoto, M. & Barnett, R. 2013. Multidisciplinary investigation of a ‘British big cat’: a lynx killed in southern England c. 1903. Historical Biology doi:10.1080/08912963.2013.785541

Coard, R. 2007. Ascertaining an agent: using tooth pit data to determine the carnivores responsible for predation in cases of suspected big cat kills. Journal of Archaeological Science 34, 1677-1684.

Duckler, G. L. 1998. An unusual osteological formation in the posterior skulls of captive tigers (Panthera tigris). Zoo Biology 17, 135-142.

Glatt, S. E., Francl, K. E. & Scheels, J. L. 2008. A survey of current dental problems and treatments of zoo animals. International Zoo Yearbook 42, 206-213.

Haberstroh, L. I., Ullrey, D. E., Sikarski, J. G., Richter, N. A., Colmery, B. H, Myers, T. D. 1984. Diet and oral health in captive Amur tigers (Panthera tigris altaica). Journal of Zoo Animal Medicine 15, 142-146.

McGowan, J. 2007. Big cats in Dorset: the evidence and the implications. Ecos 28, 73-78.

Minter, R. 2011. Big Cats: Facing Britain’s Wild Predators. Whittles Publishing Ltd , Dunbeath, Caithness.

O’Regan, H. J. 2001. Morphological effects of captivity in big cat skulls. In Proceedings of the 3rd Annual Symposium on Zoo Research, North of England Zoological Society, Chester Zoo p. 18-22.

Shuker, K. P. N. 1989. Mystery Cats of the World. Robert Hale, London.

- . 1995. British mystery cats – the bodies of evidence. Fortean Studies 2, 143-152.

Watson, A. D. J. 1994. Diet and periodontal disease in dogs and cats. Australian Veterinary Journal 71, 313-318.

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 darrennaish.wordpress.com. He has been blogging at Tetrapod Zoology since 2006. Check out the Tet Zoo podcast at tetzoo.com! 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. michaels07 10:16 pm 04/24/2013

    It could be a Hybrid Lynx Bob Cat. The two species have interbred before.

    Link to this
  2. 2. llewelly 11:58 pm 04/24/2013

    The hybrid possibility occurred to me too, however:

    ” We analysed 29 measurements from the skull within the context of a large and taxonomically thorough dataset of extant cat diversity … ”

    would that not reveal a hybrid ? Or at least prevent a high confidence conclusion it was a lynx?

    It seems to me the bobcat-like features were all in the taxidermy mount. So the hybrid hypothesis seems to require the taxidermy mount and the skeleton were not, after all, the same animal. I guess there’s a little wiggle room for that, but not much.

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  3. 3. Max Blake 2:02 am 04/25/2013

    Nice write up Darren, thanks!

    T-shirt for the record is a photo of the Brixton Riots, mods vs rockers (kinda…).

    Hybrids: we did consider this, though I don’t think we mention it in the paper. It could well be a Canadian lynx x Bobcat, some of the ambiguous features would be explained by this. However, due to the 99.9% posterior probability of it being a Canadian lynx from the skull (Blake et al. 2013), I would probably expect this to be lower if it was indeed a hybrid.

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  4. 4. Dartian 3:08 am 04/25/2013

    Great to see this published! Well done, Darren et al.!

    the Eurasian lynx is [...] usually prominently spotted

    Usually, yes. For the record, though, there is quite a lot of variation on this point; in some Eurasian lynxes the spots are not particularly prominent even when they are in their summer pelage (like, e.g., in this one). The small body size of Ab4458 would alone seem to be sufficient to rule out Eurasian lynx, however.

    Bizarrely, the teeth in the mount, for example, are made from some sort of wax or resin.

    There is nothing unusual with that. In taxidermy, it’s standard practise to replace the real teeth of mounted specimens with artificial ones. Real teeth have a tendency to eventually crack and/or fall out of their sockets. (What’s also standard practise in taxidermy, or at least used to be in bygone days, was to always, always mount carnivorous mammals so that their mouths were open and their teeth were showing.)

    Llewelly:
    would that not reveal a hybrid ?

    Not necessarily. Interspecific hybrids aren’t always intermediate between their parent species regarding their morphological characters. They may be more similar to the other parent, and they may in some respects be different from either parent: for example, ligers often grow bigger than either their lion or their tiger parents.

