Felis manulPallas' cat

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Geographic Range

Felis manul is distributed throughout Central Asia, from western Iran to western China.

Habitat

Although the manul is found throughout central Asia, its habitat is very specific. It lives on rocky steppes and stony outcroppings only, and has rarely been seen in the lowland areas. It has been found at altitudes up to 4,800m but only in areas where deep snow does not accumulate.

  • Range elevation
    4800 (high) m
    15748.03 (high) ft

Physical Description

Body Length: 500-600mm

Tail Length: 210-310mm

The skull of Felis manul is relatively convex and rounded with a short rostrum and a strongly enlarged cranium. The large, forward facing orbits are set low on the skull in relation to the forehead. The tympanic bullae are slightly swollen in Felis manul. The coronoid process is broad and angled slightly backwards, and the angular process is short and thin. There seems to be no structural differences in skull morphology between males and females, although females skulls are usually smaller.

Felis manul is similar in size to a large domestic cat. It has long dense fur, which is generally gray or pale reddish in color. Its white guard hairs give it a frosted appearance. The dark colored fur on its underside is nearly twice as long as the fur on its back. It has a series of five to seven narrow black stripes running transversely across its lower back. The long tail is black tipped, with a series of five to seven black rings running down its length. Its short, stumpy legs are generally similar in color to the fur on the rest of the body with indistinct black bands sometimes present. The fur under the surface of the paws is generally short and reddish in appearance. Its head is small and has broad, white rimmed eyes. The eyes are unique in that they contract in small circles instead of slits like most other small wild cats. It has low set rounded ears that are generally buff colored and can have dark tips. There is silvery-gray fur with black spots on the forehead and crown. There are two narrow black stripes running down from the corners of each eye. The lips, chin and neck are white, with a slight reddish tint near the upper lip. Like most felines, it has long white whiskers.

There is huge variation in coat color across the entire range of this species. This has caused some scientists to refer to them with three different subspecies classifications. Felis manul manul has the most common coloration found (as described above), and is found throughout most of the species' range, but most frequently in Mongolia and China. F. m. ferrugineus appears to be more reddish orange in color, with distinct reddish spots and stripes. It is generally found from the Caspian Sea to Pakistan. The third subspecies, F. m. nigripectus appears more grayish in color, and has a particularly distinct silver-gray winter coat. It is found in central Asiatic Russia, Nepal, and Tibet.

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    2 to 5 kg
    4.41 to 11.01 lb

Reproduction

Very little is known about the reproductive habits of these solitary felines. What is known comes from studies of Felis manul in the former Soviet Union.

Litters generally range from 3 to 6 kittens in size, but some have been found to have as many as eight. Like many other felines, the kittens are blind and helpless when borne. They are typically about 12cm long and weigh around 300g at birth. The kittens molt around the age of two months, and have been observed hunting by the age of three to four months. The average life span is around 11-12 years.

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Range number of offspring
    4 to 6
  • Range gestation period
    74 to 75 days

Behavior

Felis manul is a solitary nocturnal animal, although it can be active at dusk and early in the morning. During the day it sleeps in rock fissures and small caves. They often den in burrows of other small animals such as marmots, foxes and badgers. Scientists have noted their extraordinary ability to hide within their own habitat. Their markings and coloration allow them to easily blend with their surroundings.

Felis manul has been observed to be a very poor runner, and instead seeks refuge on boulders or in small crevasses when chased. Few of these animals have been kept in captivity, but those that have are generally inclined to be aggressive and fearless of humans. Felis manul does not typically spit or hiss when approached, but when excited has been observed to yelp and growl. The sound has been described more like the yelp of a small dog rather than the meow of a domestic cat. They have also been observed to purr, similar to a domestic cat.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Throughout its habitat range, Felis manul preys primarily on pikas and small rodents. It is adept at stalking and ambushing these animals on the rocky steppes where it lives. It has been known to occasionally eat small birds and insectivores as well.

  • Primary Diet
  • carnivore
    • eats terrestrial vertebrates
  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

At one time Felis manul was widely hunted in Mongolia and China for its fur, but hunting it is now prohibited. Perhaps the best thing Felis manul contributes to human society is its well-developed hunting skills. It hunts and kills small pikas and rodents, some of which are agricultural pests, and others which are "considered to be vectors for the plague" (Wikne, 1999).

  • Positive Impacts
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Felis manul is a rare animal, and has little or no significant negative impact on humans.

Conservation Status

The conservation status of Felis manul is insufficiently known due to lack of information about its range and relative numbers. It was widely hunted at one time, but availability of the animal steadily decreased until the 1980s, when hunting was finally prohibited throughout most of its range.

Although hunting no longer seems to be a problem for Felis manul, in some parts of the Russian Federation, the small rodents and pikas that the manul feeds on are being poisoned because they are considered to be carriers of disease. These prey animals are also being poisoned in some parts of China where they are believed to compete with livestock for graze. It is not clear which is a bigger threat to Felis manul, the exposure to these poisons or the decreasing food supply.

Contributors

Grace Meyer (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

mountains

This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

oriental

found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

solitary

lives alone

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

References

Garman, A. (1997). "Big Cats Online" (On-line). Accessed October 5, 1999 at http://dialspace.dial.pipex.com/agarman/.

Heptner, V., A. Sludskii. (1992). Mammals of the Soviet Union. Published for the Smithsonian Institute Libraries and The National Science Foundation, Washington, D.C.: (Amerind Publishing Co., New Delhi).

Nowak, R. (1999). Walker's Mammals of the World, 5th ed.. Baltimore): (John Hopkins University Press.

Roberts, T. (1977). Mammals of Pakistan. London): (E. Benn.

Wikne, J., IUCN: The World Conservation Union. "Species Survival Commission: Cat Specialist Group" (On-line). Accessed October 5, 1999 at http://lynx.uio.no/catfolk.