Indian scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), an international conservation charity, and University College London (UCL) have discovered six colour morphs of the golden cat in Dibang Valley of Arunachal Pradesh. More in News
- This may be the world’s greatest number of different-coloured wild cat species ever reported in one area.
- Six different colour morphs recorded are tightly-rosetted, cinnamon, melanistic, grey, golden, and ocelot (due to its ocelot-like markings).
- Within the six colour morphs recorded, tightly-rosette is an entirely new colour morph found in one of the community-owned forests.
- Colour morphs are thought to arise from random genetic mutations and take hold in the population through natural selection. According to evolutionary theory, if a colour morph is not beneficial for a species survival over time, it should die out in the population.
- In this region, scientists suspect that the phenomenon is driven by competition with other big cats such as tigers (Panthera tigris) and clouded leopards (Neofelis nebulosa).
- It enables them to occupy different habitats at different elevations, from wet tropical lowland forests to alpine scrubs.
- It provides camouflage while hunting different prey such as tropical pheasants or Himalayan pika (a small mountain-dwelling rabbit-like mammal).
Asiatic golden cat
- The finding may help scientists grasp how quickly species can adapt and evolve to changing environments. This would advise scientists of the resilience of the species to climate change or habitat degradation and destruction.
- As of now, Colour morphs are not classed as different subspecies as they may live in the same area and even interbreed. However, if differences in their behaviour prevented them from interbreeding -- this could represent the beginning of the evolutionary process into separate subspecies.
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- The Asiatic golden cat (Catopuma temminckii) is listed as near threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of threatened species.
- It is found across eastern Nepal through north-eastern India to Indonesia.
- Asian golden cats can climb trees when necessary. They hunt birds, hares, rodents, reptiles, and small ungulates such as muntjacs and young sambar deer