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  5. 5. SWestfall 8:43 am 04/25/2013

    I think it may have been a Newfoundland lynx, an estimation based on nothing more than the simple fact that Devon was a major source for fishermen who would fish cod off Newfoundland’s Grand Banks every year and then return to Devon for the off-season. I could see Devon fisherman catching a lynx kitten, raising it up, and then bringing it home for his children as a sort of souvenir of his journeys into the wilds of North America.

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  6. 6. barndad 2:49 pm 04/25/2013

    That’s a cool hypothesis SWestfall. Wasn’t aware of the Devon-Newfoundland connection.

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  7. 7. Laurence Clark Crossen 3:00 pm 04/25/2013

    @Naish: “the occasional and perhaps even persistent presence of non-native species in the UK is not especially surprising”
    -By this you must not mean persistent breeding but why not?

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  8. 8. Dartian 3:36 am 04/26/2013

    SWestfall:
    it may have been a Newfoundland lynx

    Does the strontium isotope data rule out that possibility, Darren?

    I could see Devon fisherman catching a lynx kitten

    I can’t, to be honest. How many late 19th century English cod fishermen would have had the required spare time, inclination and, above all, the know-how to wander into the Newfoundland wilderness and successfully locate and catch a lynx kitten? If this lynx indeed originally came to the UK with British fishermen (which, for the record, I don’t consider inherently unlikely), I think it’s much more likely that it was just simply purchased from some local trapper in Canada.

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  9. 9. naishd 7:14 am 04/26/2013

    Thanks for comments, everyone. The amount of media interest in this story has been pretty extraordinary – lots of interviews for at least some of the authors (myself included) over the last few days.

    With response to Lawrence Clark Crossen’s comment (# 7) (why refer to populations as “persistent” but not breeding?), I basically mean that new escapes/releases have perhaps led to ‘pseudo-populations’ where animals are constantly present but not >necessarily< breeding. Of course, I certainly think it likely that any such group would result in breeding (maybe this has happened: there are certainly sightings of adult non-native cats in the UK seen with cubs or kits), it's just that I remain sceptical that this has happened until we have good evidence for it.

    Darren

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  10. 10. naishd 7:25 am 04/26/2013

    Regarding the idea of a Newfoundland origin (comments # 5 and 8), our isotope analysis shows that the lynx didn’t spend time on or near the Canadian Shield (the massive plateau, composed of Precambrian bedrock, that covers much of north-eastern Canada). However, its signature is close enough to the Grenville granites to allow for a possible origin in the vicinity of these rocks. The Grenville granites do occur on Newfoundland, so a possible origin here is at least conceivable.

    Darren

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  11. 11. SWestfall 1:21 pm 04/26/2013

    Re: Newfoundland lynx.

    The exact status of the Canada lynx in Newfoundland is somewhat controversial. Many colonial texts talk of “ounces” (snow leopards) and “wildcats” in Newfoundland, but the animal was never very common on the island until the introduction of snowshoe hares in 1860′s. In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, it was often said that the lynx was not native to Newfoundland at all, so this cat may be from Labrador or Quebec.

    The Canada is so tied to the snowshoe hare that on the mainland its populations track hare populations almost exactly. On Newfoundland, the cats have been known to take caribou calves, and actually were implicated in reducing caribou populations on Newfoundland. I cannot remember the researcher’s name who figured this out, but there was a time when the caribou on Newfoundland were dying as calves in vast numbers. They were all dying of bacterial infections, and almost all of them had puncture marks on their necks. It was that researcher who figured out that the bacteria were coming from lynx that were doing hash-up job attacking the caribou calves during a snowshoe hare die-off.

    So whether Canada lynx were native to Newfoundland before the introduction of snowshoe hares is a good question. They likely weren’t common.

    Coyotes and at least one wolf have come to Newfoundland by crossing the sea ice, so it’s likely that the lynx would have done the same.

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  12. 12. Laurence Clark Crossen 4:38 pm 04/26/2013

    A very reasonable opinion on possible breeding pops. Actually, even if they bred in the wild, what is the chance of them developing into a viable pop? Pretty low perhaps.

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  13. 13. Tayo Bethel 3:25 am 04/27/2013

    This might be a little off topic:

    Which species is the most “primitive” or least specialized specialized lynx? And why are Canada and Iberian lynx so tied to lagomorph populations?

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  14. 14. naishd 8:43 am 04/27/2013

    Thanks for additional comments. Canada lynx and Snowshoe hares (comment # 11): yes, interesting stuff – the ‘boom and bust’ fluctuation in numbers is pretty well known and I’ve even seen it used in ecology textbooks as a good, tight example of prey-controlled population regulation in a predator. However, while lynx numbers may indeed be controlled by hare numbers, hare numbers are controlled by predation from several species, so the hare-lynx relationship is not symmetrical (see Stenseth et al. 1997).

    On lynx vs reindeer, lynx are certainly capable of tackling mammals bigger than lagomorphs on occasion. The Northern lynx regularly takes Roe deer and there are even cases of it killing (juvenile) Moose. Oden et al. (2002) documented sheep-killing behaviour in a Norwegian lynx population; most kills over 5 years were of lambs, but a few were of adult sheep.

    Darren

    Refs – -

    Odden, J., Linnell, J. D. C., Moa, P. F., Herfindal, I., Kvam, T. & Anderson, R. 2002. Lynx depradation on domestic sheep in Norway. Journal of Wildlife Management 66, 98-105.

    Stenseth, N. C., Falck, W., Bjørnstad, O. N. & Krebs, C. J. 1997. Population regulation in snowshoe hare and Canadian lynx: asymmetric food web configurations between hare and lynx. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 94, 5147-5152.

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  15. 15. naishd 8:54 am 04/27/2013

    Laurence (comment # 12): one of the topics of debate at a conference I went to a few years ago was the size of the British exotic cat population, and whether breeding was occurring or not. I doubt that there are enough cats for viable populations to exist (I also think that the majority of sightings are of the same individuals – sightings tend to be clustered around areas that are easily within the potential roaming area of an individual cat). However, other people think that populations are pretty high, that breeding is definitely occurring, and that weird instances of hybridisation are occurring (some of the UK cat hairs are weird… I hope this is elaborated upon in print soon enough). The definitive leopard hairs we had analysed from north Devon (identified on both morphology and DNA as leopard: that’s right, with 100% certainty) couldn’t be matched to a subspecies, which was weird. Not sure what to make of this.

    Darren

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  16. 16. naishd 9:12 am 04/27/2013

    Why are lynx so tied to lagomorph populations? (Tayo Bethel, comment # 13). It’s generally thought that lagomorph predation has been important throughout lynx evolution; they evolved in habitats where lagomorphs were consistently present and abundant, they’re in the ‘right’ body size range to be able to rely on lagomorphs as prey, and they’re good at pursuing and capturing them.

    As for lynx phylogeny, there are some trees where the Bobcat is the sister-taxon to the remaining species, and others where the Canada lynx is the sister-taxon to the others. The former hypothesis appears to be more frequently recovered.

    Darren

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  17. 17. Dartian 11:02 am 04/27/2013

    Darren:
    lynx are certainly capable of tackling mammals bigger than lagomorphs on occasion. The Northern lynx regularly takes Roe deer and there are even cases of it killing (juvenile) Moose

    Eurasian lynx is, in fact, perfectly capable of preying on cervids considerably larger than the roe deer: for example, adult reindeer Rangifer tarandus, fallow deer Dama dama, and white-tailed deer Odocoileus virginianus (the latter in Finland, where North American white-tailed deer have been introduced) are all preyed upon by Eurasian lynx.

    they’re in the ‘right’ body size range to be able to rely on lagomorphs as prey

    The Eurasian lynx, which is the largest of the lynxes, would rather seem to be particularly well adapted for preying on roe deer (although like the other lynxes, it too preys heavily on lagomorphs as well).

    But it is indeed quite remarkable that the Canadian lynx and the Iberian lynx are both so specialised on preying on lagomorphs (snowshoe hares and rabbits, respectively). It is rare for felids, and indeed mammalian carnivores in general, to be so strongly dependent on just one particular prey species.

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  18. 18. Laurence Clark Crossen 8:10 pm 04/27/2013

    naishd (comment #15):
    Thanks. I think the whole issue of British “big” cats is very instructive for cryptozoologists.

    Link to this
  19. 19. vdinets 11:08 pm 04/27/2013

    Hasn’t Iberian lynx historically ranged outside the native range of European rabbit?

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  20. 20. naishd 7:07 am 04/28/2013

    vdinets: yes, during the Pleistocene the Iberian lynx ranged across central Europe – it was certainly not limited to the Iberian Peninsula (some people have suggested that the Iberian lynx was the ‘original’ lynx of Europe, later being replaced by Lynx lynx). However, at those times, Oryctolagus was not limited to this region either – it was more widespread (France, Germany, Algeria, Italy, Hungary, and other places in between). Some of these records are of forms of O. cluniculus; others are of extinct rabbit species (O. bugti, O. lacosti etc.).

    Darren

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  21. 21. DaveBallBeds 7:24 pm 04/28/2013

    There have of course been suggestions (very sensible ones in my view) that lynx should be reintroduced in Britain, but possibly more interesting is the suggestion that Iberian lynx could be introduced, despite British lynxes historically having been Northern lynx. This could have the benefit of creating a new population of an extremely endangered species, and there are certainly plenty of rabbits in southern Britain, but could Iberian lynx also be an effective predator of Muntjac, which also needs controlling? There are oodles of Munties here in Bedfordshire (interestingly, one I saw this morning was browsing standing on its hind legs, initially giving the impression of a larger deer such as Fallow when seen face on). Chinese Water also seems to be increasing and appearing in new areas, and we are starting to get Roe, though they and Fallow are still scarce.

    Of course, EU policy promotes reintroductions but disallows introductions, even of species which might be part of our ecosystem if that inconvenient breaching of the Dover straights hadn’t happened.

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  22. 22. naishd 7:53 pm 04/28/2013

    Thanks for that, DaveBallBeds (comment # 21). I recall Chris Thomas’s suggestion (I think mooted in Science and later in TREE) that Iberian lynxes might be introduced to Scotland but don’t know if it’s ever gone anywhere (anybody know any more?). Of course, re-introductions/introductions of the Iberian lynx to various areas in Spain and Portugal have occurred and – so far as I recall – have gone well. Since David Hetherington’s several published articles, I’ve only heard about British re-introduction plans that concern the Eurasian lynx. Given the Eurasian lynxes that have been documented or reported here in the UK already, you might wonder if covert re-wilding is already underway…

    Darren

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  23. 23. David Marjanović 5:30 am 04/29/2013

    Chinese Water also seems to be increasing and appearing in new areas

    Water roes? The sabre-toothed Hydropotes inermis? :-)

    straights

    Straits. “Strait”, as in “straitjacket”, is an otherwise extinct word meaning something like “tight”, “narrow” and “confining” (corresponding nicely to German eng and Latin angustus/-a/-um).

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  24. 24. naishd 6:17 am 04/29/2013

    There are several places in the UK where Hydropotes is pretty abundant and easy to spot (especially Norfolk coast and areas in and around Norfolk Broads). They don’t look spectacular from a distance – many are mistaken for un-antlered Roe deer. Numbers are increasing here.

    Darren

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  25. 25. barndad 3:22 pm 04/29/2013

    Re: Newfoundland lynx- if the Sr ratio corresponded to an animal that had been in Newton Abbott for a considerable period of time, rather than a recent Canadian import, the issue of Newfoundland rock composition becomes moot. It would be overwritten by the Sr ratio of the remodelled bone formed while in Devon.

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  26. 26. Jerzy v. 3.0. 2:12 pm 05/7/2013

    Nice to see your paper published.

    However, the deer photo looks like somebody deliberately cut one leg with the knife. Better learn how real big cats consume large prey.

    And DNA and bones need not come from free-living animals. They can come from old trophies, specimens or even people buying big cat faeces from zoos to use as cat repellent.

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  27. 27. naishd 5:11 pm 05/7/2013

    Jerzy: thanks for the congrats.

    On the appearance of that deer carcass, maybe you haven’t seen enough carcasses killed by real big cats. If the cat is interrupted the damage can look clean and minimal. Example from India.

    As for the DNA and its source – scepticism and checking and provenance is necessary; you are correct. But don’t dismiss cases when you know nothing of the sort of checking that’s been done!

    Darren

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  28. 28. Jerzy v. 3.0. 5:41 pm 05/8/2013

    8-O Darren, this deer had one leg cleanly cut off. Work of a hunter or poacher.

    You should find good literature from Scandinavia, Germany, Poland, South Africa etc. how wild felids, free roaming dogs, people etc. damage animal carcasses.

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  29. 29. naishd 8:32 pm 05/9/2013

    I don’t think you’re right – there were detailed features of the carcass that did not match the “work of a hunter or poacher” (a small part of its rump had been eaten and its left ear was chewed off, for example) and you are assuming that you know everything when all you’ve done is look at a small, low-resolution photograph! However, the scepticism seems fair enough and I do agree that removal of a whole forelimb seems odd (even though some cats – like leopards – will start feeding on the shoulder, not necessarily on the rump). I’ve replaced it with another image. Sheared-off rib ends and tooth marks on the neck consistent with the size and spacing of large, conical canines… yeah, clumsy poachers again, right? :)

    Darren

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